Frequently Asked Questions
Magic is an 11-month-old cat. He was born sometime in early April 2016, although the exact date is unknown since he was rescued by his foster family around the 2-week mark. We’ve chosen April 1 as his unofficial birthday since he’s so mischievous at home!
Magic was a rescued feral kitten in San Jose, California. He was fostered by the people behind @LiloTheHusky, in their foster kitten program, @MiniCatTown. We actually found out about him on Instagram because we followed @LiloTheHusky, and when we learned he was the smallest and last remaining kitten to be adopted of the nine kittens they were fostering at the time, we knew we had to reach out to them to apply to be Magic's furever home. And when we found out he also had "adventure cat potential" we were super excited because we had been dreaming of having an adventure kitty! So once Magic was ready, we flew down to the Bay Area and brought him home with us to Seattle! 🙂
Magic is a short-haired tabby cat, but beyond that we're not really sure! Since his mom was feral, he is likely a mix of two or more different breeds. He seems to have a lot of traits in common with the American Shorthair, as well as some social and adventurous personality quirks typically associated with Bengals (a breed he also partially resembles in appearance and build).
We originally started thinking about adopting a cat after finding and following a bunch of cute cat accounts on Instagram. So when we adopted Magic, we thought it would be both fun and fitting to create an account for him too! 🙂
Instagram is an easy way for us to catalog cute and funny moments from his life and share them with our friends and family (and anyone else who's interested - apparently there are a lot of cat lovers out there!). It's also a great platform to help raise awareness of important pet issues, such as ending cat declawing and increasing shelter/rescue cat adoptions. Finally, we hope that documenting Magic's adventures will inspire others to find ways to safely take their cats outside and explore together.
Creating a website seemed like the natural next step as more and more people started following Magic’s Instagram. Over time we were beginning to see the same questions asked again and again by followers wanting to hear more about him or learn how to safely take their own cats outdoors, but our answers were often buried in Instagram comment threads or hidden in emails and messages.
Since we wanted to keep Magic's Instagram mainly focused on documenting his adventures and raising awareness of important pet issues, we decided to make this website as a centralized resource for all things Magic! (Also, we were sad that Instagram removed photo maps and wanted a replacement.) It has FAQ answers, gear recommendations, a map of everywhere Magic has traveled, and more! The blog also gives us a place to share more details about his adventures and training experiences.
Beyond sharing more details about Magic, we hope that this website will help others learn how to train and raise their own adventure cats 🙂 because the world needs more happy adventure kitties!
Magic is short-haired and has always been relatively small and slim for his age. He's always gotten cold easily (even inside - he loves his heating pad!) so clothes are often a necessity for him if he wants to be outdoors in the Pacific Northwest, especially in the colder/windier/wetter seasons. We only put clothes on Magic when he needs them (when he seems cold or unhappy or is shivering), and while hiking we remove them if he seems warm enough to not need them anymore.
Lots of different places! Pretty much all of his gear can be ordered online, and some pet stores also carry these products. We're especially big fans of Mud Bay, which has locations throughout Washington and Oregon and has an amazing selection of high-quality pet food, toys and gear! Check out his Gear for full product details and reviews.
Getting your kitty comfortable wearing a harness and leash is the first step for training an adventure cat. Always safety furst!
For harness and leash training Magic, we actually didn't have to do much because he was already mostly trained by his foster family at @MiniCatTown! So we just had to keep it up. But we've heard that gradual exposure is key, and we recommend starting with just a harness first (not just a collar - a harness is safer and more comfortable for the kitty).
We did try a few different harnesses with Magic. We tried the Puppia soft vest harness, the Come With Me Kitty harness, and the Good2Go standard H harness. The clear winner for Magic has been the Come With Me Kitty harness; the Puppia harness is a little too constricting for him, while the Good2Go seems to have too much potential for him to slip out of it. The ASPCA also recommends the Come With Me Kitty harness and bungee leash, but there are many great options out there. We'd encourage you to read up on various harnesses and try a few to see what fits best!
