Backpacking with a Cat: 12 Dos and Don’ts

We promise that backpacking with a cat would be unlike any other hiking experience you’ve had!

When you go camping or backpacking, the inclusion of your ball of fur provides an entirely new environment – and with it, new perspectives and challenges.

We found a new enjoyable and safe hobby to enjoy together after traveling with our cat in a backpack, and we want to share what we’ve experienced and the same excitement with YOU!

Here are our top ideas for backpacking with a cat that you should be mindful of before venturing out with your feline companion.

Varuna and Our Backpacking Adventure

Since coming to Spain, we’ve mainly been backpacking with our pet Varuna. It’s been incredible to be able to carry Varuna along on sandy beaches and fast jungle walks!

Backpacking with cats was totally new to us a few months ago, but we can now go on backpacking rides with our cat anytime we want – or when he wishes!

Varuna is very interested in the outdoors, so he enjoys riding in his cat backpack. He enjoys sniffing the fresh air, watching birds fly, and chewing on various types of grass!

It is essential that you find the right backpack for your cat

Backpacking with a Cat: 12 Dos and Don’ts

DO

  1. Get Your Cat Used to Traveling in a Backpack
  2. Purchase a Large and Practical Cat Backpack
  3. Get some practice done at home before venturing out.
  4. Begin by going to quiet, safe locations.
  5. Bring extra water, snacks, and equipment.
  6. Make as many plans as you can for your trip!
  7. Take 30-minute breaks.
  8. Make safety a top priority.
  9. Make use of a cat tracker or ID tags.
  10. Allow Your Cat to Stretch!
  11. Have treats along the way
  12. After you’ve returned home, clean your cat’s backpack and gear.

DON’T

  1. Your Cat Should Be Forced, Caged, or Tricked Into a Backpack
  2. Make a trade-off between size and quality! (This is a Long-Term Investment)
  3. It’s been so long since your first trip together.
  4. Begin at crowded parks/trails.
  5. Forget about the need for a litter box.
  6. Underestimate or exaggerate The Cat’s Capabilities
  7. Ignore Your Cat’s Meows
  8. Allow your cat to explore off-leash dog parks and trails.
  9. Assume Your Cat Would Not Escape/Go Missing
  10. Don’t Worry About Wildlife, Fleas, or Toxic Plants
  11. To Avoid Sickness, Overfeed Your Cat Prior to Your Trip.
  12. So Much Time Has Passed for Another Backpacking Trip!
  13. DO INSTRUCT YOUR CAT TO TRAVEL IN A BACKPACKET

1.DO INSTRUCT YOUR CAT TO TRAVEL IN A BACKPACKET

Training your cat to use a cat backpack can take some time and effort, but it is well worth it!

Allow your cat to get acquainted with a backpack first if they are unfamiliar with them. Encourage them to use it as a bed, play with it, and give them rewards if they engage with it.

Aside from that, making sure your cat is secure until the backpack is raised onto your back is important, as this is what the bulk of backpacking with a cat is all about!

We’ve found that having two people assist with training a cat to love traveling in a backpack is particularly beneficial. One individual should hold the backpack while the other observes and inspires the cat from behind with encouraging signals.
If you’re traveling alone, we suggest wearing the backpack on your front for the first few journeys! You will keep an eye on your cat this way.

DO NOT FORCE, CAGE, OR TRY TO DUCK YOUR CAT INTO THE BACKPACK.

Never attempt to forcefully close your cat’s backpack. This will frighten your cat more than anything else, and they will almost certainly want to escape during your whole backpacking trip. Simply do not do so!

2.Purchase a Large and Practical Cat Backpack

We would add this because, though it might seem simple, there are hundreds of cat backpacks now on the market that it can be hard to pick a particularly nice one. You can check some here.

Cat backpacks come in a variety of sizes and styles, but we suggest investing in one with high-quality material, many breathable holes and/or mesh, simple top-down or front entry, and a wide and comfortable backpack.

Above all, remember your cat’s size and comfort!

DON’T SKIP OUT ON SIZE OR QUALITY.

It’s enticing to purchase the “cuter” cat backpack, but odds are it’s not as functional or durable as some.

