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Dirtbag’s Gear List: 8 Cat Hiking Gear Essentials

Luna in the cat backpack at the beach

Hiking with cats is becoming a popular activity for feline pet owners. While most leave their kitties at home for adventures, more and more cat parents are deciding to take their fuzzy pals with them!

Below, we have some excellent cat hiking gear essentials. We’ll go over the best cat hiking gear and what we use to keep our kitties safe while hiking. We’ll also explore how to take your cat hiking and what to expect when you walk with your cat.

Hiking with cats is different than taking your dog for a walk. It requires patiencetraining, and a whole lot of adventurous spirit! Without further delay, let’s get into all the essential gear you need to hike with your adventure cat.

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8 Cat Hiking Gear Essentials

Let’s get right into it. We have 8 cat hiking gear essentials that we bring on every single hike with our kitties. Later, we’ll review some tips and tricks for walking cats, harness training, and what to expect on your hike.

Studies like the one reported in the Journal Anthrozoos showed that cat owners had better psychological health than those who didn’t have pets. Hiking boosts our mental health as well. So, hiking with your cat? Double boost!

But to really enjoy a hike with your cat, you need a few essential pieces of gear to keep them safe and happy!

1. Collar With Bell

All cat owners know that cats can be pretty mischievous. They like to get into things they shouldn’t and climb on things that shouldn’t be climbed (we’ve all lost a curtain or two to our cats!).

The playful nature of cats means it can be challenging to find them when we need to. So, the first item on our cat hiking gear list is a collar with a bell. Having a collar with a bell helps locate your cat on hikes if they accidentally break loose from their harness.

Additionally, bells help alert wildlife to your cat’s presence. This not only protects wildlife but also your cat. We use the FRISCO Polyester Personalized Reflective Cat Collar With Bell

It checks all our boxes for keeping our kitties safe:

  • Breakaway connection: If your kitty gets their collar stuck on something, it will automatically break loose if enough pressure is applied. This prevents them from choking or getting stuck.
  • Reflective: While we don’t anticipate you’ll be hiking at night with your cat, a reflective collar is easier to see even during the day.
  • Stitched contact information: This collar allows you to personalize it with your cat’s name and telephone number stitched into the collar. This means no annoying jingly tags!
A cat using cat hiking gear such as a collar, harness and leash.

2. Cat Harness

Unlike dogs, cats are natural climbers and explorers, meaning they might try to scamper up trees and rocks or even dash off after wildlife. A sturdy, well-fitted harness allows you to control your kitty without restricting their movement or causing discomfort. It’s like a seat belt for your cat, keeping them secure while they enjoy the great outdoors.

But not all cat harnesses are created equal. For hiking, you’ll want a harness that is both comfortable and escape-proof. 

Look for the following when buying a harness to hike with your fuzzy pal:

  • Adjustable straps: This helps you get a snug fit on your cat, lowering the chances that they’ll squirm out of the harness.
  • Padding: Nobody wants to wear something uncomfortable, and your cat is no different. Look for a padded harness to make it more comfortable for long periods.
  • Reflective: Aim for a harness that has reflective strips for increased visibility.
  • Clip in the back: The best escape-proof harnesses will have the leash attachment at the back of the harness. It should sit behind your cat’s shoulder blades. This prevents them from being able to back up to get out of their harness.
  • Style: Cat harnesses come in many different styles. Some are more full-body style, while others are more strap-style (sometimes called an H-style). Choose the best style for your cat based on their temperament and size.
  • Attachment type: Harnesses may close with velcro or a clip. Some cats don’t mind the velcro, while others may fear the sound. Take this into consideration when choosing a cat harness.

I have two different style harnesses for my cats:

G, my heftier feline friend, wears the PetSafe Come with Me Kitty Nylon Cat Harness & Bungee Leash. I like that this came with a bungee leash. If G dashes for a bird, the bungee leash slows her down gently instead of a hard stop. It’s an excellent cat harness for hiking, and she’s also never escaped from this harness!

Luna, a tiny 6-pound adult cat, prefers the Comfort Soft Mesh Cat Harness & Leash. I initially tried the PetSafe harness on her, but even their smallest size was too heavy for her little frame. The Comfort Mesh is much lighter. However, it’s not as snug, and she has escaped from it a few times!

3. Byte Tag

The Byte Tag is a recent addition to our hiking gear arsenal. As you might know, we live in a van and travel the United States with our two kitties and dog. So, having a backup and a double backup in case they get lost is super important to us.

Our cat’s collars have our numbers on them, but we keep the Byte Tag on their harnesses. Sometimes, we put both on them to hike. Other times, they only have their harness on or only have their collar. We wanted a way for people to contact us no matter what our cats are wearing.

Enter Byte Tag.

