How to Hike with a Cat

how to hike with a cat

So you’ve traveled with your cat to a few places, and now you are wanting to get more adventurous.  Believe it or not, hiking with a cat may seem strange or impossible, but it’s actually becoming quite common.  More people are starting to take their cats to various places, and taking your cat to the woods for a hike is one of them.

Here is a complete guide on how to hike with a cat if you are feeling adventurous.

Teach Your Cat To Walk On A Leash

The first thing you have to do for a successful hike with your cat is getting him used to a harness and leash.  I highly recommend you read my article here about how to leash train your cat.  The last thing you want to do is carry a huge cat carrier or a bag during your entire hike.  What’s the fun in it if your cat doesn’t get to hike along with you?  I like this harness and leash combo from amazon because it is escape proof.  Making sure the leash and harness is escape proof will make sure your cat is always safe with you.

Schedule A Visit With Your Vet Before The Hike

Before taking your cat into the wild for a hike you need to pay his vet a quick visit.  Have your vet do a full head to toe exam on your cat to make sure your cat is healthy.  This is also a great time to make sure your cat is up to date on all his vaccines for worms, fleas, ticks, and anything else recommended by your vet.  Your cat will be exposed to a lot of different wildlife and it’s important to make sure that he is protected from any potential fatal diseases.

Plan Your Hiking Trip

Set up a detailed plan of your hike in advance.  Plan a reasonable hike for both you and your cat.  If this is your cat’s first time going on a hike, make sure to pick an easier trail.  Don’t expect your cat to plow through the wild since he walks on all fours.  Remember that cats do not have the same energy levels as you or dogs do.

If you are going to a campsite to hike make sure that it allows cats.  The last thing you want to do is go to a campsite and find out that they do not allow animals.  Be prepared to pay a fee to campsites that allow animals.  Most sites that do allows animals will require you to pay a small flat fee for your pet to be with you.

There are also many local areas where you can go hiking with your cat.  My area has lots of hills and valleys that do just fine for small hikes.  These areas aren’t specifically designated as hiking trails, but many people use them as such in my area.  Just because it isn’t labeled for hiking doesn’t mean you can do it.  Simply drive around your city and look for areas that may make a good hiking trail.  If you’re going to take your cat on these types of unmarked hiking trips be sure that you have been there before by yourself so that you know your way around.

What Will The Weather Be Like During The Hike?

It is important for you to check the weather for your trip.  It is not safe to take your cat on a trip during extreme weather conditions.  Excessive heat, cold, and rain all count as an extreme condition.  It may not be extreme for you, but for your little furry friend that’s a different story.  This is an important step when learning how to hike with a cat.  Once your cat gets more accustomed to going out with you on trips, you can gradually increase the difficulty of these hikes.

Weather that is extremely hot will quickly dehydrate your cat.  The hottest hours of the day are usually 12 noon to about 6 pm.  My best advice is if you are planning a hike make sure you go before or after that window.  Do an early morning hike where you finish before noon to avoid the heat wave.  If you’re not a morning person than you could hike in the evening.  Hiking at night comes with more risks than if you were to hike during the day so keep that in mind.  It will be harder to see the trails as the sun goes down.

Your cat’s coat will do a good job of protecting him while hiking in cold weather.  I don’t believe cold weather will be an issue when hiking with your cat simply because it won’t be cold enough.  There are exceptions to this like if you were to bring your cat hiking in the snow which is something I do not recommend doing.  If you want to learn more about how cold affects cats you can check out my article how much cold can cats tolerate?

Prepare Yourself for the Hike

Don’t forget to pack for yourself!  One of the most important things you can bring for yourself are your hiking boots.  Don’t make the same mistake as I did and bring a pair of old run down boots.  Your feet are your most valuable tool when hiking so providing them with the proper protection is a must.  Your hike can be a nightmare without the proper boots.

Bring the correct clothes for a hike.  Wear nice strong jeans and either a long sleeve or short sleeve shirt depending on the weather.  Always bring extra clothes in your backpack in case of an accident.

Bring all your essentials items such as food, sunscreen, water, tent, backpack, hiking equipment, and anything else you deem to be of importance.  You should be packing a separate back from your cats in order for quick accessibility and to avoid confusion.

