Picture yourself getting ready for a nice hike through the wilderness. You have your gear: boots, backpack, water bottle, snacks and your cat all ready to go. No, that wasn’t a typo, you read correctly. We said cat. It turns out that outdoor activities no longer belong solely to our canine counterparts. Your head must be spinning with a ton of thoughts, questions and maybe even concerns, but before you settle on an opinion, Dj Breuer, from our very own ISF Creatures division, recently spoke with Laura Moss, who along with some of her fellow pet enthusiasts/writer friends, launched the website Adventurecats.org, which is full of resources and tips on how to safely travel with your cat. Neat, right? There are also plenty of stories to help break the negative stereotypes that sometimes surround our feline friends. Is your cat up for the adventure?
1) Tell us how Sirius came into your life?
Sirius — or Siri, which is what my husband and I typically call him, even though this makes people think we’re huge Apple fans instead of Potter fans — came into our lives not long after our senior kitty had passed away. Our younger cat was lonely without her, so we decided to adopt another cat; it was perfect timing when a mutual friend put me in touch with Jessica, who was caring for a litter of kittens Ian Somerhalder had recently rescued from the set of “The Vampire Diaries.” A few months prior, I had attended the Ian Somerhalder Foundation’s Empoweresque event and interviewed him for the Mother Nature Network. It was because of this that my friend thought to mention those little tuxedo kittens that needed a home. My husband and I met up with Jessica, and Siri ran right up to us and crawled into our laps. He has been with us ever since.
2) What inspired you to develop Adventurecats.org and start training Sirius?
After interviewing Craig Armstrong (Millie the Climbing Cat) and Stephen Simmons (Burma the Adventure Cat), I was curious about whether my cats would be interested in venturing outside. Both of my cats love staring out the window — we call it “Cat TV” — and one of them had recently started darting out the front door. Leash training seemed like something they may enjoy. However, while there was plenty of information online about leash training, there wasn’t much on how to take your cat from the backyard to the trail. I knew people were hiking, canoeing and camping with their cats — I’d seen it on Instagram — but there wasn’t a resource that provided information on how to actually do it. I mentioned this to my husband and he said, “You could make that.” And that is when Adventure Cats began to take shape in my head.
Not long after I decided to create the site last year, I came across a PetSmart Charities survey that found that 49 percent of people buy into negative stereotypes about cats and their cat owners — like “crazy cat lady” — and these perceptions can actually hurt cat adoptions. Currently, more cats than dogs are killed in U.S. shelters (1.4. million annually, according to the ASPCA), and I hope that Adventure Cats can help change this by showing the world that cats and cat people aren’t necessarily what they expect.
3) As far as training goes, do you think it's harder to teach a dog or cat?
I don’t think one is necessarily easier or more difficult than the other. They’re just trained a bit differently because they’re very different animals.
Dogs are social animals that we have been breeding to fit our needs over hundreds of years, but cats are independent creatures that essentially domesticated themselves. Back when we started farming, cats moved in to feed on the rodents attracted to the crops. In other words, they came for the food and stuck around because the perks were good. After 9,000 years of living alongside us, scientists have concluded that cats remain only semi-domesticated. So cats aren’t necessarily going to be trained simply because they want to please you like a dog — they’ll do it because they’re rewarded with yummy treats or experiences they enjoy, like going outside.
4) Do you think any cat can be trained?
Most definitely. Not every cat will necessarily enjoy wearing a harness and venturing outside, but any cat can be trained. And something as simple as indoor clicker training can enhance a cat’s quality of life by providing mental stimulation and one-on-one time with you, their favorite human.
5) Do you have any advice for first-time kitty-training parents?
The number one thing I’d recommend is to be patient and take things slowly. It’s essential that you let your cat take things at his or her own pace and decide what he or she is comfortable with. You can also find plenty of cat-training advice here.
6) After launching the website, did you discover that there were other people out there who also took their feline friends on adventures?
More than I had ever expected! The response has been overwhelming in the best possible way, especially on Instagram, where we now have nearly 50,000 followers who share their own kitty photos and outdoor experiences with us.
7) Where are some of your favorite spots to take Sirius?
We didn’t start leash training Siri until he was a few years old, so it took him a little while to get comfortable wearing a harness and to adapt to exploring the outside world. Because of this, he hasn’t ventured outside of our neighborhood yet, but I’d say his favorite place is our backyard where there’s tall grass, bamboo and a creek to explore. He loves to crawl into the deepest grass he can find, and listen to the sound of the water and birdsong. You can tell he’s so interested in everything and absolutely content to laze in the sun.
8) What myths surrounding cats do you wish people knew simply weren't true?
People often have this idea of cats as lazy, aloof creatures, but this isn’t true for every cat. Just as each person’s personality is different so is every cat’s. I think cats are often overlooked at shelters because people think that if they want an active, social pet then they must adopt a dog, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Cats can be active, social creatures too, but they’re also content to join you on the couch for a Netflix marathon. If you’re looking to adopt a pet, visit your local shelter and tell them what you’re looking for in a furry companion. They’ll match you to a pet — whether it’s a cat, dog or other animal — that will complement your lifestyle. Of course, always adopt. Don’t shop!
9) What do you want people to take and learn from http://Adventurecats.org?
The number-one thing I hope people leave with is realizing that cats and cat people aren’t necessarily what you may think. You really can hike and camp and engage with your cat in nature, and it can be beneficial to both of you if you do it safely. I really hope that changing people’s minds about cats and the people who love them can lead to increased adoption rates for our feline friends in shelters.