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Not only does Basil love exploring & dogs, he helped his brother Batman beat cancer. Such an incredible kitty!
We asked his mum, Corrine, to tell us all about him.
How did Basil come into your family?
Basil has the least interesting origin story of all three of my cats. My eldest cat was found abandoned in a locker at a school when he was five weeks old. The fluffy cat was a rescue from the Winnipeg Humane Society, and Basil was the result of me pestering my partner for a kitten.
My eldest cat (Batman) had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and I was feeling pretty down. I wanted to introduce a kitten before anything happened to Batman so he could show the kitten the ropes, and my partner finally gave me the green light to adopt another cat on my birthday. One month later I was driving to pick up our new kitten.
Upon meeting Basil, Batman decided to beat the cancer and stick around to whip that punk into shape. It was a win-win.
What is the story behind Basil’s name?
Before we’d met Basil my partner and I had decided we were going to call him Nimbus. It was absolutely, 100% decided. We were talking about what would happen once we brought Nimbus home, shopping for Nimbus, showing people pictures of our new Nimbus.
Then we picked him up. Nimbus means “dark cloud” and there was absolutely nothing dark about the goofy agent of chaos we’d invited into our home. We tossed around names like Nimrod, Bagel, and Leeroy (because of his habit of rushing into things), and eventually settled on Basil.
It was cute and short and fit him perfectly.
What kind of exploring do you do with Basil?
We will do any and all exploring Basil feels comfortable doing.
He loves going on adventures and in the summer we try to squeeze in a walk every night.
Fairweather excursions often include local parks, provincial parks, and strutting around the neighbourhood. Basil’s favourite night-walk location is a nearby grocery store parking lot. They have many concrete risers he can parkour off, open spaces we can run, and it’s well-lit so I don’t have to worry about other cats or wildlife. The lights also attract bugs and Basil’s turned hunting cicadas into a sport.
If it’s too hot, too cold, or too wet we’ll look for cat-friendly indoor spaces. We’re on a first-name basis with many of the local pet stores. I’ll let him pick out a toy or treat each time. He tends to gravitate towards the dog section, so we’ve got a number of bullysticks kicking around the house.
The only kind of exploring we haven’t had a chance to do is boating. We don’t have easy access to a canoe, he didn’t like paddle boating (too noisy for an introduction to water) and was far more interested in frogs than paddleboarding. It’s something we’re going to work on next summer!
We also haven’t had the chance to take Basil on an airplane, but we’re working on carrier training just in case.
Why did you train Basil to explore with you?
I’m a huge advocate for indoor kitties.
Keeping your cat “indoors” is so much safer for both them, and the local critters they like to hunt. However, I don’t believe “indoor” means “never go outside”, and leash training is the perfect way to safely get outdoor enrichment.
Basil ended up being a very clever, energetic kitten and he needed a stimulating outlet so we could keep peace in the house.
I got Basil at the beginning of winter and intended to start adventure training once the weather was better, but he broke his tail and bumped up my timeline. The vet visit was fairly traumatic and I didn’t want him to associate the car with horrible pain and suffering, so we started going on casual car rides.
He was a natural and enjoyed getting out of the house.
Eventually the snow melted and we started leash training. I made sure he wore his harness in the car and he already associated it with adventure which made things a little easier than if I had just started training in spring.
How do you explore with Basil?
Basil and I are pretty basic and stick to a leash and harness.
He took to exploring so naturally I never took the time to carrier or backpack train him, and it turns out it’s hard to tell him he should be in a bag now that he’s used to exploring on-leash.
His harness changes depending on the weather, but we mostly use a “Come With Me Kitty” harness and retractable leash.
I’ve found that having two free hands is extremely important if you aren’t bringing a carrier or cat backpack, so I have a wristlet attached to the leash and use a small backpack when we head out. If something goes wrong it’s easy for me to drop everything and intervene.
My backpack is small and doubles as a purse in the summer, but it’s usually well stocked for cat walks. At any given point it’s filled with cat treats, water (for both of us), a pouch of wet cat food (we like ones with lots of gravy if we’re out exploring to help combat dehydration), poop bags, a toy, and an extra battery for my phone. I’ve been trying to put together a small first-aid kit for longer hikes.
Basil is great in the car and we generally take him out for a ride a few times a week.
Where are your favourite places to go?
Our favourite place is definitely a nearby park. It’s a short drive away but it’s got ducks, squirrels and frogs for Basil to chase. He also gets to meet plenty of new people and dogs and it’s got a pretty nice view of the waterfront so we’ve spent some spectacular sunsets there together.
Most convenient place to go is our local grocery store parking lot. Like I said before, it’s Basil’s favourite night walk. Every so often a couple of bunnies will bunk down in the far corner of the lot and he has to look for them. The rest of the time he spends running in the empty lots and bouncing off the risers. It’s not a gorgeous location but it’s safe and fun and that’s what matters.
