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A Guide to Taking Your Cat on Outdoor Adventures

Some cats are satisfied watching the world go by as they lounge on a windowsill. But don’t be surprised if an adventurous spirit lies beneath that calm exterior.

A History of Adventure Cats

The spirit of the adventure cat stretches back centuries. Felis catus, the domestic cat’s wild ancestor, originated in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. These agile hunters were natural explorers, roaming vast territories in search of prey.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, European sailors considered cats lucky companions. Ship cats patrolled the decks, controlling the rodent population and ensuring safe food stores during long voyages.

In the 20th century, Hemingway’s polydactyl cat, Snowball, was known for his adventurous spirit, often accompanying the writer on fishing trips.

Today, the internet overflows with images and stories of felines exploring national parks, scaling mountains, and paddling serene lakes alongside their humans.

Taking Your Cat on an Adventure: What You Need to Know

It’s crucial to assess your cat’s suitability for adventuring. Here are two key considerations:

1. Temperament: Look for signs of curiosity, confidence, and a willingness to adapt to new environments.

2. Age: A young, outgoing, energetic cat is a better candidate for adventure than a timid senior. Consider starting the process with an adventurous kitten of about 12-14 weeks of age, when their curiosity is in high gear.

Preparation and Training

Veterinary Checkup:
 Before embarking on any adventure, ensure your cat is:

  • Healthy
  • Microchipped (in case they get lost)
  • Up-to-date on vaccinations and parasite preventives. Tell your veterinarian where your cat will be traveling, so our vet can help you prepare for health risks, diseases, and parasites inherent to that area.
  • Apprise your vet of your cat’s travel history in case a health concern crops up later that you might be able to attribute to something your cat was exposed to while adventuring.

Harness and Leash Training: Get your cat accustomed to a harness and leash from a young age. Positive reinforcement training with treats is key. Leash training will allow you to control your cat’s movements and keep them safe in unfamiliar environments.

Safety First: Always prioritize your cat’s safety. Use a breakaway leash to prevent choking and ensure all carriers and backpacks are escape-proof.

Gradual Introduction: Don’t overwhelm your cat. Start with short, positive experiences in familiar, quiet areas. Gradually increase distance and complexity as your cat becomes comfortable.

Respect Your Cat’s Limits: Even the most adventurous cat can become overwhelmed. Pay attention to your cat’s body language. If they seem distressed or scared, it’s time to end the adventure.

Exploring the Great Outdoors with Your Cat

In this section, we’ll give you tips for specific adventures you can share with your cat, including:

  • hiking and camping
  • cycling
  • skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing
  • boating, paddleboarding, and kayaking


  • Prioritize kitty’s comfort: Choose short, well-maintained trails and focus on your cat’s comfort.
  • Harness train: Use a secure harness and leash and keep an eye out for wildlife encounters.
  • Proper gear: Invest in a cat backpack, which allows for hands-free carrying on short hikes.


Camping offers a fantastic opportunity to bond with your cat in nature. Here’s how to ensure your feline friend has a comfortable and safe camping trip:

  • Cat-proof your campsite: Choose a secluded spot away from barking dogs, loud noises, high foot traffic, and potential dangers such as wild animals or campfires.
    • If you’re tent camping, use a tent with a mesh door for ventilation and to allow your cat to safely observe their surroundings.
    • Surround your tent with a cat playpen or a secure enclosure made of mesh to allow fresh air and outdoor exploration.
  • Gear up: Invest in a comfortable cat carrier for transportation and shelter; a lightweight, secure harness and leash; a collapsible food and water bowl; a cat-specific sleeping bag or mat, and a litter box with litter.
  • Creature comforts: Bring familiar items from home, such as your cat’s favorite bed, toys, and a scratching post. Provide plenty of fresh water and their usual food.
  • Respect your cat’s limits: Not all cats will enjoy camping. Be mindful of their stress levels and allow them to retreat to their enclosure if needed.

Pro Tip: Before your trip, practice setting up your cat’s enclosure and introducing them to their harness and leash.


Cycling with your cat might seem unconventional, but with proper preparation, it can be a fun experience.

  • Cat trailer: Invest in a secure and comfortable cat trailer, cat carrier, or a specially designed basket that attaches to your bike.
  • Harness train: Ensure your cat is comfortable wearing a harness and leash before attempting any cycling adventures.
  • Start slow: Begin with short rides on quiet paths with minimal traffic. Gradually increase distance and duration as your cat becomes comfortable with riding.
  • Hydrate: Bring plenty of water and a portable water bowl to keep your cat hydrated during the ride.

Remember: This activity is best suited for young, social cats that are comfortable with new experiences.

Skiing, Snowboarding, and Snowshoeing

While not for the faint of heart (or the easily startled feline), some cats enjoy accompanying their humans on ski trips.

