Pet Tales: Author chronicles adventures of cats and their humans




Does your cat sit in the window most of the day, watching birds and insects with wide eyes and a twitching tail? Does your cat try to slip out every time the door opens? Is your cat confident and comfortable in unfamiliar situations?

“It sounds like you’ve got an aspiring Adventure Cat on your hands,” writes Laura J. Moss in “The Purrsonality Quiz” section of her new book, “Adventure Cats: Living Nine Lives to the Fullest” (Workman Publishing, $14.95).

Cats in the book accompany their owners on camping trips. They hike on wooded trails, climb mountains, frolic in the snow and ride in boats, kayaks and canoes. They are leashed for all of these adventures.

Cat owners Krista Littleton and Alex Gomez describe how their one-eyed cat, Nanakuli, surfs in Hawaii: “He just lies right on the nose of the board with his paws hanging 10.” 

Yes, that’s hard to believe. Fortunately, the book has photographs of Nanakuli doing just that while one of his people rides on the back of the board.

It all starts with teaching cats how to walk nicely on leashes, Ms. Moss writes. She has step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish that. 

Adventure cats should wear collars with ID tags, Ms. Moss said. But “cats have soft flexible throats, so attaching a leash to the collar can easily cause choking. Also, most cats are furry little Houdinis who can easily slip out of a collar.” So she recommends vests and harnesses, specifically the Come With Me Kitty harness, Coastal Pet’s Size Right harness, the Kitty Holster walking vest, and the Puppia harness designed for small dogs. Some can be ordered at AdventureCats.org.

It can take weeks or months to leash-train a cat, and not every owner has that kind of patience. But the owners of 19 cats featured in the book are glad they did.

“It’s absolutely true that this is not for every cat,” said Kat Miller, director of ASPCA anti-cruelty behavior research.

She’s one of the feline experts interviewed for this book. Ms. Moss and the feline experts stress that no cat should be subjected to situations they don’t enjoy.

The easiest way to leash-train a feline is to start with a kitten “ideally before 9 weeks of age,” says veterinarian Eloise Bright. But the book makes clear that older cats can be taught.

“I only started leash-training my two indoor cats when one was 4 years old and the other was 3,” said Ms. Moss, a freelance journalist and co-founder of the Adventure Cats website. Launched in October 2015, the site has 150,000 monthly visitors. She has more than 100,000 Instagram followers.

Her cats Fiver, now 7, and Sirias, 5, are “not interested in venturing past the familiarity of the backyard” at their Atlanta home, “and that’s fine with me,” Ms. Moss said. “Just like when we’re indoors, my cats are the ones making the calls.” 

Cat lovers who have no desire to hike, camp, climb and kayak — with or without cats — will still enjoy the stories and striking color photographs in the 218-page book. About 75 percent of the photos come from the cats’ owners. Professional photographer Cody Wellons, who is married to Ms. Moss, also provided photos. 

Animal lovers will be happy that many of the Adventure Cats were rescued, some from shelters, others from sites where they had been abandoned.

Kayleen VanderRee was hiking with a friend in a Canadian park when she stumbled upon two tiny kittens in a bush behind a dumpster. She took them to an animal shelter, but it was closed. 

“Since we found them in the bush, we figured hiking up a mountain wouldn’t be too far out of their element,” Ms. VanderRee said.

By the end of the two-day canoeing, hiking and camping trip, “they had survived two days of rain and made their way into our hearts.” She adopted them and named them Bolt and Keel. They have been going on outdoor adventures for two years.  

Georgia resident Emily Grant says she was a lover of outdoor adventures but “a bit of a self-professed cat hater.” When she found four tiny kittens at an automotive shop, she couldn’t just leave them there. She took them home, and a tortoiseshell kitten stood out. Ms. Grant decided that if the kitten she named Eevee would wear a harness and walk on a leash, she’d keep her.

“Basically, I wanted to train her to be a dog. I’ve always been a dog person,” she said in the book. 

Eevee was happy to run errands with Ms. Grant and soon graduated to hikes and camping trips.

Ms. Grant and other owners of adventurous cats admit they plan their outings around the needs of their cats, who typically sleep 15 hours a day.  And they say a leashed cat tends to slow the pace of an urban walk or an outdoor hike.

Ms. Moss supplies many tips on how to provide enjoyable activities with indoor cats in the comfort of their own homes. The tips range from simple — capitalize on the love most cats have for boxes  — to complex, including how to build a safely enclosed “catio,” which is a kind of feline patio.

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1953. 

 

 

 





Advertisement