Adventuring with Your Cat?

    Posted on Monday, Feb 12, 2018

    I have recently undertaken the task of making my run-of-the-mill calico into an “adventure cat.”  You see, I’m more of a dog person, but apartment living doesn’t lend itself to large dog, high-quality of life.  So, my fetching cat is well on her way to being the best of adventure buddies.  In case adventuring is your thing and you happen to have a cat, here’s what I’ve learned along the way. 

    1. The harness is crucial.  When I first began this endeavor, I wondered if a collar would do.  Now that we go out and about, I have realized that only the harness will ever do.  If she gets afraid or startled, the harness can keep her secure while a collar could easily slip off.  Before taking her into the wild world, I had her wear the harness inside to get accustomed to it.  That way, the harness wouldn’t distract her from new experiences when we did actually go out and about. 

    2. It takes time.  Going on a walk is an entirely new experience for a cat.  One which counters many of their independent instincts.  Especially if they are an inside cat, the outdoors themselves may serve as a new discovery.  As a result, it tends to take time when we go out for her to relax and begin her own exploring.  Cats are naturally such alert creatures that it may take them some time to take everything in and get comfortable.  A completely new place introduces them to a completely new set of sights, sounds, and smells.  They need a bit of a time-out to register all that information.

    3. I notice new things.  Taking a new set of eyes, ears, and a nose to a place I commonly go has revealed a whole new world to me.  She notices the little details which I’ve overlooked for so long.  Its fascinating to see what catches her eye.  As she so meticulously explores, it also requires me to slow down and take note of some small beauties.  When a bird sings, for example, we aren’t moving another step until she determines the exact branch from which it called.  I enjoy taking the time to wonder with her.

    4. They might just fall in love.  While it does take time, I was surprised by how quickly my cat, Sequoia, has taken to exploring parks.  She seems to recall places we’ve previously passed.  She has a very determined agenda of what and where we need to see.  She loves going off the path (as far as I’ll let her) to see what lies in the “wilderness.”  There must be so many more intrigues there.  She has been particularly delighted with the water standing in a little creek.  It must be shocking to find something so domestic out in nature.  For however long we’re out, I love watching her eyes widened with wonder.  The last time we went, she struggled back towards nature when she saw we were approaching the car to leave. 

    Although maybe it seems silly, adventuring with your cat may not be such a bad idea.  After all, we could all use some more time outside.  Beyond that, I want to make sure that all creatures in my care have the most enriched life possible.  Not just a life of being penned up in a crate or waiting for me to get home; instead, a life filled with wonder, curiosity, and adventure.  If you feel the same at all, maybe what I’ve learned along the way may also be helpful to you. 

    Heather Hannusch
    Heather is a masters candidate in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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