While On the Trail

While hiking on the trail, keep your cat on his leash and harness.  Even if your cat never strays too far. This can put your cat in potential danger that can be avoided by keeping him on the leash.  Losing sight of a leash-less cat can have him end up running through poison ivy, or worse, he can run into potentially fatal wildlife.  He could get distracted by a squirrel and disappear right into the wilderness.

There are also other forms of wildlife your cat can encounter like snakes, mountain lions, coyotes, and any other animals that would want to make your cat into a nice meal.  Simply avoid all these dangers and keep your cat on his leash.

Keep a constant eye on your cat.  Look at what he is sniffing or venturing towards.  Cats are have natural hunter instincts and will always try to catch a quick snack if you aren’t paying close attention.  What your cat doesn’t know is that his quick snack may very well be his last.

Hike at a good pace for your cat.  It’s easy to forget that an easy hike for you may be twice as hard on your cat.  Especially if your cat isn’t used to any physical activity.  You can always gauge how your cat is doing by looking at his physical behavior.  If you see him being sluggish or starting to pant then it may be time to take a quick break.

Be Prepared to Carry Your Cat

If you encounter some type of threat, such as an animal, another leashed cat or dog, or wildlife, pick up you cat.  This will make your cat feel safe and secure even in a time of danger.  This will also give you relief knowing that your cat is high up in your arms and out of danger.  Not only will you have to pick up your cat during a threat, but you will also pick up your cat when he gets tired.

Remember if hiking is still new to your cat, he will get tired easily due to the extra physical activity required while hiking.  There may also be situations where it’s safer to carry your cat instead of letting him walk.  There may be a steep part of a trail, or even dangerous plants on the ground where it would benefit you to pick him up.

If you lose your way and happen to get lost do not panic.  Just remember that you may have to carry your cat depending on how long it takes you to venture back to the trail.

Stay Properly Hydrated Before, During, and After the Hike

Hydration is not only important for you, but also for your cat.  Bring enough water for the both of you.  The most common sign of dehydration in a cat is panting.  Be sure to always offer your cat water before it gets to this point.  If your cat is dehydrated then it may take awhile for him to recover even if you give him a lot of water.  You need to make sure he drinks plenty before, during, and after the hike to properly be hydrated at all times.

A good tip to remember is if you are thirsty then you are already slightly dehydrated.  It takes our bodies time to recognize that we are dehydrated and it will act accordingly by making you thirsty.  If you want to learn more about keeping your cat hydrated then you can check out my article about how to prevent dehydration in cats.

Take Frequent Rest Breaks

Never let your cat drink from streams, ponds, or creeks during the hike.  A lot of these water sources can contain harmful bacteria and parasites.  Even if your cat doesn’t catch a virus from the water that doesn’t mean his stomach will appreciate it.  Prepare to carry your cat for the rest of the hike if he gets sick.

It’s also important to stop every so often to let your cat catch his breath.  Cats do not have anywhere near the physical capabilities of a dog or human.  You may find yourself taking frequent breaks so your cat can catch up.  During these short breaks it will be wise to fuel your cat and yourself with food and snacks.  You both will be burning a good amount of calories during the hike and having proper nutrition is essential.  Do not feed your cat heavy meals during these small breaks to help avoid any stomach issues or cramping that he may get from a full belly.

Stay On The Hiking Trail

Stay on the marked path at all times.  Venturing off into the back-country may not be one of the smartest decisions.  If at any point you were to get lost because you started to venture off-grid you can have a serious problem on your hands.  You may be okay with the extra 45 minutes it takes to get back onto the trail, but your cat may show signs stating otherwise.

Safety is also another big concern to think about if you were to hike off the trail.  If your cat were to be affected by a poisonous plant or be bitten by some type of wildlife then you will be putting your cat in a possibly fatal scenario.

Make Camping Your Next Adventure

If you plan on hiking somewhere far in the woods or mountains then you may have the option for an overnight stay.  You can setup a campsite after your hike for an added adventure.  Of course you will need to pack appropriately before going on your hike if you plan to camp afterwards.  Camping takes a lot more preparation than hiking.  If you want to learn more about camping with your cat then you can check out my complete guide about camping with a cat.

Final Thoughts

A lot actually goes into planning a hike for you and your cat. I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan your trip before you go.  Pack all the essential items for both you and your cat.  Don’t forget to be smart and stay safe while hiking on the trail.  Follow all these tips and you will have both an enjoyable and successful hike with your cat.

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