Cat Training Inspiration - Maverick
Maverick is a catexplorer who loves RVing with his mom, Barbara.
We asked Barbara to tell us about him.
Tell us the story of how Maverick came into your family.
I've always had cats all my life, but lost my parents and three cats all within two years of each other. At first I thought maybe I should take a break from having a cat so I could travel more, but I started dating a man who had a cat live with him in his van and we would go on trips together.
Bandit was such a great cat, following his human around and perfectly content living in a van and exploring new places. That encouraged me to adopt another cat, so I went on a mission to find one from a local cat rescue.
I applied for another kitten online but he wasn't available anymore, so the owner of the cat rescue recommended I meet a black and white cat named "Wyatt" as he matched what I wrote I wanted in a cat.
"Wyatt" was six months old, one of four cats that were found abandoned when they were very little. He and his siblings had some digestive issues, most likely due to being separated from their cat mom too early in life, therefore, a lot of people didn't want to adopt them. I went to meet "Wyatt" at his foster's house and it took him quite some time to come up to me and let me pet him. I'm used to very affectionate cats, so I wasn't sure we were a good match, but the foster encouraged me to take him home for three days and see if the one-on-one time would bond us. I agreed and took little "Wyatt" home.
Let's just say that "Wyatt" made himself comfortable very quickly at my house and within a few hours melted my heart with his quirky and cute personality. Turns out he's quite affectionate, he just needs time before he comes up to humans.
I always tell people that Maverick chose me; he knew he wanted to be my cat and he truly is the perfect match.
I had Maverick's DNA tested to find out how to solve his digestive issues and it turned out that he was lacking colostrum, which they get from their mother's milk. I ended up giving Maverick homeopathic colostrum supplements which cleared up his issues pretty quickly. I was told that goat's milk can also help.
What is the story behind Maverick’s name?
After we bonded, I asked the foster if he was attached to the name "Wyatt" and she said no, so I started going through a list of "outlaw" names. Flint was a close runner up.
Once I said the name Maverick out loud, "Wyatt" meowed immediately and looked at me, which is how he got his name. It just suited him and he chose it.
Over time I've come up with some nicknames for Mav. I often call him "Munchie" because he's so food oriented, therefore, Munchkin has become his unofficial middle name.
What kind of exploring do you do with Maverick?
I go on RV trips about every 2-3 months and am gone for 1-3 weeks on each trip. Maverick comes with me on all my trips. I wanted a cat that liked to travel so I didn't have to leave him behind, and luckily that's what I got!
If I'm in a populated area, I walk him on a leash, but Maverick prefers places which are more remote and where he can explore more freely without lots of city noises.
If the environment is safe and there are no leash laws, I will let Maverick explore on his own. He never goes too far and always comes back when called. Some people might think that's risky, but if you saw how Maverick is outside, you would understand why I'm ok with it. He was meant to explore and be free, he needs it. Otherwise, he feels cooped up and restless. Plus he's so good about coming back when he's called and not straying too far.
Why did you train Maverick to explore with you?
Because I enjoy traveling, I knew I wanted a cat that would be comfortable going on RV trips and explore new places.
Therefore, I started to train Maverick immediately after adopting him. He was a natural!
He wanted to be outside as much as possible, to explore everything, and was happy that I was letting him. Our first outing was a one hour long drive to a beach spot that's not too populated. He jumped out of the car right away and adapted to the harness and leash very quickly without a lot of training. It was meant to be.
How do you explore with Maverick?
I put Maverick in a harness when I first got him, which he wears all the time instead of a collar.
I have his pet ID tag, a Tile or Chipolo Bluetooth tracker, and a bell attached to the ring in front. I use what's called an H-style harness since cats can't wiggle out of them like they can from other harnesses. He's never shown any discomfort and I check to make sure it's not too tight or too loose on a regular basis.
I use a regular cat leash attached to a 10 ft retractable leash. That way I can give Maverick space when he wants to explore a bit further from me on our walks, but also reel him back in when I need to.