Once you've picked a harness that works for your kitty, try putting it on indoors for short periods of time at first and gradually increase the amount of time worn indoors (Magic has worn his harness for several hours indoors for training purposes) until your kitty is comfortable with it. We always try to reward Magic for getting his harness on and being active with it on with treats and lots of praise. Another tip we've heard before is to try putting on the harness right before your cat's mealtime, so he/she will associate it with positive feelings 🙂 and maybe not even notice it!
After your cat has gotten used to the harness, you can try practicing with the leash indoors first and then in a backyard or small space and eventually bigger parks and trails. Just keep it to a gradual progression and be sure to reward even small progress with treats and praise.
For leashes, a bungee leash is a good starter leash because it has some give so your kitty doesn't get startled when the leash pulls. However, we noticed with Magic that sometimes the bungee leash wasn't long enough and a little too heavy for him to the extent that it seemed to bother him. So we switched to a lighter and longer leash and it's worked great! You can find details for both the bungee leash and the lighter/longer leash we currently use under Gear.
Aside from the occasional gentle tug to remind Magic where we're going if he gets too distracted, we try not to pull Magic on the leash. Cats don't necessarily respond to that the same way dogs do. We always let Magic lead us, and go at his pace. In general, you should really only use the leash for ensuring that your kitty doesn't wander into a dangerous situation!
We spent a lot of time working on this with Magic - from walking strategies to treat training and cheerleading, it's a long and ongoing process, but it does work and when it does it is SO much fun to see him hike with us! But we don't expect him to walk all the time; we are always prepared to pick him up and carry him on our hikes if needed.
When we first started taking Magic on walks at local parks, he got easily distracted by trees and people and other animals. After experimenting and more practice, we got Magic to start walking and hiking with us for long distances! 🎉
When we go hiking with Magic, we usually walk with one person further ahead and one person holding Magic's leash, so he can follow the person in front. We also clicker/treat trained him at home to come when called, so sometimes we call him to come while we're out walking. Sometimes we entice him with treats to get him to follow, too. Oh, and we also cheer him on a LOT when he walks. We're like his personal cheerleading squad! 😂
We also took him outside to a park for an hour or so pretty much every day after work during the summer when we got him, so it's definitely a long process. And he is still stubborn sometimes and we end up carrying him for a while anyway but he's usually pretty good about walking now! He does seem to prefer narrow dirt trails, which we've heard is common for hiking cats. Secluded trails are generally good for training because busy parks and neighborhoods can sometimes be too distracting and/or overwhelming. Also, Magic in particular seems more motivated to hike on more scenic trails, which we think is pretty cute and funny 🙂
Honestly though, the biggest thing we've learned through all of the adventure training is that an adventure cat is an adventure cat just by going outside on a leash and harness and wandering around or riding on your shoulder or in your backpack. Your cat doesn't have to be good at walking continuously to be a great adventure cat - but it can be a fun challenge to try to train your cat to hike!
Treats! Lots and lots of treats haha.
The key is to help your cat consistently associate a command with behavior, using treats as both initial motivation and reward. Over time, the positive association built through treats should encourage your cat to come when called even without treats at hand. We mix in some verbal praise and gentle petting as rewards too, since these positive associations provide additional reinforcement and will become the long-term reward for any tricks that your cat has mastered (although if your cat is like Magic and is too smart for their own good, you might need to practice occasional reinforcement with treats).
We try to always begin or end the command with Magic's name since it's something he already knows and associates with a request for attention. If this isn't the case for your cat, we suggest first doing some quick training cat where you say his or her name and then reward any indications of response or attention with treats. Teaching your cat to respond to his/her name is super helpful as a starting point for trick training 🙂
This was the first trick that we taught Magic! It's a really great one to teach first since it has so many uses (finding your cat, cheering him/her on when walking or hiking outside, etc.), and it's simple to teach because most cats will automatically react to the presence of treats by approaching you anyway!
With Magic, we started off by making sure he could see/smell treats in our hands and then taking a step away before calling "Magic, come here!" Of course he would immediately approach since he wanted to eat the yummy treats!
