Pet Connection

Go, Cat, Go!

Adventure cats are living the dream and carrying on their feline heritage of exploration

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

My husband and I were loading up our kayak and stand-up paddleboard a few weeks ago when I squealed, “An adventure cat!” Sure enough, a tabby cat wearing a yellow flotation device tugged at his leash as the people next to us unloaded their kayak. It was Pan’s first time out on the water, they said.

He’s not alone. Instagram is full of photos of cats hiking, camping, boating, surfing, sledding and snowshoeing (on their built-in snowshoes, er, paws). Earlier this year, Laura Moss, who founded Adventurecats.org in 2015, published “Adventure Cats: Living Nine Lives To the Fullest,” a guide to safely taking cats outdoors.

If you think about it, cats are the original adventure animals. They globe-hopped with Phoenician traders; sailed with Vikings; crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower to help settle the New World; and traveled in wagon trains with pioneers across prairies, plains and deserts. In 1950, a black-and-white kitten climbed Matterhorn with a group of alpinists. Clearly, cats are impressive adventurers.

While exploring the great outdoors with their humans is nothing new to cats, it sometimes surprises their people how well they take to it. Emily Odum Hall of Macon, Georgia, had previously tried leash-training a couple of her cats, but they wanted nothing to do with it. Then Sophie came along. She had a laid-back personality and enjoyed hanging out with Hall and her husband in their backyard. They ventured farther, to a concert in a park. Sophie’s adventures blossomed from there, and she has been joined by Kylo Ren, an adventure cat in training.

“They really like parks and being outside and smelling new smells and seeing new sights,” Hall says. “My husband’s parents live in Florida on the St. John’s River and have a boat. We’ve taken them out on the river, and they both really enjoy that.”

The best cats for an adventurous life tend to be either laid-back or bold. Sophie and Kylo Ren fall on the easygoing end of the spectrum.

“It was her temperament and her laid-back personality that made us want to try it in the first place,” Hall says. “Sophie always has this look on her face like, ‘Oh, man, this is so much fun.’ She just goes with the flow all the time.”

Physical condition need not hold a cat back. Sophie has a neurological condition called cerebellar hypoplasia that affects her coordination. She can walk with a leash and harness, but often she rides in a sling that Hall wears. Being able to carry Sophie and Kylo Ren that way is helpful for urban adventures or places they might encounter dogs, Hall says.

The people we met who were taking their cat kayaking did so without a dry run, so to speak, but a little practice and acclimation beforehand is always a good idea. Exposing a cat to a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard, for instance, could involve having it in the yard or home, allowing him to explore it at his leisure. Place treats on it for him to find. Go slowly, fitting him with a flotation device, and reward frequently with treats while he’s wearing it. For a larger boat, start by hanging out on it at the dock, letting him get used to sounds he might hear, such as the engine starting, boat horns or gulls squawking.

Wherever you go with your adventure cat, don’t forget necessary items, such as a portable water dish, a supply of food in case you don’t get back before dinnertime, and for camping or boating, a litter box. A collar with ID and a microchip are musts as well.

“It’s so much fun having adventure cats,” Hall says. “You see people with their dogs all the time, and having two cats I can take places is a lot of fun.”

Q&A

How to remove

tree sap from fur

Q: Help! My border collie got pine tree sap in her fur. How do I get it out? -- via Facebook

A: When it comes to sticky things in fur, there are a lot of different recommended remedies for removal. For instance, creamy peanut butter helps to soften chewing gum. It seems counterintuitive to use sticky stuff to remove sticky stuff, but it’s the oil in the peanut butter that does the trick. Olive oil, butter and mayonnaise can work, too. Whichever you choose, rub it into the area with the sticky substance, let it sit for a few minutes, and then carefully comb it out or work it out with your fingers.

Tree sap can be a stickier wicket, though. The peanut butter or oil trick may work, but sometimes tree sap is a job for alcohol -- the drinking kind. Vodka, to be exact. The alcohol dissolves the tree sap. While you shouldn’t allow your dog to lick the treated area, the vodka is less risky for him to ingest than isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. If you don’t have vodka on hand, I’ve heard anecdotally that bourbon works equally well.

The sap may have hardened by the time you discover it. If that’s the case, use a blow-dryer on a low setting to soften it before you begin removal. Make sure you don’t hold it too close to the skin or you could burn your dog.

Once all the sap is out, give your dog a bath to remove any traces of peanut butter, vodka or anything else you used. Depending on how much tree sap is in your dog’s coat, the quickest and easiest solution, if the most expensive, may be to take him to a groomer for a bath with a degreasing shampoo. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

Cats at work on

the bourbon trail

-- Who’s the most important employee at a distillery? It might be the distillery cat. All that corn, rye and wheat attract rodents, so cats are integral members of the security team, but they are also guest relations employees. Castle and Key, outside Frankfort, Kentucky, hasn’t opened yet, but Rick the distillery cat is already on the job, according to a report from WDRB.com. He’s clearly management material, with his bow tie and approachable demeanor. As “catbassador,” the orange tabby’s position entails guarding building plans, patrolling the grounds and greeting guests. Nice work if you can get it.

-- Nuts aren’t typically toxic to dogs, but the macadamia nut is an exception, at least in large quantities. While one macadamia nut probably won’t affect your dog -- unless it’s enrobed in dark chocolate -- five or 10 or more can cause unpleasant side effects. Dogs who dig into a bowl of macadamias may become weak in the hind end, tremble, develop a low-grade fever, and look or act as if they’re in pain. If you discover that your dog has eaten these tasty nuts, take him to the veterinarian; he may need IV fluids or pain medication to help him recover.

-- Does your cat love you? Here are some ways you can tell that your feline is feeling affection for you. She bumps heads with you or rubs her cheek against your body, anointing you with pheromones that declare her possession of you -- and with cats, that’s a sure sign of love. Cats also express their regard by cuddling next to us or sitting in a lap, nudging a hand for a pat or simply hanging out in our vicinity. They bring us gifts. A dead rat might not be your favorite love token, but from your cat, it’s a special offering indeed. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

More like Pet Connection