This simple gadget comes with a QR code that people can scan with their smartphones. With the app, you can create a profile of your pets with their name, temperament, health information, and contact information.

The person scanning the QR code does not need to have the Byte Tag app. Your information will pop up on their phone, and they can reach you! We went with the Byte Tag slide, which can fit right on their harness without the jingly tags. The rubber texture helps it stay in place even when they’re being little roguish fluff balls and sprinting around!

If you purchase a Byte Tag, use the code FURBAGS to get 15% off!

4. Lightweight Leash

Another cat hiking gear essential is a leash. When you purchase a cat harness, most will come with a leash. However, if you want a longer leash that lets your kitty roam while you hike, I recommend getting a long, lightweight leash.

We use the Coastal Pet Products Poly Cat Tie-Out. They offer a 10- and 15-foot version, and we use the 15-foot to give our cats plenty of lead line.

Bungee leashes are another great option, but they tend to be heavier. Our small 6-pound cat cannot be on the bungee leash because it weighs her down, but our 10-pound kitty does just fine.

5. Collapsible Water Bowl

Depending on your cat’s temperament, they may not feel comfortable drinking water while out on a hike. That’s how my cats are most of the time. However, we always pack a collapsible water bowl, just in case.

Mr. Peanut’s Premium Collapsible Non-Skid Silicone Dog & Cat Bowls are what we use. It comes in an affordable 4-pack and is made with safe, food-grade silicone. The bowls also come with a small carabiner that we typically clip to the outside of our backpacks.

The bowls can hold up to 12 oz, which is plenty of water for our furballs. Cats should take in about 4 oz of water for every 5 pounds of body weight. So, the average cat needs about a cup of water per day.

6. Pet Wipes

This one is specific to our cat, G, who suffers from allergies. We bring pet wipes anytime she is outside so that we can wipe off her paws and fur to eliminate any allergens that may be attached to her.

The best pet wipes we’ve found are Vetnique Labs Furbliss Pet Bathing Wipes. They’re hypoallergenic, so we don’t have to worry about her being allergic to the wipes. These also work great for our dog, who rolls around in mud any chance he gets!

7. Cat Backpack

The next cat hiking gear essential is a cat backpack carrier. Cats are finicky creatures. We’ve all seen the videos of them flipping out over something small or getting scared by a strange noise. Having a backpack on the hike is a great way to keep them safe.

If your cat gets spooked or has specific fears, you can place them safely in the backpack until the trigger is gone. For example, our one cat is extremely fearful of new people. While we always try to go on secluded hikes, we occasionally run into people and have to pop her in the backpack until we pass them.

Cat backpacks are also great for emergencies. If your cat becomes injured on the hike, you have a way of getting them back to the car without having to carry them in your arms (hey, some of us have chonky cats, okay?).

We bought the Navigator from Travel Cat. For a cat backpack, it’s comfortable but bulky. It comes with a chest and waist strap for a more comfortable fit. 

8. First Aid Kit

There are some things you pack in your hiking bag that you never hope to use. But when you need it, it’s so much better to have it! One of those things is a kitty first aid kit. While there aren’t many cat first-aid kits available, the next best thing is a medical kit for dogs.

We use the Adventure Medical Kits Trail Dog. It comes with plenty of supplies for common injuries your cat might sustain on a hike:

  • Gauze
  • Bandages
  • Antihistamines
  • Tick remover
  • Hydrogen peroxide.
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Alcohol & antiseptic wipes
  • Eyewash

The reason we like this kit so much is that it comes with a free pet first aid field guide to help address common wounds, sprains, and wildlife conflicts. A first-aid kit is always in our hiking bag! And if you’re looking for a first-aid kit for yourself, check out our article on packing a first-aid kit.

What About A Litter Box?

We all want our cats to be comfortable, so it’s only natural to think you need to bring their bathroom along for the hike. However, we don’t bring a litter box when hiking with our cats. 

Most cats will be okay with finding a place outdoors to do their business, and they’re kind enough to bury it themselves. That said, if your cat doesn’t bury their waste, it’s best practice to pick it up with a poo bag.

If you want to bring a litter box on your hike, there are collapsible options that make it easy to stuff into your bag. Then, bring a baggie with some litter and offer your adventure kitty a bathroom break occasionally.

Luna the cat relaxing by the water on her hike.

What To Expect When Hiking With Cats

Going on an adventure with your furry friend is always a treat. However, when that friend happens to be of the feline variety, the experience can be, well, quite different. Let’s delve into what you can expect when hiking with cats and how it differs from hiking with dogs.

By the way, our article on how to hike and rock climb with your pets is bursting with information about hiking with cats – check it out!

Feline vs Canine: The Trekking Temperaments

1. Independent Explorers: Unlike their canine counterparts, cats are solitary hunters by nature. They’re wired to explore independently, often wandering off the beaten path. You might find your feline friend darting into bushes or climbing trees, while dogs typically stick close to their humans.