Before heading out, make sure the weather conditions are mild and opt for gentle slopes.

  • Breed selection: Snow adventures are best suited for very social and outgoing cats that are comfortable with new experiences. Siberian Forest Cats and Norwegian Forest Cats are known for their tolerance of cold weather.
  • Proper gear: Invest in a specially designed insulated cat suit and backpack to protect your cat from the elements. Avoid letting them walk on snow for extended periods.
  • Gradual introduction: If you’re taking your cat downhill skiing, start by letting your cat experience the sights and sounds of the ski resort from a safe distance before attempting any slopes.
  • Focus on fun: Short, positive experiences are key. Prioritize playtime in the snow over ambitious ski runs.


Not all cats are water lovers. Observe their behavior around water sources at home. If they seem fearful or stressed, water sports won’t be the best activity.

Prioritize comfort and safety. Choose gear that is appropriate for the activity and the weather conditions.

Always supervise your cat while on the water. Don’t leave them unattended for a single moment.


If you’re taking your cat on a boat trip, ensure they have a secure harness and a designated, comfortable space to stay in. Never leave them unattended on deck.


For water-loving cats, short paddleboarding excursions on calm waters can be thrilling.

  • Choose the right board: A large, stable board is ideal.
  • Prioritize security: Invest in a life jacket designed for cats, a non-slip cat pad to go on the paddleboard, and a secure harness attached to the board.
  • Gradual acclimation: Let your cat get comfortable with the paddleboard on land before venturing into the water.
  • Freshwater is best: Opt for calmer, freshwater environments to avoid strong currents or unpredictable waves.
  • Keep it short: Start with short paddles in quiet areas and pay close attention to your cat’s stress levels.

Pro Tip: Bring along some of your cat’s favorite toys to keep them entertained on the board (be prepared for kitty to bat the toys into the water).


Kayaking can be a fantastic way to explore nature with your feline friend. Choose a calm day with flat water for your initial kayaking adventures. Avoid strong currents, choppy waves, and windy conditions.

If possible, launch from a familiar location where your cat has spent time before. This can help reduce stress levels.

  • Gradual introduction: Before hitting the water, familiarize your cat with the kayak on land. Let them explore it at their own pace, rewarding them with treats for positive interactions.
  • Harness training: A secure harness and leash are vital for safety. Train your cat to wear a harness comfortably before attempting any water activities.
  • Life is a float: Invest in a cat-specific life jacket that fits snugly but allows for movement. Most cat life jackets look like vests with bright colors for easy visibility. Once your cat is comfortable with the harness and life jacket, practice getting in and out of the kayak on land using a ramp or low platform.
  • Leash security: Attach the leash to the life jacket – not the harness – to prevent them from slipping out. Keep the leash short to avoid tangles but long enough for some movement.
  • Cat carrier on board: Having a secure cat carrier on board provides a safe haven for your cat if they become overwhelmed.
  • Shady spot: Set up a shaded area within the kayak using a towel or a small canopy. Cats can overheat easily, so provide a cool escape from the sun.
  • Start short: Keep your first kayaking trip short and sweet. Pay close attention to your cat’s body language and be prepared to head back to shore if they seem anxious.

10 Tips for Keeping Your Cat Safe on Adventures

An essential part of any adventure is ensuring your cat is comfortable and safe. Here’s a checklist:

1. Hydration: Bring plenty of fresh water and portable, spill-proof water and food bowls. Encourage your cat to drink frequently, especially during hot weather.

2. Food and treats: Bring your cat’s food and favorite treats.

3. Weather: Avoid extremes in temperature. Cats can overheat or get frostbite easily. Plan your adventure for comfortable weather conditions.

4. Shade and shelter: Cats are susceptible to sunburn, especially on their ears and nose. Apply pet-safe sunscreen and provide shaded and sheltered areas for them to rest.

5. Paw protection: Rough terrain can be uncomfortable or injure your cat’s paws. Consider booties designed for outdoor wear, or stick to smoother paths.

6. Harness and Leash: A comfortable, escape-proof harness and leash are crucial for controlled exploration.

7. Cat carrier/backpack: A sturdy carrier or backpack specifically designed for cats is a must for transportation and creating a safe haven.

8. Unfamiliar encounters: Be aware of potential dangers like wildlife, insects, or curious dogs. Keep your cat leashed or contained in unfamiliar environments.

9. First-aid kit: Pack a basic pet first-aid kit in case of minor injuries. See our article, Basics for Your Pet’s First-Aid Kit

10. Waste bags: Always clean up after your cat, leaving no trace in the environment.

Exploring the World, Together

Taking your cat on adventures can be an enriching and rewarding experience.

The key is to choose activities that suit your cat’s personality and comfort level. Always prioritize kitty’s safety and well-being, and be prepared to adjust plans based on their cues.


Have you adventured with your cat? Tell us about it and share your own tips in the comments!

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