Hiking with Cats: 6 Steps for Adventuring With Your Feline Pal

Cat in a person's hood
Sean Nelson
Written by Sean Nelson

If you’re a hiker and a pet lover, you’ve probably taken your dogs with you on the trails. At the very least, you’ve seen other hikers with their canine companions in tow. Well, we are here to tell you that hiking with cats can be just as fun and rewarding!

There’s something about a hike through mother nature with man’s best friend that just feels right. Just consider the fact that man’s best friend doesn’t necessarily refer only to dogs! For plenty of us, our cats are the perfect partner and we wouldn’t give that relationship up for anything!

See also: Hiking Safety: A Guide to Staying Safe on the Trails

If your cat is an adventurer and loves to roam outdoors or go with you on errands, he or she may be itching to join you on your hikes! It’s a great way to spend time with your feline while you both get exercise and fresh air. Here we will teach you everything you need to know about having a successful hike with Mr. Snuggles in tow.

Hiking With Cat

Of course, not every cat is going to be on board with this idea. You know your cat better than anyone, so it’s up to you to decide when to take your kitty with you on the trails. But if your companion is what’s known as an “adventure cat” this could change your hikes and improve your relationship forever.

If you are crazy about your kitties like we are, you’ll want to provide the very best experiences for them. With this guide, you’ll learn how to consider all of your cat’s needs while you embark on a journey together.

Get Prepared with These Six Steps

Adventure cats are cats who love the outdoors and all of its activities. Adventure cats go hiking, canoeing, camping, or even just accompany their owners on walks outside. There are entire Instagram accounts dedicated to cats who love the explore and see the world and the owners who care for them.

Cats Hiking

If you think your cat encompasses a persona like this, consider bringing him or her along on your next hiking adventure! Be sure you know all of the steps to take to ensure you both have an awesome experience.

Determine if Your Cat Would Be Comfortable Hiking

If our own experiences are any indication, most cats spend an untold number of hours asleep on the back of the couch or in the window sill. But he or she may not feel content with that lifestyle. Domesticated house cats are, after all, the descendants of the great lions and tigers who spend their days roaming and hunting in the sun.

Unlike lions and tigers, though, your cat will need to be kept in a harness on your hike, so it is very important that he or she is used to that. If your cat isn’t trained to walk on a leash while in a harness, he or she will probably fight tooth and nail to get through the front door, much less on the trails. A happy kitty is one who feels good about walking on a leash with his or her owner and knows to stay close.

Cat Walking Leashed

The very best way to get your cat used to going outside with you is by, well, taking him or her outside with you. Train your cat to go on walks with you while wearing a harness. Your cat will likely gradually acclimate to being outdoors and will really start to have fun. Just remember to take it slow at first and avoid stressful situations when possible.

It’s important to remember that you are responsible for your pet first and foremost, so don’t try forcing him or her on a hike you know he or she won’t enjoy. If he or she is properly trained and can overcome apprehension, decide whether he or she will truly enjoy the experience. If your answer is yes — there’s an awesome new world in store for you both.

Carrying Cat On Hiking

As a side note, it is usually best to carry your cat outside in your arms so he or she does not become accustomed to walking outside on his own. This could save you some trouble later. You don’t want your cat so accustomed to heading out the front door on a leash that he or she begins doing it without the leash!

Ensure Your Cat is Protected

This is supposed to be a great experience for the both of you, so you want Snuggles to enjoy herself without feeling anxious. That’s why you should choose a more secluded hike for her first time so that she does not become overstimulated by other hikers. Don’t force your cat out of his or her comfort zone and into a new environment all at once. Instead, it’s best to gradually expose your cat to the great outdoors.

Microchiping Cat

Make sure your cat is up to date on all his or her vaccinations! That way he or she will be protected while outdoors! It’s a good idea for any outdoor pet to be microchipped and to wear identification tags as well, in the case of an emergency.

Keep an up-to-date photo of your cat with you in case he or she gets separated from you. That way other hikers know exactly what cat to be on the lookout for. Most of us have hundreds of pictures of our fur babies on our phone, so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Cat On Leash

When you take your cat on a hike, you want to make sure it’s at a good time of day for the both of you. You probably use sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful sun exposure. If your cat is hairless or has fair colored hair, he or she could be susceptible as well so get with a feline professional to decide which sunscreen is best for your fur baby.

Pack Everything You’ll Need

Don’t forget that your kitty is going to need to stay hydrated and nourished just like you! Hiking is a great exercise for man or beast, so you’ll need to bring plenty of water along so the both of you can stay hydrated and food to keep you both energized and alert.

Since you don’t want to litter the trails with waste, it’s best to bring a means for picking up after your kitty so that you can dispose of the cat poop properly later. You can bring along a portable litter box and litter so that your cat is comfortable using the facilities outdoors.

Pack emergency gear in the form of a makeshift shelter and first aid kit. You want to be able to comfortably wait out a sudden rainstorm or sprained ankle while being safe from the elements. The two of you can share a tarp or blanket to ensure you have some protection.

