Cat Training Inspiration - Jack
Jack is a kitty who loves hiking. We asked his mum, Morgan to tell us all about him.
Tell us the story of how Jack came into your family.
I had wanted a pet for awhile but wasn't sure that we were ready for the long term commitment of a cat so we decided to try fostering cats.
We picked up our first foster cat and within 24 hours I was completely in love with the cat. Unfortunately the cat already had an adopter so we couldn't keep it but we immediately went searching for a cat to adopt.
Jack was described as incredibly energetic and that he loved looking out the window so we decided he would be perfect for us. I had known I wanted a cat to come on outdoor adventures with us so I wanted an energetic and curious kitten.
What is the story behind Jack’s name?
It is a fairly boring story- the rescue named him Jack and we couldn't think of a name that suited him better than it.
What kind of exploring do you do with Jack?
We mainly go for hikes and short walks in our neighborhood.
We have gone camping once and hope to do it more this summer.
Why did you train Jack to explore with you?
I really liked the idea of letting a cat explore more of the world than just the inside of our tiny apartment.
I have also always wanted a dog to hike with but we can't have one right now so we wanted the pet we did have to come on our favorite activities with us!
I also partly did it because I was stubborn and so many people told me I could never get a cat to hike with me and I wanted to prove them wrong.
How do you explore with Jack?
We live in a city so on weeknights we usually just go to a park near our house but on weekends we drive out to the nearby national park to go for hikes.
Jack always has a harness and leash on with we are outside.
We also use a second leash to attach his retractable leash to our backpack in case we drop his leash he can't dart away.
We also fairly recently got a backpack just for Jack and it has really improved our experience. We can go out for longer since Jack has a place to rest and if he just isn't feeling like walking that day we can still hike and he can watch from the backpack.
Where are your favourite places to go?
Our favorite places are trails in Shenandoah National Park. There aren't huge mountains there so Jack can usually walk most of the trails on his own.
How do you pick where to go with Jack?
The trails near us and in the national park tend to be very crowded because they are close to the city so we try to be careful when deciding where to take Jack.
We try to pick things that are more unknown so there will be fewer people. We also try to pick places with breweries nearby but that is more for us humans than for Jack. :)
How do you introduce Jack to a new situation/location?
We are lucky in that Jack is usually not too scared in new situations or around new people. We usually just play it by ear and have his backpack ready if he needs to retreat into it for a little while to get comfortable.
Have you had a scary/difficult situation while exploring with Jack?
We are lucky in that we have not had too many scary situations, because we usually pick more unknown trails we don't run into too many off leash dogs and animals.
The most difficult situation we had was when we tried to do a 9 miles hike with Jack before we bought him his own backpack. Previously Jack had hiked 6 miles pretty well so we thought we could manage it.
About 5 miles in Jack decided he no longer wanted to walk but he also didn't want to be carried or in the backpack.
We had to do the last several miles carrying a cat who was very unhappy and unwilling to be held for more than a minute at a time. After that we immediately bought a cat backpack so we never were in that position again.
It taught me a lot about setting realistic expectations for what Jack can do and finding a balance between what we want to do and what Jack can do. With the backpack we are more easily able to keep everyone happy in these situations.
Tell us about your most memorable adventure.
My most memorable experience with Jack was camping with him.
I was so worried about how he would do in the tent and if he would keep us up all night. He loved every minute of it though!
At night we tied him to a tree with several leashes so he had space to chase bugs while we ate dinner.
In the tent he slept the whole night at our feet and didn't even wake up when an animal walked around outside our tent. It was a great experience.
What is Jack’s achievement that you are the proudest of?
Honestly I am so proud of Jack every time we go outside and he enjoys himself. I love watching how happy he is and how confident he is while in new situations.
I am also unreasonably proud of him whenever he goes to the bathroom outside. We usually cheer him on when he does it- I am not sure he appreciate it.
What has been the most rewarding thing about exploring with Jack?
The most rewarding thing about exploring with Jack is watching him enjoy himself outside.
I love seeing him munch on grass and chase bugs and knowing that he is getting so much more stimulation than if he was in our apartment everyday.
What has been the hardest thing about exploring with Jack?
It can take a lot of time and can be fairly dull sometimes.
In the evenings when we go out in our neighborhood it sometimes turns into Jack eating grass for ten minutes or chatting with birds for a half hour while I just stand there and wait for him to get enough (he could stay out there for hours if I let him).
It can also be really frustrating.
One week Jack will hike 6 miles happily and the next week he refuses to walk in the direction that we want him to go in. It can be really frustrating when that happens and feel like all the progress you have made is lost. It is important to not get discouraged and try again another day.
Is there anything you would do differently with training Jack to explore with you?
I would be more patient with Jack and I would be more careful not to set unrealistic goals for him. He is just a cat and sometimes he just doesn't want to walk and that is okay.
I think, especially with social media, we don't see how slow training can sometimes be so it is easy to expect your cat to be able to do more and get frustrated when they aren't doing exactly what you want them to be doing.
What advice would you give other humans who are training their cats to explore with them?
I would tell other human who want to train their cats to explore with them that they definitely should do it!... if their cat enjoys it.
I would also tell them to go slow, probably slower than you expected.
I walked Jack around our apartment on a leash for weeks before we went outside and then we only went outside for few minute intervals for months before we did anything bigger.
I would also tell people to make sure you are watching your cat closely for cues on how they are doing.
With their body language cats will tell you how they are feeling and it is our job to interpret it and adjust the situation so they are happy.
What are your favourite product for Jack?
Is there another catexplorer (humans or feline) who inspires you?
Follow Jack on Instagram @jack_hikes_