After a few rounds at this short distance, we started stepping further away while he was still eating his most recently earned treat and then calling the command as he finished eating. Once he approached to within a foot, he would be rewarded with another treat. With practice and consistent reinforcement over time, Magic has learned to come even from around corners or other rooms!
This one took some extra work to teach compared to "come here", but it's a super fun trick to perform for our friends and family 🙂
To get started, wedge a treat between two fingers and then hold up your hand near ground-level in front of your cat while saying the command (with your cat's name included before or after the phrase). Since the treat is visible but somewhat inaccessible, your cat may be puzzled at first but he/she should eventually try to extend a paw toward your hand. Once contact is made, immediately offer the treat to your cat as a reward!
If your cat is having trouble with this first step and is comfortable with you gently moving their paws, try holding one and imitating the desired motion (after saying the command again) and then immediately giving a treat. Repeat as necessary until he/she catches on (but be sure to take breaks if your cat wants one!).
After going through a few rounds to reinforce the basics, move onto asking your cat for a high five without a treat wedged between your fingers. If he/she seems hesitant or unsure about what to do, it might be helpful to give your cat a chance to briefly see or smell the treats you're holding in your other hand as a reminder that there are rewards waiting to be claimed! If that doesn't work, try doing some more reinforcement with wedged treats first.
With some patience and practice, your cat will soon be the coolest kid on the block 😎
Compared to other tricks, teaching Magic this one was pretty straightforward! As always, treats are your best friend 🙂
First, make sure your cat is in trick-learning mode by letting him/her briefly see or smell the treats waiting to be earned. Then while your cat is standing or walking around, back away a few paces. When your cat notices this, he/she will mostly approach you seeking the treats in your hand. Once your cat is in front of you, say the command (with his/her name included before or after). Pause and repeat the command few times as necessary until your cat eventually sits down, at which point it’s treat time!
If your cat needs extra help, try holding a treat up high in the air above your cat as you say the command. This will typically cause your cat to sit down (in preparation for jumping), and then you can immediately cheer and reward him/her with a treat! If your cat is comfortable with gentle guidance, another option is to say the command as you lightly press down on their lower back to put them in a sitting position and then follow up with a treat. As your cat builds positive associations between sitting and rewards, you can test sitting on command without the extra guidance.
Once your cat has mastered the basics, you can try experimenting with factors like waiting longer after your cat sits down before giving him/her a treat and giving the command from further away!
Even as a tiny kitten, Magic was always comfortable with riding in cars, so we consider ourselves lucky in that regard. We've also adopted a few strategies for maximizing safety (for everyone!) and comfort.
First, Magic always wears his harness and leash when venturing outside of his home, even inside the car when the doors are closed. We do this mainly as a safety precaution in case we ever need to get a hold of him quickly. Typically we're both in the car with him, so one of us drives while the other keeps an eye on him as he roams the car or lounges. If we ever need to travel solo with him, we either put him in his expandable carrier, or have the option of using a special "pet" seat belt that his leash can be attached to for restraint.
We never travel without bringing his expandable carrier and placing it in the back seat, with a small bed and blanket inside that Magic is already familiar with and likes. This provides a safe place for him to retreat when he wants some more quiet time or privacy, and also serves as an easy "time-out" place on the rare occasions that he gets too energetic in the car. We sometimes also bring a second blanket to place in the non-driver's lap for comfy extended nap sessions, which also provides protection in case Magic suddenly extends his claws in response to jerky car movements.
Finally, we place Magic's favorite scratching mat on the raised area behind the back seats. Aside from the de-stress benefits of scratching, placing the mat here gives him a safe place to lounge in the sun and look out the rear windshield since he can easily grip the material with his claws to stay anchored when the car is moving.
