Rock Climbing Cat. Good or Bad?

Millie was adopted by Craig, a keen mountaineer, when she was a kitten. She had been abandoned by her previous owners. She was about to be euthanised because the shelter did not have the resources to bottle feed her. Then Craig stepped in. Millie climbed up onto Craig. He had been chosen.

Millie the cat rock climbing

Millie the cat rock climbing. I have taken the liberty of publishing this photo here. If there is a problem with that please leave a comment and I’ll respond promptly. Original article (opens new window)

As soon as she became an adult Craig took her with him on his mountaineering treks. In fact it seems to have started because when Craig went off climbing and trekking Millie followed him. It developed from there.

Gradually, Millie learned to climb with Craig. Now she follows Craig wherever he goes, without problems. She does get stuck sometimes. Craig has to rescue her.

I don’t wish to be critical but Craig makes the odd remark that worries me:

“There have been times when she’s fallen and I’ve had to catch her but now she just loves climbing so much I can’t stop her.”

Craig also states:

“I do free climbing without ropes and then for the really high or steep ascents I harness her up.”

Without ropes or safety precautions? Does that mean Millie does some climbing without a safety harness? It seems so. Does that mean if she falls she may fall a distance? If so, personally, I can’t agree with it because it is must be too dangerous. Cats are great climbers but their anatomy is designed for climbing trees. Their claws are able to penetrate and grip trees. Rock is entirely different and it must make the cat less able to climb successfully. It is unnatural for a cat to climb very steep rocks. Cats jump on rocks etc. or race over rocky ground (think of the snow leopard in the Himalayas or the cougar in America) but climb like a mountaineer: no.

If a person wants to indulge in a dangerous pastime that is his/her prerogative but the same person has a duty to ensure the welfare and safety of their cat. Craigs leads. Craig is in charge. He wants to climb. Does Millie really want to climb rocks or simply be with Craig? The upside to this is that Millie gets a lot of wonderful safe outdoor time with her human companion. The downside is that some of the time her outdoor activities with her owner are very dangerous – too dangerous, I’d say.

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Rock Climbing Cat. Good or Bad? — 11 Comments

  1. It’s hard to say – I mean if the cat wants to follow him and climb maybe best he find a compromise. That she goes with him and they have fun climbing however when it’s with Millie it should be on safer rock faces.

    When it’s dangerous – he goes alone.

    I mean you have to let the cat climb if it wants to climb to some extent. That’s all. They must have alot of fun and a great connection together.

    • I see that and it is a good point because Millie apparently gets a lot of satisfaction from it and it’s a fun outdoor life. All that’s beneficial to Millie. I just wonder, though, whether she is simply following her human companion and in order to follow him she has to climb. I’m just questioning whether Craig’s interpretation of his cat’s behaviour is correct.

      He may be interpreting things to suit himself: an argument which serve one’s self-interest. I’m simply playing devils advocate and asking a question because it is extremely unusual to see a cat do this sort of thing.

      • If it were me I would be more careful too – I agree with your possible reasoning behind his thinking. I think it’s, as always, a little of both. It’s to suit Craig, but it is also fun for Millie I reckon. Lilly is a show off. She loves to show all the humans and other cats that she ca jump to the highest shelf or point – or that she is the quickest of them etc.

        I do believe cats enjoy a challenge of agility. In that respect I think Millie is enjoying.

        But if it were me I wouldn’t want her to take risks. In the same way Red made me nervous running up trees – showing off to me how high and fast he climbs (I honestly think it is ‘showing off’ literally) – it would make me nervous if a cat were to climb a rock. Therefore I can’t see that I would deal with the rock climbing situation any differently even if I were climbing. If I were to climb a tree and a cat follow me up it wouldn’t make it any different or me any less nervous.

        But there’s a balance. Because the cats enjoy it without a doubt, even if they are just following something. Often they are – but often they climb for the sake of it I believe.