Cat Fist Aid Kit

According to the Humane Society, a pet first-aid kit should include a self-cling bandage, absorbent gauze pads, antiseptic, a rectal thermometer and petroleum jelly, scissors, a sterile saline solution, and a few other things. If you have been given permission by your veterinarian, it can also be a good idea to pack Benadryl in case your cat runs into something that causes an allergic reaction.

Choose a Suitable Hiking Trail

Those allergic reactions your cat may encounter can easily occur if he or she is exposed to poison ivy or poison oak. Choose a safe trail for you and your cat that is free of unnecessary dangers. Also, keep in mind that cats might not be allowed on every hiking trail so you have to choose one where you and your feline are both welcome.

Cat Hiking Trail

You also have to consider your cat’s level of fitness. If he or she is a young, sprightly, athletic cat, he or she can handle a more intense hike than an older cat. Make sure you aren’t expecting too much of your cat so that he or she can be comfortable and safe throughout the entire hike. A geriatric cat with health problems may be most comfortable sunbathing at home.

Of course, we can’t always predict the weather. Even so, you should try to go out at a time where there is little threat of rain, snow, or intense heat. That isn’t to say that cats can’t hike in the snow, though. Some cat parents live in colder climates so it’s possible to do as long as you bring the proper clothing to keep your cat warm.

Cat In The Snow

Also, remember that even the most enthusiastic cat might not want to go on a really long hike. It’s best to choose a trail that isn’t too long. And if you’re going overnight camping with your cat, make sure to give him or her time to rest, recuperate and laze around as well.

Keep a Hand Free

Even if you’re walking your cat on a leash, there will probably be a time where you’ll need to pick him or her up. If a dog or another animal enters your path, your cat will feel safest if he or she is tucked to your chest or perched on your shoulder. Picking your cat up is an easy way to protect him or her should a threat cross your path.

Adventure Cat

The best way to prepare to carry your cat is by using hands-free gear when possible. A backpack can hold the necessities like food, water, blankets, first-aid, and sanitary items. Your head can wear both a headlamp and an umbrella. You should always bring a cat carrier too, just in case (a pack can be repurposed to hold a cat if need be). See our article on how to avoid animal attacks to keep you and your cat safe.

It’s also helpful to note that cats are curious, and if you’re a cat owner, you know how much they love to explore and inspect everything around. Sometimes he or she will want to wander without making any actual progress on the trail, so that’s a good reason to pick him or her up for a while. Still, let him or her enjoy himself by safely exploring when possible because this should be a good experience for you both.

Carrying Cats In a Backpack

If sweet little Mittens gets worn out before you do, you’ll want to be able to pick her up and carry her the rest of the way like the princess she is. Or, you can carry her inside the cat carrier you brought with you if it is easier.

Don’t Expect a Cat to Hike Like a Dog

You probably wouldn’t do a double-take if you passed a hiker and his dog on the trails. A cat, however, might garner more attention. But just because it isn’t as common doesn’t mean hiking with a cat isn’t a very popular pastime for many hikers.

It’s important to understand the differences between hiking with a dog and hiking with a cat. You should not expect your cat to make progress as quickly. For one, your cat is much shorter than a dog so his or her little legs have to work more to cover the same distance.

Cat On Hiking Near The Lake

Your cat will also probably not be able to hike as further as a dog would. Make sure you are aware of your kitty’s needs and keep an eye on how he or she is doing. Cats are unique and wonderful creatures; it would be unfair to expect them to behave exactly like a dog would.

Now You and Your Cat Can Be the Talk of the Trails

You’ve read our guide, congratulations! You now know the steps to take to get you and your feline pal ready for adventures in hiking!

Cat Hiking With Girl

Keep in mind, hiking is not for everyone. In the same way that not every person enjoys going on strenuous walks in the woods, not every cat will enjoy it either. Consider all the factors above before you decide to pack up and head out with your cat.

The best way to determine whether your cat might have a secret love for the outdoors, though, is to practice! Take baby steps and practice with the harness and leash to get your kitty accustomed to adventuring. A stroll around the yard is an adventure in itself and it can make your cat feel more comfortable with an alfresco lifestyle.

Cats On Hike

If Snowball isn’t a fan of the outdoors, so be it. He’ll still be waiting patiently for you to get home and provide plenty of head scratches when you arrive from your own adventures. But if you two discover that he is, a wide world of adventuring opportunity is now open to you and your best friend. You know the basics now, so go make the most of it!

Remember to leave no trace behind! Check out our popular article on basic LNT principles to remember to learn more.

So, do you like hiking with your cats as well? Would you care to share you own experiences on the trail? Sound off in the comments!


Sean Nelson

Sean Nelson

Sean was backpacking since he was 7. He was born close to the RMNP and his father was a ranger, so life surrounded by mountains and wildlife is a norm for Colorado. He likes to explore, but prefers to stay in USA. In his opinion, there are too many trails and options in US to go abroad.