Hiking with cats

Hiking cats get a breath of fresh air and some exercise.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

If you think long walks are just for dogs, a few of the Sanctuary cats would beg to differ. In fact, they've started their own hiking club. Bob, the first cat to leash walk in Cat World, can power walk the Sanctuary. He'll walk for over an hour if the weather is good and he's in the mood. When Halloween rolls around, he'll even take his caregivers trick-or-treating across the Sanctuary.

The best medicine for cats

Bob the cat enjoys breaks on his walksCaregiver Alisa Alexander explains that, while many of the cats walk because they enjoy it, exercise can also alleviate pain and manage serious medical conditions. It's certainly the best medicine for Marcus, who has Manx syndrome. Cats with this syndrome carry the gene for shortened tails. But sometimes the gene shortens a cat's entire back end, preventing the spinal cord, organs and muscles from developing properly. Long walks keep the muscles Marcus does have in top form, which keeps him more mobile in general. At the peak of his hiking career, Marcus could go from Cat World to an area called the bluffs, where he would do some serious sand walking.

Felines enjoy a nice "walk 'n' roll"

B.C. is a Manx cat, too, though she is fortunate enough not to have the syndrome. According to her caregiver, Sandra Wilder, B.C. took to walking almost immediately. She doesn't mind the harness at all, and will stand at the door and meow, waiting for someone to take her for a walk. She loves to be outside and will stay out as long she can. B.C. typically begins her walks with a good roll in the sand, but once she gets going, she will keep going … and going and going. Even when she's inside, she practices her hiking moves, moving her back legs up and down, as if she is marching in place.

Luke is more of a leisurely hiker. Caregiver Beth Erdman says that he gets excited when she puts his harness on, and that he'll also go stand by the door like a dog. He doesn't venture too far off the beaten path, though. He knows that walks also mean people time and an opportunity to roll in the grass.

Though not all cats will take to a harness, it's a fun and safe way to expose indoor cats to the outside world, and to give them a little exercise. If you ask the hiker cats, they'll say that the next time you strap on your walking shoes, don't reach for the dog's leash; reach for the cat's.

Get more information on walking a cat.

Photos by Molly Wald