Keep in mind that a pet backpack is a long-term purchase. When one backpack is $10, $20, or even $30 cheaper than another, compare the two and thoroughly examine the quality discrepancies.

3. Get some practice done at home before venturing out.

 Just as in harness and leash lessons, you can practice letting your cat ride in the backpack at home before taking it outside.

When your cat is happy riding from room to room in your house, they are probably ready for the next big step: going outside.

Try to walk and act normally during your in-home practices – make fake hiking motions, pauses, twists, and so on. This will teach your pet to respond to all of your movements (and not just simply walking).

DON’T OVERDO IT ON YOUR FIRST TRIP TOGETHER

Overdoing the whole thing on your first cat backpacking trip is a huge mistake. If the journey is too long, the weather is too humid, or your cat isn’t feeling healthy, all of your success will be lost. Slowly but steadily.

Start with short trips before attempting long walks or hikes with your cat in the backpack.

Make the trip comfortable for your cat

4. Begin by going to quiet, safe locations.

You may be tempted to visit the new park or walk up to a breathtaking vista with your feline companion. However, it is critical to begin by only visiting safe and quiet places. Save the big stuff for later, after your cat has mastered the art of backpacking.

DON’T BEGIN AT BUSY PARKS OR TRAILS.

Busy highways, parks, and trails can be “too much going on” for your pet. This, of course, is dependent on the disposition of each cat. However, cats can usually scare even more easily if there are so many humans, boats, pets, or sounds, and so on.

Take it gently and you’ll set yourself (and your cat) up for success!

5. Bring extra water, snacks, and equipment.

Always bring a bottle of water specifically for your pet! That’s right. Keeping your pet calm and hydrated is important when backpacking with a cat.

Cats sweat from their hands, so they don’t exhibit physical signs of overheating. A panting cat is very tired and wants to calm off as soon as possible!

It is a smart idea to bring a goody bag of your cat’s favorite treats. Good actions should always be rewarded with a treat!

If you’ve already added your cat’s collar and leash, that’s fantastic! However, if your cat would be in the backpack without it, it’s still a smart idea to carry it along. You’ll need a leash anyway to carry your cat out on walks.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR CAT’S BATHROOM REQUIREMENTS (TRAVEL-SIZED LITTER PAN)?

While most cats will go several hours without using the litter box, some cats need more regular urination or sanitation.

Bringing a collapsible or travel litter box will help to relieve your cat’s anxiety and make them more relaxed on their backpack trip. It’s not very polite to ask them to just keep their pee!

Bring one with you on extended journeys or if your pet doesn’t feel safe being outdoors in nature.

6. Make as many plans as you can for your trip!

Plan the season, the itinerary, the breaks, plan, plan, plan!

Planning your backpacking trip with your cat will help to keep it as simple as possible. Of course, you can’t control the weather, so going at optimal times of day where it’s not too hot or windy will result in a more fun backpacking trip with your pet.

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE OR OVERESTIMATE YOUR CAT’S Capacity.

Although you might have a cat-exploring warrior on your side, don’t underestimate your cat’s abilities or stamina. Simply bouncing around in a backpack can be exhausting for your pet, so keep their safety in mind at all times.

Don’t, on the other hand, underestimate your cat’s skill. Some cats are more inquisitive and agile, and they enjoy hopping out and exploring every now and then. Some cats may like to observe the scenery from the comfort of their backpack. That’s fine!

7. Take 30-minute breaks.

When backpacking with a cat, make sure to take breaks at least every 30 minutes or so! Cats aren’t used to writhing around in a small room for extended periods of time. Allow them to rest. It would benefit both of you!

Breaks or brief pauses are ideal times to provide your cat with water, a treat, or an opportunity to use the litter box (if you brought one).

DO NOT IGNORE The CAT’S MEOWING.

Although any nervousness is usual for cats traveling in unfamiliar environments in a backpack, it is not normal for your pet to meow or weep all the time.

Meowing does not indicate that your cat is loving their backpack trip, so make sure to listen to your cat’s needs if they begin to meow. They may be trying to convince you that they are too hot, that they can’t see well enough, that they need to relax, that they need to get down, or that they simply want to go home!

Don’t expect them to just “get over it,” since this would do much more harm than good.