        Red would get down if I went away and stopped watching. He kew it made me nervous and he loved to do it at every chance I kid you not. He would see me come out on the balcony and call to him ad he’s look and run full speed 20 feet up a straight bare tree – and then look back at me again from the top. Silly boy – then he’d faff around making me nervous asking him to come back down until the day I realized he would be doing it if I wasn’t there 🙂

        Danger in many ways is an integral and important part of a cats’ life I think. They must learn lessons too. And I would always make sure those lessons are small and not dangerous. For example if a cat keeps going in a cupboard you can preted you didn’t otice and then leave them in there for about 1min 30secs, leave the room and be silent. When you open it again the little kitten/learning cat will understand that going through open doors has consequences. A small lesson. But nothing health or life risking. All cats go out in the first couple years and have a near miss or what have you. It’s awful ad scares the hell out of me but it’s a huge relief when they survive because they survive with better survival skills after the experience.

        There’s no clear right and wrong. Cats are all different. Some need to do things like climb. I would say Lilly is my cat who would climb. Lilly never gets bored, only frustrated. Her character is active in other words. She needs the activity and physical challenges or she starts to pick on the other two sometimes in a slightly over rough way. But that almost never happens because we play everyday which releases all that energy.

        I agree with Ruth in principle – any danger you can keep a cat away from is important. Where you draw the line as to what is dangerous depends on the activity and the cat. For me – Lilly would be allowed to do things the others aren’t (not that I would ever let her go places the others couldn’t with them actually watching cuz they would get jealous) because they are younger and haven’t had alot of outdoor experience and also Lilly is incredibly agile. She’s pretty special that way and it’s a part of who she is to be a bit extreme in where she goes and what she does.

        This cat Millie reminds me of Lilly – being black and active and female. Personally I would love to climb with my cat. So much so I would rather climb lower and safer areas just so we could be together without risk. Like Ruth I would not have a cat follow me into a dangerous situation and get used to it. For somebody less cat obsessed I would say that rather than only going where risk is minimal thereby changing your climbing and level of challenge, instead do a little of that and when you go to a dangerous spot try to not even let the cat know you went climbing. Otherwise she’d be sad and want to come. Cats know. But I would make an extra effort to hide the equipment in the car or something so I could just leave looking like I am going to the shops but actually go hardcore free climbing. But I am cat obsesses so I’d feel a bit guilty leaving a cat behind who really just wanted to join me.

  2. yea i guess the same thing with the cat that follows his owner on a motorbike. We had a cat that did this in nz a long time ago. The cat would go everywhere with him. Personally if i was going to do something dangerous like that id prefer the cat to be as close to me as possible. I would never do it anyway. as afraid of heights.

    • A good analogy. You do see cats on motorbikes and bikes with their owner. There is a lot of charm in that sort of human/cat connection, doing unusual things together. There is, though, the danger for the cat and the cat does not know that there is danger but the person does. So once again, I think it is a little bit self-indulgent to do these risky things with your cat even though they look interesting and charming and are very popular on YouTube. It is a balance between fun and danger. It is difficult to get that balance right.

  3. I think that I would indulge Millie’s passion for climbing. But, I would always have her secured and be very selective which climbs she could accompany me on.

    • Good compromise. I suppose if Millie could climb with a person provided it was completely safe for her then that would be all right. And provided, of course, the person is certain that the cat likes to do it.

  4. Millie will die young.

    Some parent fur-child interactions are seemingly fun for both. Others are not, and are sickening to see. One is a bicyclist, rested, relaxed, nonchalantly pedaling away while his pitiful dog, tongue lolling, lungs bursting, is wobbling along, trying his best not to collapse.

    One that appears mutually enjoyable is a teenage girl on roller skates being whisked at top speed down a paved walkway along the beach, her chest-harnessed harlequin Great Dane pulling her along.

    They say huskies enjoy the Iditarod (sp) races, though their hearts must be enlarged. They apparently eat – and burn off – enormous quantities of food.

    The happiest animals of all, and the strongest bonds between parent and dog, must be the sheep dog and the drug/cadaver sniffing police dog. The most wretched – in terms of a truncated life – must be the seeing eye dog. (Yes. Realize this is a cat site.)

    (Laughed to read – though it was sad too – Marc’s memories of his beloved Red ‘faffing’ around in the treetops.)

    • Yes, Millie might well die young. It is almost as if we are in the indoor/outdoor debate. We are in the live-a-short-but-full-life versus live-a-long-but-dull-life argument.

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