Key tip for long drives: make sure to take a rest break every few hours so that your cat can step outside and/or play with toys to burn off any pent-up energy! This cuts down on motion sickness too. We also use these breaks for giving him food and water as well as a chance to use his portable litter box to help keep his anxiety low and his spirits high 🙂
Before we took Magic kayaking for the first time, we made sure he knew how to swim! We wanted to feel confident he could float and paddle on his own power in case of any overboard incidents. Wearing a life jacket is also a great idea for extra safety. Finally, we only ever take him kayaking on still or very gentle waters (i.e. lakes) to minimize risk.
When heading out on a kayaking adventure, we each bring a spare carabiner to attach to our life jackets. One of us carefully hands Magic over to whoever is pushing off the dock/shore first, who then secures his leash to their carabiner. This frees up our hands so that we can paddle while still keeping Magic safe in case he ever falls overboard (since he can only drift away as far as the leash allows). If his roaming area needs to be constrained, we just add temporary knots to the leash to shorten it.
Magic has a tendency to wander between our kayaks when we pull up next to each other, which means quick and attentive leash handoffs are essential so that he doesn't suddenly reach the end of his leash at a moment when balance is particularly important! We also pay extra attention when pulling up to a dock or shore since he likes to be first to make landfall, often by jumping. To handle this, whoever has Magic onboard waits for the other person to dock first and then shortens the leash until their kayak is close enough for a leash handoff to the person on land.
It can take Magic a bit of time to get his sea legs, but practice makes perfect! We also bring Rumpl blankets and pack towels tucked into the bow section of our kayaks so that he has a sheltered place to hang out from the wind and spray, or just for taking a quick cat nap 🙂
First off, Magic never ever flies in cargo. We don't believe pets should fly in cargo. Magic always flies with us in the cabin, which means he counts as a "carryon" or "personal item" for one of us. We usually fly Southwest, and they have a good pet policy that (for a fee) allows small pets to fly in the cabin, in an airline-approved carrier (we use a smaller carrier for flying). He usually has to be placed under the seat in front of us during takeoff and landing, but for the rest of the flight we keep him in one of our laps.
When we go camping with Magic, he always sleeps in the tent with us, in his comfy expandable carrier which we keep next to us in the tent. When we're outside cooking, hanging out, or setting up or taking down the tent, Magic hangs out with us outside on a leash, either with one of us walking around with him or sometimes we clip his leash to a paracord attached to a stake in the ground so he can wander around nearby us where we can see him, but we can have our hands free. Either way, when we're camping with Magic he never leaves our sight! There are several other items that are useful to bring along - check out his camping gear for details!
When we're on the road for long periods of time, we bring a large plastic tub filled with litter and we give Magic opportunities to use it a few times a day. The tub we use has an airtight lid for storage when Magic isn't using it.
When we're on the trail, Magic does his business outdoors. He's extremely well litter-box trained and definitely prefers his litter box at home, but when we're outdoors he seems to just know he can go there. He is sometimes a bit picky about finding just the right spot, but he always relieves himself eventually! We do pick up after him when he goes #2, because pet waste can actually be very harmful and toxic to wildlife and the environment. We are always sure to Leave No Trace! You can read more about LNT and pets here.
Finally - when we travel by plane, we don't usually have the luxury of bringing the plastic litter tub that we take in the car. So we use a collapsible folding litter box with litter box liners, and when not in use we can keep it all folded up and stored in our carryon luggage.
We make sure to bring plenty of food and fresh water in the car to keep Magic's energy levels and spirits high! Several times a day we put out collapsible food and water bowls, usually while parked at a rest stop or taking a break outside somewhere. Once his attention starts to drift, we know he's done and can clean up before we hit the road again. We keep spare paper towels in the car for cleaning, as well as extra water for rinsing out the bowls after each use. We also bring spare trash bags to dispose of any uneaten food that is too old or stale. If dealing with wet food leftovers, bringing some aluminum foil or a simple plastic seal (sold by many pet shops) to close the top of the can and placing it in a cooler keeps the wet food fresh until the next feeding break.
Magic has gone hiking, camping, kayaking and swimming in city, state and national parks across several states in the US! Check out his Travel Map for everywhere he's ever gone adventuring.