Cat can get stressed in backpack if kept longer period of time

8. Make safety a top priority.

 Backpacking with cats introduces new challenges. You have to be more conscious of your surroundings than you would if you weren’t out exploring with a cat.

Weather, temperature, room, time, location, animals, dogs, people, water… Both of these items should be considered before going backpacking with your pet.

DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CAT TO EXPLORE OFF-LEASH DOG PARKS/TRAILS.

If you are uncertain whether a park or trail permits off-leash dogs, keep your cat in the backpack. And if your cat is fine with new puppies, keep in mind that not all dogs will be as good to your cat.

It is preferable to allow your pet to explore on a harness and leash in places you are familiar with.

9. Make use of a cat tracker or ID tags.

Pet trackers, whether GPS or non-GPS, are excellent ways to keep track of your adventurous cat!

Just in case your pet runs due to a malfunctioning leash or belt, you don’t want them bolting off into the great unknown with no means of locating them again.

In the event of a mishap, make sure your cat wears some kind of identifying tag! As the saying goes, it’s easier to be careful than sorry.

DON’T ASSUME YOUR CAT Would NOT ESCAPE OR GET LOST.

You never know what could cause your cat to flee. Accidents happen, no matter how hard we want to avoid them. Only be cautious when backpacking with a cat and keep in mind that there is always a chance when venturing out with your feline.

10. Allow Your Cat to Stretch!

If you actually keep the pet in your arms or allow them to walk on the ground for a few minutes, it is critical to let the cat out of the bag (literally!) and allow them to stretch.

Cat backpacks may be big and roomy without being too large. Although your cat might be able to lay down comfortably in their backpack, they are unlikely to be able to completely stretch out their toebeans.

In either case, allowing your pet to play and stretch will stimulate their senses. It’s a win-win situation for everybody!

DON’T FORGET ABOUT WILDLIFE, FLEEAS, TOXIC PLANT SPECIES, AND SO ON.

If you do want your cat to roam freely on their harness and leash when backpacking, keep in mind the wildlife in the area. Not only for your own sake, but also for the safety of the animals!

Along similar lines, consider getting your pet a flea and tick repellent, such as the Seresto flea collar. We’ve been using Seresto for years and have had great luck keeping fleas at bay while Varuna goes exploring.

Finally, don’t just let your cat chew on some herb. Grass is fine, just be sure you know what you’re doing so certain plants are poisonous to cats that you might not be aware of.

11. Have treats along the way

In the middle of all the fun you’re having backpacking with your cat, don’t forget to treat them generously! A backpacking cat is not your average feline; treat them like royalty!

Associating the backpack with favorable reinforcement is critical for not only teaching cats to love the backpack, but also for preserving their appreciation for potential backpack journeys.

Give treats more often in your journey with cat

DON’T OVERFEED YOUR CAT RIGHT BEFORE THE TRIP – Backpacking Can Be Exhausting!

Overfeeding your cat right before going camping is a no-no. You may think it’s a good idea at first, but as you’ll see, cats in backpacks have a little bounce to them.

Overfeeding can cause them to feel dizzy.

12. After you’ve returned home, clean your cat’s backpack and gear.

 Many of us would make the rookie mistake of not washing our gear after our first backpacking outing. You just bought an amazing cat backpack; make sure you take care of it!

We noticed how filthy the inside of Varuna’s bag was after hiking with him twice. His fluff had collected a large amount of soil, leaves, ashes, and twigs, which we took back into the home.

Cleaning your pet bag and cat harness or leash gear extends its life while providing you with new, safe gear for the next time you want to go backpacking with your feline!

DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO ON That ADVENTURE!!

That being said, don’t put off going on another trip for too long! Your pet will feel more at ease with repeated use, so don’t let their memories fade by not using the backpack often enough.

 Varuna’s enthusiasm and playfulness have increased after going on backpacking trips with us, in our experience. He enjoys being able to combine the comforts of home with invigorating and relaxing outdoor excursions!

Finally, here are 12 Dos and Don’ts of Backpacking with a Cat.

Congratulations! You’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, which means you’re officially prepared to go backpacking with your cat!

Thank you very much for reading, and please help spread the word about this post to other feline adventurers like yourself.

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