Hiking with your pets makes the journey all the more interesting and less lonely. If you’re not planning on going with a friend or hiking with a family member, a pet can make a great substitute. However, it’s not as easy as taking another person. Hiking with pets is a challenge all in itself for beginners and advanced hikers alike. Keep reading to find out how to hike with your pets, specifically, cats (Yes, cats!) and dogs.
Hiking With Cats
How the heck do you train a cat to go hiking? Believe it or not, you can and should train your cat to wear a harness, walk on a leash, and respond to your commands. For training on a leash, it can be quite detailed, but we’ll keep it simple. First of all, get a harness that fits your cat comfortably. Then introduce it to him or her positively. You do this with food. Lay it next to their food dish or give him or she treats after they sniff the harness. Then, let them try it on and attach a leash. Start by walking your cat around the house then transition to longer walks outside of the house.
As for responding to commands, cats are intelligent pets. They already know you’re calling them when you open their feed bag or when you drop something on the floor in the kitchen and say “oops!” Take control of that and use the knowledge to your advantage. Decide how you want to call your cat and make it specific. Then, associate your call with a treat. Eventually, your cat will associate your call with something positive, and before you know it, you’ll be calling out a command, and they’ll come running.
There are a few things you’ll need on your hike for your cat. Cats, like you, need food and water. Keep in mind that you’ll be carrying their supplies and yours, so only bring necessities for your feline friend. Don’t expect your cat to be able to lap up water or catch their own food. They’re also susceptible to waterborne disease, and letting your cat run wild to catch food isn’t the best idea. So, for water, bring your purifying tablets or water filter. For camping or hiking food, bring lightweight yet nutrient-rich food that your cat will eat.
Next, think about what if your cat gets lost. In this case, you’d need to make sure your cat has identification tags and a collar. You’ll also need a recent photo of your cat. The tags should include your name, address and phone number. The recent photo is important in the event that your cat gets lost. You can show a picture to other hikers on the trail to get some help in finding your furry friend.
Finally, think about poo. Your cats don’t need toilet tissue, but it’s courteous of you to other hikers to make sure your cat doesn’t leave a fresh one on the path for them to step on. Not to mention, cat feces can harbor some nasty parasites like T. gondii. Bring poop bags or a littler box and litter.
Terrain and Weather
Not all cats can handle any terrain. Think about your cat’s age and fitness when deciding on a trail. Older cats may have medical conditions or just not be able to cover long distances or rough terrain. Plus, if your cat is used to hiking for a few short miles, don’t expect him or her to take a 10-mile walk without a problem. While you’re at it, check out the weather forecast. You wouldn’t like hiking in the rain. Your cat won’t like it even more than you want. If you need to hike in the rain, get your cat a coat. Same goes for cold days.
Hiking With Dogs
Dogs need to be trained too for hiking. There are a few key things to keep in mind. First, your dog should behave well around others on the trail. Second, your dog should respond to verbal or physical signal commands. Third, your dog should be able to control his or her impulses as there’s a lot on the trail that can be distracting.
It’s not easy training a dog. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. You can hit the books, invest in some classes, or rely on good old YouTube. Regardless, be consistent. You’ll need to maintain strict rules and do it routinely. Then make sure to reward your dog for good work with treats.
Some important commands for your dog to know are to come when called, stop, leave something be, stay, watch, heel, and drop it. Clearly, you want to be able to get your dog to come to you when you need him or her just as you don’t want your dog chasing after something. Drop it is a really good command on that list. Why? Dogs will put anything they can in their mouths. Some of which can be dangerous or full of parasites. Make sure your dog will put it down without swallowing.
Dogs need gear too! They would benefit from a first aid kit and medications along with zip ties for maintaining their health. Dogs can relieve injuries to their paws or trip and scrape something. The zip ties are for emergency splints. For consumption, a portable dog bowl, water, and dog food are important. They need to eat and drink, too. Again, just like with the cats, they can obtain nasty parasitic infections from drinking contaminated water. So, purifying tablets would do some good.
Finally, an extra leash, attachable LED light, and dog backpack or daypack are really helpful on your hike with your pet. Dog leashes can break or get lost. You don’t want to be that person who has to carry your dog around or micromanage his or her behavior because you forgot to bring an extra leash when yours broke. The attachable LED light is super helpful for your dog to see in the dark. Just as it’s helpful for you to know where your dog is should you get caught in the dead of night out in the outdoors. Similarly, a dog backpack is helpful for you and your pet as it takes some of the strain off of you and allows your dog to help carry some supplies too. If you want to take a break and relax with your dog, bring a hammock to lay down.
Terrain and Weather
Just like cats, dogs need protection in various weather conditions. They aren’t waterproof, so they’ll appreciate something to protect their coats during a heavy rain. Also, during times of cold weather, your furry friend would benefit from a dog coat. Now, not all dogs will need this. If your dog already has a heavy coat of fur, don’t worry about a coat. Again, check the weather beforehand, so you may prepare accordingly. It’s a lot of fun to hike with pets. I enjoy doing it with my dogs. Bring the right supplies and train your animals right for a truly enjoyable experience.