Sitka and Willow
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Sitka & Willow are 2 exploring kittens who have melted our hearts with their cuteness.
We asked their mum, Harmony to tell us all about them.
Tell us how Sitka & Willow joined your family.
We had a beloved cat named Desdemona for 21 years. She passed away last winter and during her ending days we spent a lot if time at home because we were so worried about her end of life care. After her passing we were heart broken but knew that kittens would be on the horizon for us in the future.
That’s when my husband Sean sparked the idea of catexplorers.
After the passing of Desdemona the idea of having pets feel comfortable travelling with us was super appealing. We’ve always been super active people so having our cats join us on adventures seemed to just fit.
I read 4 books and over 30 blogs on cats in the following months to get myself back up to speed on current care education and learn more about adventuring with cats.
We got our kittens in early May after several months of watching shelters and neighborhood listings.
When we first saw them, I’ll admit I was a bit terrified! They were so small and it had been so long since I had taken care of babies.
Tell us the story behind Sitka & Willow's name.
We named our cats after trees: Sitka Spruce and Willow.
We have strong love for the Oregon Coast and I have a degree in forest ecology so it seemed proper to name them after plants found on the coast.
Sean picked the name Willow and I picked Sitka.
We had a list before we met the cats but didn’t name them until a few days after meeting them.
What are Sitka & Willow's favourite things to do?
Sitka is a gentle boy who loves to get belly rubs and pets. He also has an ugly fish toy which he guards viciously from his sister.
Willow is a social girl who likes to be the center of the party. She has a classic cat habit of always thinking the grass is green on the otherside or in this case, “the top of the other backpack is probably the better place to sleep” and will constantly jump from one to the other while we hike. She loves acrobatic play time and wet food more than anything.
What kind of adventures do you like to go on?
We are just getting started! So our cats and us are working on figuring that out together.
So far our best hikes are on cool weather days through the forest. Sitka doesn’t like the bright light and wind on most beaches and neighborhoods can be a bit distracting. They are finally starting to follow us down the trails which is fun!
Tell us about your most memorable adventure.
We’ve only had a couple dozen adventures so far with most being around the neighborhood.
We went camping very recently for the second time and that might be our best yet! It was great feeling like we were finally getting into a groove with the cats having the get more accustomed to the backpacks and trail walking.
Each trip is better than the last so I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Why did you decide to train Sitka & Willow?
We wanted our furry friends to have their best life and part take in the things we enjoy as well.
After reading many books and blogs and even talking to vets, this seemed like a good way to go.
It is so great to seem them explore places they otherwise would never get to see.
It’s good for cats to be safe from the outdoors, but this when done right is giving them a safe way to see the world, which greatly helps their mental wellbeing, just like us!
How did you train Sitka & Willow?
We got our kittens at 8 weeks old. We gave them a couple days to adjust to our space which they did incredibly quickly!
Since they were so quick on their adjustment I figured, why not get started on the harnesses?
We put their tiny puppy harnesses on and within a minute they acted like they weren’t even there. Since then we started taking them outside and getting them used to how things work out there. Haha I wish I had great advice for those who are having trouble with it but it was so easy for us to make that transition at that young age.
One piece of advice is this: A lot of cat owners will be fearful that their cat will escape on the harness if it is too skimpy. We found though that our cats are a lot happier in the strap harness style than the vest. If your cat is uncomfortable with how bulky the harness is, they will spend more time trying to escape it. The more comfortable the harness is the less they will try to escape it. And a comfortable harness is more likely to make their outdoor experience pleasant and less of something for them to avoid.
Also, any time our kittens try to escape their harness we pick them up to distract them from that. Keeping your cat from learning how to escape the harness in the first place will prevent future problems.
We still have a long way to go on training! But it doesn’t prevent us from getting out there and getting started. Every trip we learn something new. We are learning just as much as them!
This last trip we worked on getting them more used to how long walks work. We would let the kittens down when they liked, but if they got distracted or stalled on the walk, we would pick them up and pop them back on their platforms. They started learning that if they wanted to be on the ground they would have to keep pace with us. It started to pay off! Our longest unbroked hiking stride is now several hundred paces. :)
What has been the most rewarding part of having a catexplorer?
We love seeing them relax on the trail!
Seeing them want to become part of our pack and walk with us has been very rewarding, seeing them take naps on their backpacks and feel at peace in foreign locations is incredible!
Its a lot to ask of a cat and they are making huge strides!
Also nothing like sleeping in a tent by the sea with a cat snuggled on top of your sleeping bag.
What has been the hardest?
I’m sure we’ll have some stressful moments in the future too, but loading cats into the car for a several day camping trip for the first time ever had me pretty scared. All the what ifs ran through my mind that entire weekend. it may have not been the most relaxed trip.
Afterwards though things felt a bit better, this second trip finally helped us feel our footing, both us and the cats found some routine and it made the trip feel great! I can’t wait for the future!
What advice would you give other humans training their catexplorers?
Watch your cats for their pace, but don’t be afraid to challenge them a little!
I’ve already met people in the locations we travel who say things like, “I tried that but my cat hated it.” Two scenarios come to mind, they made the cat jump in too quickly and the cat was not ready for it. Or they took their cats initial anxiety a little too seriously and didn’t challenge the cat to get acclimated to the situation.
Our cats were definitely nervous the first few times we took them out, but they weren’t urinating in fear. All animals are nervous in new situations, that is natural, don’t take them beyond nervous and they will slowly get comfortable with more and more!
What are your favourite products for Sitka & Willow?
Probably our favorite brand purchase so far is our Pettom soft but ridged cat backpacks. They are so useful on the trail I couldn’t imagine traveling without them!
We also love our fold out fabric 60” pet play pen that acts and the kittens base camp while we travel and camp.
I also would highly recommend all cat owners who plan harness training get the elastic leashes that are safer for cats than ridged leashes. Come with me kitty produces nice ones!
Follow Sitka & Willow's adventures on Instagram (@sitka_and_willow)