2. Pace Setters: Cats also march to the beat of their own drum in terms of pace. While dogs can keep up with human speed, cats prefer a more leisurely stroll, stopping frequently to observe their surroundings.

3. Night Owls: It’s worth noting that cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk. This is contrary to dogs, who are generally active throughout the day.

Getting Your Cat Trail-Ready

To ensure a successful hiking experience with your cat, preparation is vital. Here’s what you need to do:

A cat hiking with her human on a trail.

1. Harness Training: Before you hit the trails, your cat needs to be comfortable wearing a harness. Start by introducing the harness at home, allowing your cat to wear it for short periods initially, gradually increasing the duration over time. Begin inside, then eventually move your cat outside with the harness on.

For a more detailed guide, check out our article on the 7 simple steps to harness train your cat!

2. Leash Training: Once your cat is comfortable with the harness, introduce the leash. Practice walking around your home and backyard before venturing into busier environments.

3. Slow and Steady: Introduce your cat to the hiking lifestyle gradually. Begin with short, easy walks in quiet, familiar areas. Over time, you can slowly increase the distance and introduce new environments.

4. Know Your Cat: Every cat is unique, so it’s essential to understand and respect your cat’s preferences and limitations. Some cats might love climbing trees, while others prefer staying close to the ground.

Hiking with cats offers a unique and rewarding experience, but it requires patience, understanding, and a different approach than hiking with dogs. But with the proper preparation, you and your feline friend can enjoy many safe and fun outdoor adventures together!

Cats on the Trails: Your Guide to Feline Safety in the Great Outdoors

We know you’re excited, but before you pack those kitty cookies and treats and lace up your boots, let’s chat about safety. So, here are some top tips to keep your feline friend secure during your outdoor escapades.

Gear Up

A cat relaxing after her hike.

First things first, your kitty needs the right cat hiking gear. Look for a reflective harness and collar to make your cat visible, especially during dawn or dusk hikes when visibility is low. Bring a lightweight cat leash, a first-aid kit, and plenty of water.

Remember the 8 cat gear essentials for hiking discussed above, and you’ll be all set!

Use A Leash

Like dogs, cats should always be kept on a leash while hiking. Not only does this prevent them from darting off after interesting critters, but it also keeps them close by your side where they’re safest.

Train Before You Hike

Train your hiking cat to respond to basic commands. This can make a world of difference on the trail. And remember, patience and positive reinforcement are the keys to successful training.

Pay Attention

Always keep a close eye on your cat. They’re natural explorers and might want to investigate every bush, tree, and rock. By staying vigilant, you can prevent them from wandering into potentially dangerous areas.

Know Your Surroundings

Be aware of the environment around you. Watch out for things like poisonous plants, aggressive animals, or steep drops. Being proactive can help prevent unwanted encounters with nature’s less-friendly side.

Respect Your Cat’s Limits

Last but not least, understand your cat’s limitations. Unlike humans, our feline friends might not be up for a 10-mile hike. Start with short trails and gradually increase the distance as your cat gets more comfortable.

Remember, hiking with your cat should be a fun and enriching experience for both of you. By taking these safety precautions, you can ensure that your outdoor adventures are filled with nothing but purrs and happy tail wags (or should we say flicks?). 

Wrapping It Up: Adventure Awaits!

We’ve journeyed through the ins and outs of hiking with your feline friend, from understanding their unique trail temperaments to keeping them safe on those exciting outdoor escapades.

Remember, every cat is an individual, and what works for one might not work for another. Patience, preparation, and a good understanding of your kitty’s character are key when hiking and traveling with your cat.

Before you lace up those hiking boots and hit the trails, let’s quickly recap the cat hiking gear you’ll need to make your cat’s hiking experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible:

  • Collar with a Bell: Alerts wildlife and helps you keep track of your cat’s whereabouts.
  • Reflective Harness: Ensures your cat is always visible, especially during low light conditions.
  • Byte Tag: If your cat wanders off, this tag will provide the necessary contact information.
  • Leash: Essential for keeping your cat close, safe, and under control.
  • Collapsible Water Bowl: Hydration is crucial for you and your feline companion!
  • Pet Wipes: For cleanups on the go.
  • Cat Backpack: For those moments when your furry friend needs a rest, or the terrain gets tricky.
  • First-Aid Kit: For emergencies on the trail.

We’d love to hear about your hiking adventures with your purr-fect pals. Have a funny story, a cute photo, or a handy tip? Drop us a comment below!

So go ahead, embrace the adventure, and create unforgettable memories with your adventure cats in the great outdoors. After all, there’s no better hiking buddy than a cat who’s ready to explore. Happy trails, everyone!

For more information about hiking with pets, check out our hiking blog!

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