Thanks to Erika and her cat Penelope, Rainy now has a pet transport backpack. Penelope outgrew her backpack, and so Erika gave her old one to me. It only took me a week to get Rainy comfortable with it, due to her already being used to other modes of travel, such as a harness with leash, a carrier, and a stroller. I’ve already taken Rainy on neighborhood walks and other adventures in her new backpack. This article will focus on the training side, and follow-up articles will share some of her adventures.
The steps I used to train Rainy to accept a pet transport backpack were like those recommended for training a cat to walk on leash. The first couple of days, I left the backpack lying around the main living area of the house for Rainy to inspect. Throughout the day, I also held the backpack in front of Rainy at times so that she could sniff it. Rainy was curious about the backpack and even pawed at it when she wanted to climb inside. I wanted to take things slow and so I kept it zipped.
The third and fourth days, I continued with the next steps for walking a cat, which involved making the backpack a positive experience for her. I Initially placed treats on the floor around the backpack, but I quickly progressed to sprinkling treats inside the backpack too. If Rainy hadn’t been used to other modes of travel, that’s as much as I would have attempted at this point. Given that she immediately curled up in the backpack and looked at me with anticipation, I zipped it up with her inside to see how she would react. Fortunately, she remained calm.
A key to teaching is to go slow. For a cat with no prior traveling experience, I would have simply practiced taking the cat around the house in the backpack. After the cat was comfortable with each new experience, I would then increase the time and distance that I asked the cat to stay in the backpack. Instead, because Rainy is experienced, on the fourth day I took her for a walk around the house, and on the fifth day I took her for a walk around our neighborhood.
I deliberately didn’t go far on our walk around the neighborhood. Just because Rainy was okay with being in the backpack in our house didn’t mean she’d be okay outside. In fact, the best practice at this point would have been to simply sit on our porch with her on a leash, and let her climb in and out of the backpack as she desired. However, given that she was used to lengthy trips in a carrier and a stroller, I decided to skip that step and to instead monitor her.
I walked a block to the nearby park with Rainy in her backpack, looped around the park in less than fifteen minutes, and then returned home. Because I couldn’t see Rainy due to her being strapped to my back, my husband went me to monitor her. He reported that she seemed to enjoy peering outside of the plastic bubble in the backpack to see the sights. At no point did she ever meow or act agitated. Just as encouraging, later in the day, Rainy even stood by her backpack and coaxed to get inside it.
As for me, I had mixed feelings. Because the backpack is made from hard plastic, I felt like she’d be safer in it than in a pet stroller when encountering big dogs. However, I didn’t like not being able to see her when she was strapped to my back. One of my concerns with not being able to see her was that I thought it could get too hot in the backpack on hot days, and if I couldn’t see her I wouldn’t know if she was overheating. As soon as I got home, I asked about my concerns in the online KCC Adventure Cats group. A few people told me that they strapped their backpack to their chest instead of their back. I also received the advice to limit how long I kept Rainy in a backpack, especially hard plastic ones like mine.
With these suggestions in mind, I loaded Rainy into the backpack later that day and took her for a second walk. A cat owner in the KCC Adventure Cats group had said that initially she felt uncomfortable with the backpack strapped to her front. She gave two reasons for this: not being used to the feeling of wearing backpacks this way, and expecting to be stared at. I did indeed feel uncomfortable, but at the same time I loved having Rainy in sight. So I will continue to wear Rainy’s backpack on my chest!
Ever since I first heard of pet transport backpacks, I’ve wanted one. But one reason I hadn’t bought one was the cost. Another related reason was that I didn’t know if Rainy would like it. In the end, I was doubly lucky. I got Rainy’s backpack for free, thanks to a friend, and Rainy seems to enjoy it. And I love it too, now that I’m wearing it on my chest, because it’s more convenient than a carrier or stroller.
Thanks to Erika for opening up our world with a backpack! Keep watch for upcoming articles about Rainy’s adventures in it.