I also have a Fat Cat Backpack, which is the Apollo Backpack (Maverick is 13 lbs), which is use when I'm in very populated areas or places with dogs, and a Sherpa Cat Carrier for when we travel by plane (it's guaranteed to fit under the seat in all airlines).
Maverick is a well traveled cat; he's been in cars, vans, RVs, on a pontoon boat, and on a plane.
He doesn't really care about the transportation method, as long as he's with me.
Where are your favourite places to go catexploring?
Maverick is happy pretty much anywhere that's not busy with people and dogs.
He likes forest environments a lot, as well as other remote areas. He likes to chase little rodents and lizards, as well as climb up trees. He just loves being outside and experiencing all the new smells and plant-life. He's a very curious cat and a really good hunter.
How do you pick where to go with Maverick?
Locally I try to pick places that aren't too busy with human traffic and preferably where there aren't any dogs. Generally that means big open spaces were people are spread out and there's a lot of nature to explore.
I also try to find less populated areas on our trips, places that have enough space for Maverick to explore without having too many sudden noises or dogs to spook him.
I always observe the environment first to make sure that it's cat friendly before I let Maverick out.
We've been traveling together for 2.5 years now, so I know what environments Maverick will like versus ones that aren't ideal.
How do you introduce Maverick to a new situation/location?
I let Maverick lead the way.
If he doesn't want to leave the vehicle, I let him stay where he's comfortable. He will come out when he feels safe and I just follow along. If he senses danger, he knows to run right back into the RV or to me to grab him.
Walking with a cat is quite different than a dog because cats are more curious about everything around them.
The walks are slow and gradual, but I can encourage Maverick to go the way I want by guiding him with the leash. If he really doesn't want to go that way, I will let him explore where he's at until he's ready to move on.
He definitely likes to stop a lot, sniff everything, and explore all the crevices and bushes.
Have you had a scary/difficult situation while exploring with Maverick?
Sadly yes. I was walking Maverick on leash, keeping my distance from people and dogs.
A few times a dog on leash would come by, but we would stay far enough apart that everything was fine. But after an hour walking around without problems, a dog owner came by with his dogs off leash. I told him right away to keep his dogs under control as I have my cat with me, but he did nothing.
One of his dogs went right for Maverick, freaking him out, which turned into Maverick defending himself with his claws out because he couldn't run away due to being on leash. I tried to break it up and told the dog owner to get his dog off Maverick, but the dog owner just stood there doing nothing.
Finally, I got the dog to back off, scooped up Maverick (claws and all) and walked away. Maverick was pretty shaken up but luckily not injured. I had a few claw wounds from grabbing Maverick, which I cleaned out with rubbing alcohol (no infections). That was when I realized that dog owners don't always follow leash laws and that I needed to be more careful where I take Maverick.
I honestly wish dog owners understood the importance of leash laws and obeyed them. In my experiences, there's just too many dog owners that feel that they don't have to abide by the rules.
With catexplorers becoming more and more common, dog owners need to follow leash laws for everyone's safety.
All pets are created equal, so if someone wants to walk their cat, or parrot, or lizard, they should be able to do so, despite it being a smaller percentage of the population.
We are all responsible for our own pets and should ensure that our pets don't attack other pets, no matter what kind of pet it is.
There are so many dirt roads you can take to find a spot away from others while enjoying spectacular views.
We stayed overnight in the Alabama Hills where little field mice come out at dark. Maverick had a blast chasing them around for an hour while I enjoyed hanging by a fire pit. I have some amazing photos of Maverick with Mt Whitney in the background from that trip.
What is Maverick’s achievement that you are the proudest of?
I'm most proud of how fast Maverick learns things.
Not only did he learn how to walk on a leash quickly, but he's also learned how to give kisses on command, which technically means he gives me his forehead for a kiss. Because he's so smart, I'm teaching him more tricks. Currently training him to give me paw. He's lifting his paw slightly, but not quite handing it to me yet.
