Meet Enoki. She’s a Lynx Point Siamese cat that’s been leading an adventurous life. Since l adopted her last year, she’s been a constant companion at home, on walks/hikes, bike rides, road trips, and even to the pub post-ride. With the summer heat, we added playing on the water to the list of our adventurous activities.
Outside of her calm disposition while playing outside, Enoki is a typical cat — she loves scratching things, all the things… in addition to her scratching posts, chasing laser beams, swatting at flies, and jumping on counters.
The best part of hanging with Enoki is that she’s adapted well to everything we do, and so far, appears to be game for anything. Aside from aggressive dogs, nothing seems to phase her, thanks to the non-stop adventuring lifestyle we’ve participated in since she was a wee ball of fur.
Cat Aspirations — Raising an Adventure Cat
As an apartment dweller for most of my adult life, my previous cat led a sheltered life. Attempts to train him to wear a harness at a middle-age failed, as I waited too long… but also wasn’t patient enough to spend enough time studying and reading up on cat behavior.
He passed a few years ago; when I was ready for a new feline companion, I had big aspirations. Envious of the Adventure Cats on Instagram, blogs, and other social media, seeds were planted. However, I’ve also had indoor-outdoor cats that left me too soon, so I knew that I wanted her to stay indoors unless she was adventuring with me, so she would live a long, full life.
In the meantime, I continued building out my conversion van. I knew that when I was ready for a new feline companion, (I was still debating on a small dog at this time, but finding the ideal breed seemed challenging) it would need to accompany me on all of the trips. I also took care to insulate the van as best I could, as I’d be potentially leaving her in the van for long periods while on the trail riding bikes.
Though I looked at some rescue cats, I knew a young kitten would be an ideal situation. When I found Enoki and brought her home, she was supposedly five weeks old. Based on her size and weight, she was likely closer to four. She was the sweetest kitten, but she also was a bit of a mess. Not only was she covered in fleas, but she had ear mites, was constipated, and wasn’t able to go to the bathroom for days after her adoption.
We managed through this initial period and working from home allowed me time to spend with her, taking her from formula to soft to dry food, sparing no expense, as this little white fur baby already had my heart.
Adventure Cat Training — the shoulder cat
Early on, Enoki and I developed a morning routine I continued for months. Every morning I would rouse her from her kitty palace (I kept her in an enclosed cage as a kitten) and I would place her on my shoulder while I made coffee. #shouldercat !
She quickly became accustomed to sitting on my shoulder, as I walked around the house, or even running up and down the stairs. Having Enoki accustomed to riding upon my shoulder has made everything else we’ve done since easier, and I strongly recommend this approach, as my shoulder is her safe place.
Even now that she’s bigger and doesn’t like staying perched for as long, it’s been key to having her on bike rides, as I’ve added a backpack that gives her a safe spot, while giving her a larger perch that is easier to balance on. (more on #bikekitty training in a future post)
Normalizing vanlife + road trips
Since the day we found each other, we’ve regularly gone for drives. Her first little box was a small plastic bin, and as she was so little, I’d place her and her box into a plastic tub with a blanket while traveling.
As she grew, she began jumping out of the tub, and she graduated to larger and larger litter trays until I discovered the Pet Mat Arm & Hammer sifting litter pan. This box cost a bit more than the plastic tubs I had in the van previously, but made clean up far easier, and is ideal for traveling a kitty. Due to odor, you want to scoop the box immediately each time they go, and it facilitates the process better than anything else I’ve tried.
Toilet Training? Priorities
I had aspirations of teaching Enoki to use the toilet and toilet training her. I had purchased a training kit, (and failed) with my previous cat but after a week of working at it and considering the implications, I decided that I’d prefer a cat that would be comfortable going to the bathroom anywhere she found litter. To avoid routines, I set up three litter boxes for her to choose from: one that lived in the “garage” of my van, one in the downstairs bathroom, and one in the garage.
Cats are creatures of habit, and altering these things can upset them and cause issues later, so my thought was I would diversify her bathroom experience as much as I could from the start. It might be possible to train a kitty to use a toilet and a litter box, but I felt that setting her up with 2-3 litter boxes was a safer proposition, and would mesh better with the lifestyle I envisioned for us.
Borrowing a cat backpack from friends, we took straight to traveling to normalize the driving experience as early as possible. We’d go for road trips and use the backpack to get her out on walks and bike rides. We visited mom on the coast, and took her out in the yard, and even took Enoki to the beach. A cat backpack is a great way to travel with a cat, and far better than a cage — at least when they’re small — as you can easily carry them with you wherever you go.
The model we borrowed had a giant plastic bubble and two small side pockets. The downside is that like most cat backpacks, they’re not actually that comfortable to wear for longer periods. They also lack storage for carrying other items and suck for actual hikes or bike rides. Later, after returning it, I found a pack that’s worked much better for us, though considering the length of the bikes rides, hikes, and paddles we do it falls short. (more on cat backpacks in an upcoming post)
The first step in training any adventure cat for outdoor fun is training them to wear a harness. I had previously tried training Neo to wear a harness to take him on walks. I gave up far too easily though, and had I known what I know not about feline behavior, I would have been much more patient.
With Enoki I spent a lot more time doing my homework. Ordering several different sizes online, they were all too large for her at the time, so I traced the outline of one and sewed a smaller, custom iteration of it sized to her.
I began by having her smell the harness. When I placed it on her, like many cats, she refused to move, and flopped down on her side. Almost all cats do this the first time they get a harness placed on them. And that’s ok, just leave it on.
Enoki wears a harness every day, just to keep her used to it. I usually do try to associate the harness with outside time though, so after I put the harness on I reward her with opening the front door. She loves to run out the door and plop on her side about six feet out, followed by rolling around.
Early on, I would just have her wear it for hours at a time. Then I’d stick her on my shoulder to walk around explore the backyard. Then we graduating to walking to the local park, where I’d let her down to explore.
If it wasn’t obvious, walking a cat is challenging. They’re often walking you, as opposed to you walking them. The best experiences we have are on narrow trails. Enoki enjoys walking on single track trails the most, as the route is clear, and she tends to follow the path with fewer stops. Of course, she’s still a cat, and that means frequent stops to sniff and smell things.
If you’re looking to start hiking with a cat, once they’re harness trained you’re set. A healthy dose of patience is required as well, they’re cats. Occasionally Enoki will start running and it’s the highlight of our hike or walk. Most of the time though, she’s walking me as much as I’m walking her. Instead of trying to walk her, I usually just enjoy being outside with her on the trail.
If she stops too long and I become impatient, I’ll scoop her up and put her on my shoulder for a bit, but now that’s she’s older, she usually wants to get back down and explore more. This is where a good cat backpack comes in, as it gives her significantly more surface area for balancing, and most importantly, let’s us go for mountain bike rides! More on that future installments!
Follow Enoki on Instagram: @Enoki.Adventures
Resources and Inspiration
www.AdventureCats.org – Ideas and inspiration!
Travel Litter Box. The Sifting Pan is our favorite travel litter box — no scooper needed! (less poopy things to store while traveling) Support the site and use our Amazon link: Pet Mate Arm & Hammer Large Sifting Litter Pan $34.00
Kitty Backpack. Our current backpack — full review forthcoming — Amazon link: SlowTon Pet Carrier $37.99
Works vertically, and horizontally, with a nice platform for Enoki to balance on. Has adjustable mesh straps, a sternum strap, and a waist strap. (only used while mountain biking; our longest bike ride is 12.5 miles to date. Longest SUP paddle is just over 5 miles) Used horizontally for Enoki to nap in while paddling.