If you’re an avid outdoor person, you’ve almost certainly thought about bringing your pet with you on your next camping trip, or to that beautiful hiking trail you found. Many pets love being out in the wilderness, and they can provide great companionship on your outdoor travels. Generally, there aren’t many downsides to having an animal with you while you experience the outdoors. However, to safely include your pets in your next adventure, you should take the following factors into consideration.
Consider the wildlife
Before you venture out, take stock of what natural life will already be there in its natural environment. If you happen to see a dangerous animal like a bear, moose, or poisonous snake, will your pet antagonize it, or leave it alone? Alternately, is there a risk that you will lose your pet if the sight of a larger animal makes it turn tail and run? Make sure you know your pet well before you take them out to best avoid these risks. Be honest with yourself: if you think your pet needs a leash, bring a leash. Even if dangerous animal sightings are rare where you’re going, always have a plan of action in case your pet comes nose to nose with an animal it isn’t expecting.
Animals aren’t the only wildlife. Many of the plants that you encounter outside your pet’s normal sphere will be new to them, and depending on your pet, they might be tempted to have a nibble. Unfortunately, there’s a significant list of poisonous plants for dogs and cats. By familiarizing yourself with these plants and where they grow, you’ll be able to be on the lookout for them and prevent your pet from taking a bite.
Plan for cats
If you want to bring your cat hiking or camping with you, you’re not alone. It’s been done before, and some cats really do enjoy the experience. However, on average, they require a little more preparation than dogs. For example, it’s a good idea to introduce a cat to a cat harness gradually by letting him or her sniff it and spend time near it for a few days before you try putting it on. Take them on gradual walks so that they can get the hang of what you’re doing before you leap into serious hikes with your feline.
Make sure you think your cat really will enjoy being outdoors with you, and you aren’t pressing them into it because you personally would like to be with your cat on the trail. Respect your cat’s body language, and if they aren’t having fun, don’t force the issue. If you’re already outdoors and your cat being acting uncertain or upset, try carrying them for a while. Cats generally feel more secure when they’re on higher ground, and it might help your cat to get its confidence back.
Follow the rules
Always respect the rules of whatever trail or campground you might be visiting. If a certain site prohibits bringing pets, there’s probably a good reason for it, whether it be cougars in the area or nearby potable water that a pet might contaminate. Similarly, obey leash laws. Generally, cats should always remain on a leash, and you should know and trust your dog well before you let him or her off-leash, even if there are no rules about it in the area. Remember common courtesy and pick up after your pet, even if that just means burying the feces. Other people will develop a bad impression of hiking pet owners if the trail is left dirty.
Bringing pets with you on your outdoor travels can be a really rewarding experience. By following official park or trail rules, knowing your pet, planning for their personalities and any potential wildlife encounters, you can develop a great new way to bond with your pet (and make a new hiking friend, too).
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