I also trained Maverick to use the toilet so I didn't have to worry about taking a litter box in the RV. I used the CitiKitty training kit and he picked it up really quickly. I haven't had a litter box since the first week of adopting Maverick and it's honestly a relief!
What has been the most rewarding thing about exploring with Maverick?
That I get to take Maverick on my trips and not have to leave him home with a cat sitter. We have bonded so much more due to our trips together. We are pretty much inseparable. I've never had a cat so bonded with me on every level before and it's absolutely wonderful! Maverick is super affectionate and we have a daily routine.
Maverick is also a very talkative cat, probably the most talkative cat I've ever experienced, and I can tell what every meow means. We are in tune with each other's moods and feelings on such a deep level. I think other people think I'm some crazy cat lady taking my cat everywhere, but honestly it's just a very special bond and Maverick was meant to explore the great outdoors.
What has been the hardest thing about exploring with Maverick?
Probably that Maverick isn't always in the mood to explore, so I need to adapt to his comfort level.
That means that I need to be flexible on my trips and not always go to the places I want, but the places that are best suited for Maverick. Understanding your cat's cues is vital to a positive experience, as well as for your cat's safety.
Another difficulty is that some dog owners feel that cats shouldn't be exploring with their humans. I've had a few dog owners tell me that taking my cat out in nature is not normal and that I shouldn't be surprised if a dog attacks my cat. I've been lectured that since dogs prey on cats, that I'm endangering my cat by walking him on a leash. It saddens me that some dog owners feel that their pet has more rights to public areas than my cat.
Is there anything you would do differently with training Maverick to explore with you?
I would have exposed Maverick to friendly dogs when I first adopted him so that he wouldn't be so panicked around all dogs.
I believe if Maverick had some positive experiences with dogs when he was young, that not all dogs would automatically be a threat to him.
What is something you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you first started catexploring?
I wish I had spent more time walking and hiking with Maverick on trails with people on them.
I've spent more time letting him roam around in open spaces, but not on trails, so he's not used to trails and gets nervous when there's a lot of people around.
What advice would you give other humans who are training their cats to explore with them?
Start off slow, get your cat acclimated to walking on a leash, and give them treats as a reward. Some cats pick it up more easily than others. Don't give up if your cat refuses at first. Some cats just need a longer adjustment time. It's all about trust and patience.
Cats are natural explorers and hunters and even though they are domesticated, they are still very similar to their wildcat counterparts. Therefore, they still have that wild spirit about them, that need for outside stimulation. There are some breeds that are more adventurous than others, so do your research on which breed is the best match for you.
I also recommend exposing your cat to other animals when they are young, so they are less fearful of other animals, especially dogs.
What are your favourite products for your cat?
As mentioned previously, Maverick fits wonderfully in the Fat Cat Backpack (which is the Apollo Cat Backpack), and Sherpa Cat Carrier. I find them both great for their respective functions. Maverick loves Greenies Treats, the turbo scratcher, and mylar ball cat toys. He is completely disinterested in cat nip and silver vine.
What do you wish people knew about cats?
That cats can be trained just like dogs, it just takes a little more time and effort to do so. If you're patient and keep giving repetitive instructions with treats as rewards, you can get your cat to do things. I've also heard that clicker training works well too.
For all the philomaths out there, I highly recommend this article about the domestication of cats.
Is there another catexplorer (humans or feline) who inspires you? What are their social media handles?
One of my favorite cats on Instagram is The Downfall of Alan, but he's not really a catexplorer. He's just an adorable cat that started spying on his neighbor and got that non-cat person to fall in love with him. It's an adorable story and Alan has some striking cat markings.
I'm also a fan of Zulu, whom we've met through a local catexplorer meetup. Zulu is not afraid of dogs, a great tree climber, and quite comfortable on his human's shoulders. He's quite the inspiration for other catexplorers.