How do you pick where to go with Basil?
The biggest thing I’ll look for is parking. Because Basil prefers to be out of a carrier we need to get to the park, building, or trailhead quickly and I’d prefer to avoid a lot of traffic. Basil can make the best of most locations but isn’t particularly fond of busses or motorcycles.
Google Maps is great for helping me figure out how best to get Basil as close to the action as possible without any negative experiences.
How do you introduce Basil to a new situation/location?
When we first started going outside we went a slow as possible. It took Basil almost a month to walk half a block to the mailbox, but it was worth the wait.
We took our time and built trust. We never did anything he didn’t want to and he built confidence in both me and himself.
Now if we’re outdoors he’s unstoppable and might be a little TOO confident.
Indoor adventures can still be a little scary so Basil sets the pace.
We treat any new experience like we’re walking outside for that first time. We go slow and read each other.
Have you had a scary/difficult situation while exploring with Basil?
I think the scariest incident was when we were approached by an unleashed dog. The dog was jumping and barking as I held Basil up as close to me as possible. His owner finally appeared and apologized, knowing his dog was aggressive towards cats.
As a result I pick Basil up whenever I see a dog, no exceptions. Basil LOVES dogs and he’ll greet them if left to his own devices. Once Basil is in my arms I can assess the situation and if the dog is friendly we can do a controlled introduction. If the dog is hostile or giving off weird vibes Basil is safest in my arms and we can wait it out or leave.
Other lessons I’ve learned the hard way:
Always carry a poop bag
Check the harness for broken or loose clasps
Bring a towel in case your cat decides to jump in the river
Have you come across an amazing cat friendly business/location that we should celebrate? Tell us about them.
I’m a volunteer at a Cold War museum and the amazing staff will occasionally let me bring Basil in to explore the bunker. He loves the people there and it’s such a great opportunity to get him out of the house if the weather is crummy.
Tell us about your most memorable adventure.
I think *my* most memorable walk was when Basil and I ended up wandering up a river bank and stumbled on a rock exposure full of fossils. I’m a bit of a paleontology nerd and prospecting for fossils with my cat was something I never knew was on my bucket list. I’ve been reading up all winter and hope we can find some more sites when the snow melts. Six-year-old me would be VERY impressed.
What is Basil’s achievement that you are the proudest of?
Honestly, I’m very impressed with Basil’s litter box etiquette while we’re on the road. It’s not a glamourous answer, but something so simple and fundamental as knowing you can trust your cat in the car opens up all sorts of opportunities.
Litter box aside, I’m just generally proud of Basil. He’s very brave, communicative, and open to trying new things.
He’s the perfect little adventure buddy and I’m lucky to have him in my life.
What has been the most rewarding thing about exploring with Basil?
Everything. I’ve explored my city and surrounding areas, met my neighbours, and made my cat happier in the process.
We built an incredibly strong bond and it let us do things I never thought possible.
What has been the hardest thing about exploring with Basil?
I became THAT person.
I’m that person who constantly talks about my cat. You want to go hiking? I’m going to bring my cat. Hi, my name is Corinne. Would you like to meet my cat?
This isn’t really hard for me, but I feel for my friends and family who are constantly subjected to cat photos.
Is there anything you would do differently with training Basil?
I was a little put off by the cost of cat carriers and backpacks in the beginning and cheaped out. I didn’t realize what a headache it would cause me down the road and how much of an investment a good carrier would be.
Don’t do what I did. I ended up spending way more money trying to find a solution to a problem I created by not properly training him in a carrier when he was younger.
What is something you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you first started exploring with Basil?
Don’t skip backpack/carrier training. Do it now that he’s young and impressionable.
What advice would you give other humans who are training their cats to explore with them?
If you’re just starting out, my advice would be not to focus on the distance you’ve walked or the places you go.
Don’t “do it for the gram,” do it for the cat.
Our first few trips were in our backyard, to the mailbox, and to a muddy, trash-riddled ditch. Focus on making it the best experience possible and learning to read your cat.
Don’t do anything the cat doesn’t want to do and build a strong foundation of trust. Everything else will fall in place.
What are your favourite product/gear for Basil?
Basil doesn’t try to bolt, so Gooby Fleece vests are a great fall harness alternative. When winter comes and we need to bring out the big guns we tend to go for Hotel Doggy jackets and sweaters. They slip over the harness easily and the jackets use velcro so they’re easy to adjust to size.
What do you wish people knew about cats?
Cats are extremely intelligent and sociable creatures, but they aren’t dogs.
They don’t learn like dogs and you can’t train them like dogs.
You have to show them it’s worth their time and ask them if they’re feeling up to it. Chances are they’ll surprise you.
Is there another catexplorer (humans or feline) who inspires you?
Can I give a shoutout to the entire Catexplorer Community?
Everyone has something to teach or contribute and I think it’s worthwhile to reach out to any of them if you have questions or want some catspiration.