Dogs aren’t the only ones who like to get out and about. We’d like to introduce you to the world of adventure cats, and a kitty named Walter who’s all about travel!
Adventure cats are making a name for themselves on social media sites like Instagram. Take Walter, for example, whose account, @meowalt, showcases all of the fun that he has in the great outdoors.
Cat parents who are considering taking their kitties on vacation or even just on a hiking trip might be apprehensive about how to do it all without stressing their feline friends. That’s why we decided to chat with Madison Larkin, Walter’s mom, to gather a few tips that anyone can use to transform their kitty into an adventure cat, and keep their pet safe along the way.
Tell me a bit about Walter. How old is he, how long has he been an adventure cat, did you rescue him?
Madison: We adopted Walter from the City of Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department in December 2017. He had a serious respiratory tract infection when we first met him and was the last of his litter of stray kittens. It took us about 1 second after meeting him to decide we had to take him home with us, and with that, Elliott and I adopted our first pet!
Since he’s adopted, we aren’t entirely sure how old he is, but we estimate around 9 months old. We also have no idea what breed(s) of cat he is. All we know is we love everything about him. He has a big personality and an even bigger heart (cliché?). His favorite things are playing hide and seek with dad, talking to anything that flies, snuggling with mom, and, of course, adventuring in the great outdoors.
Walter became an adventure cat about a month after we adopted him, so he’s been working up to where he is now for about 5 months. We decided to introduce Walt to the great outdoors because both Elliott and I like to spend our free time hiking and camping, but we also wanted to spend our free time with our favorite feline companion. So far, Walter has enjoyed many road trips, camping adventures, and day-hikes all over New Mexico and some surrounding states.
How did you figure out if Walter would be a great adventure cat? Was it hard to get Walter to head out and explore, or was he a natural?
Madison: We first got the idea when Walter became obsessed with being outside on the porch. We live in an apartment, so we don’t have a yard that he can play in. However, he has always had a natural affinity for the outdoors. At that point, we started to research what goes into safely introducing a cat to an adventure lifestyle.
While he was excited to get out and see new places, I think any cat is going to experience some amount of fear when experiencing something new. Therefore, we worked to ease Walter into each step of becoming an adventure cat to make him as comfortable as possible.
Do you have any tips for pet parents who want to take their cat on the road or out into the great outdoors for the first time? How can they go about training their kitty? What are some of the signs that perhaps their kitty wouldn’t be happy as an adventure cat?
Madison: I do have some basic tips I can share from our experience. The most important thing is patience and willingness to move at your cat’s comfort level. I’d also encourage taking baby steps and using treats, or some other type of reward system, in the beginning.
Harness: Try putting the harness on for short periods of time while you’re at home, and reward with treats, petting, playtime, etc.Walking: Start by going on short walks close to home. We took Walt on 5-10 minute walks around our apartment complex. Remember to be patient. Even now, on some days, Walter will walk miles without breaks, while on other days, he just plops down on the ground. Ultimately, they’re still cats and will do what they want.Car rides: Again, start with short car rides. For the first few times, it’s a good idea to not drive somewhere to hike or camp, as that’s just compounding new, and potentially scary, experiences. Instead, just take a drive.Camping: Bring something from home for comfort. We always bring his favorite toy and blanket.
I think your final question here is a very important one. Not all cats are meant for the great outdoors. For instance, I had two indoor cats growing up that I wouldn’t dream of taking outside, and that’s just fine! Indoor cats rule, too. It’s important to know your cat and understand how they show emotions before forcing any type of lifestyle onto them. Also, please always talk to your vet to make sure your cat is healthy and has the proper vaccinations before interacting with nature.
I noticed that Walter walks on a leash like a pro. Does he ever walk without a leash? Also, what tips can you share for cat parents who might be having difficulty with leash training their kitty?
Madison: We always keep Walter on a leash when we’re outside. For us, that decision comes down to the safety of Walt, which is our number one priority. We don’t worry about him running away from us, but we like to make sure he doesn’t accidentally encounter any natural threats, such as predatory birds, reptiles, insects, or even just poisonous plants.
Walter never had an issue with the leash. However, I’d imagine that a big part of the struggle to leash train a cat would be if the cat just doesn’t want to be walked. Again, if a cat doesn’t want to walk, he isn’t going to.
When it comes to traveling with Walter, what are your preferred methods for getting around? Do you prefer staying close to home or do you take longer road trips?
Madison: We get around via our trusty ASV (adventure support vehicle). The longest road trip we’ve done with Walt, so far, was about 6 hours up through Colorado. Also, some of our favorite hiking spots are only a 10-minute drive from home, so we do a mix of both long and short drives.
What are some of the places that Walter has explored? Which ones would you consider to be the most exciting or Walter’s favorites?
Madison: Walter has explored many of the forests and mountains New Mexico has to offer. He has also road tripped to some surrounding states. I think our favorite trip was to White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico. Not only was it stunningly beautiful, but Walter loved rolling around and digging in the sand.
Are there any places where you won’t ever take Walter? In other words, are any places off-limits for safety reasons, distance, etc.?
Madison: We want to bring him everywhere! Generally, if a place is safe enough for us, it’s probably safe enough for Walt, as long as we can keep an eye on him. However, we might avoid the dog park.
How do you ensure Walter remains safe and healthy while exploring? What preparations do you take before you head out, and are there any supplies that you take with you?
Madison: Talk to your vet! Make sure your cat is healthy and has all the recommended vaccinations. Otherwise, we just keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t get into anything potentially dangerous.
Bring lots of extra water. Cats need a lot of water and can get dehydrated easily. This is particularly important if your kitty hikes (not carried in a backpack) or if you’re going up in elevation.
We also bring a small portable litter box with us. Walter has never had an issue with doing his business outside, but we like to have one, just in case.
Your Instagram account is filled with amazing photos of Walter out and about, but have you ever experienced anything unnerving or scary with Walter? Any stories that you’d like to share as a sort of warning to other cat parents who want to bring their kitties on the road?
Madison: Thankfully, we’ve avoided seriously scary situations so far. I think the scariest thing for Walt is bikers on trails. If we ever hear a biker coming, we always pick him up and step off the trail until they pass.
One thing that people bring up to me as a concern is their cat escaping from the harness and running off. I think the best way to prevent this is by trying on different harnesses and finding one that’s comfortable and secure before ever going outside.
How often do you head out on adventures with Walter? Do you find that he needs some balance between being outside and spending some time at home?
Madison: We try to get out as often as we can, which, in our opinion, is still not enough! Since Elliott and I both work full-time, we’re pretty limited to weekend adventures, apart from the occasional local evening hike after work. And, yes, while adventuring is fun, Sundays are usually reserved for catnaps by the window.
What future adventures do you have planned for Walter?
Madison: I’m planning to take him on his first plane ride soon. We’re taking a trip to my hometown in Minnesota this summer. We hope he likes to swim in the lakes with us!
Right now, Walter is a solo traveler. Have you thought about getting him a companion kitty?
Madison: I look at pet adoption websites daily (not exaggerating). However, for the time being, we’re pretty content with just Walter!
Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?
Madison: Having an adventure cat is an amazing experience and I’d highly recommend it. It has strengthened Walter’s trust in us, as well as our ability to read his emotional cues. Overall, it has 100% brought us closer and created an incredible bond.