These adventure cats bring joy to their owners – and followers of social media

Canadians have embraced the outdoors in droves over the past year and a half due to pandemic-related lockdowns – and their soft, tree-climbing, bird-watching cat mates have tagged along.

These fearless animals are known as “adventure cats” as they are put on leashes to explore the outside world with their owners, whether they are hiking, kayaking or even skiing. Many have gotten great social media in the process; the hashtag #adventurecats on apps like Instagram and TikTok gives hundreds of thousands of results.

While a cat on a leash is still an unusual sight, Julie Posluns is driving one online cat training school, she says has seen increased interest in her courses since the start of the pandemic.

“I think the more people realized they were at home, the more they were, ‘OK, I guess it’s time to just pick up some new home hobbies,'” the Toronto resident said.

Posluns trained his own cat, Jones, to go on a leash about six years ago and now advises clients on cat backpacks, braces and other so-called “adventure cat” products.

Vancouver Island fairytale

Chelsea Robinson, a longtime hiker, got her Maine Coon kitten last winter. Within a few days of bringing her home, she put the cat – named Fig – in a harness and headed for the beach.

“She was captivated,” she said. “Still to this day, wherever we go, the beach is her favorite place.”

Fig especially loves watching the waves crash on the beach, Robinson says.

Fig and Robinson go for walks every day, whether it’s a short walk to pick up Robinson’s children from school or a several – hour hike through the woods at the weekend.

Fig has been a “bright light” for Robinson throughout the pandemic, she says.

It’s also something she hears from people who follow Figs’ adventures online; Robinson shares photos and videos of their activities on Instagram and TikTok, where Fig has gathered nearly 150,000 followers.

“She brings people a lot of joy,” Robinson said.

The Ottawa-based Siberian forest cat that kayaks

Another cat owner, Aleena Fiorotto, says she was “determined to have an adventure cat” when she got her Siberian forest kitten, Finnegan, last year.

Fortunately, Finn’s relaxed temperament made band training relatively painless, she said.

“I can take him anywhere, in any situation with any type of new animal or anything. And he’s like, ‘This is fine,'” Fiorotto said.

The duo has even gone kayaking – and while Fiorotto says Finn was a bit “leery” of the moving dock at first, he was happy when they pushed off.

“He straightened up and lay down straight and took the sights,” she said.

Fiorotto also shares his cat’s exploits on Instagram, where Finn has more than 21,000 followers.

Having an adventure cat has pushed Fiorotto to come out more than she wanted alone, she said. She loves to see how Finn engages with the world around him and how he interacts with happy strangers on the trails.

So you want your own fairytale cat?

Some experts say that while cats can benefit from walking on a leash, there are several factors to consider before attempting to do so.

Posluns said a sturdy harness and leash should be tested on your cat inside the home before thinking about going out, as many cats do not initially like the feel of a harness. A gradual introduction to it is best.

“I think it’s really important to remember that we do this first for the enrichment of our cat,” she said. “Not to take them on a fun social media adventure to take pictures – but what will enrich your cat’s life?”

Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury, a veterinarian and a representative of the Canadian Veterinary Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, says that leash walking of our cat friends can be an “excellent way to give them more activity and adventure in their lives.”

But she said you need to be consistent with your cat’s body language when acclimatizing them to leash and outdoors. Signs that your cat is unhappy with being outside include flat ears, unwillingness to move, bent bodies and open-mouthed breathing – a sign of stress.

“But if they go around sniffing and exploring, then they feel really good,” Brown-Bury said.

And to those who say that cats should never be let out because of the dangers to local wildlife and the cats themselves? If the cat is controlled by a leash, Brown-Bury says the risk is minimal.

“Having a cat outside in a controlled manner is no more risky for the cat than it would be for your dog,” she said.

If you plan to take your cat outside, Brown-Bury says microchip identification is a must, as are shots of parasites and regular deworming.

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