Defending Nicole Kidman over criticisms of backpacking with her cat

There’s been a backlash and I would say unjustified criticism about Nicole Kidman’s statement that she goes backpacking with her cats. She says that she has bought a backpack cat carrier. You may have seen them. They are like ordinary backpacks with a perspex window and breathing holes. Your cat sits inside and looks out the window while you hike. She says that she likes them.

Nicole Kidman and an example of the backpack referred to. Pictures in the public domain.
Nicole Kidman and an example of the backpack referred to. Pictures in the public domain.
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“I’ve just got one of those carriers. Have you seen those? Those backpacks that you can put them in? A cat carrier that’s a backpack and it has a window that they can peek out of and it’s got air and everything and they love it.”

Nicole Kidman on her backpack car carrier.

Animal advocates including the British cat charity Cat Protection have criticised her or at least cautioned her against such methods of transportation for cats.

A Cat’s Protection spokesperson said that they don’t advise taking cats out unless it is absolutely necessary because they are territorial and like freedom of movement. They made the point that it is not advisable to put cats in small confined spaces because it can cause stress. Their criticism is too formulaic.

“Putting them in a backpack with a window means they have little opportunity to hide, which is what they would want to do in situations where they are scared. It’s unlikely that an experience like this will be beneficial for most cats.”

That’s the exact point that I’d like to make. They refer to ‘most cats’. You cannot generalise about the use of backpacks as a means of transportation for your cat. The average domestic cat won’t like it. I think it is fair to say that. However, there will be a good number of cats who either (a) actually like it and like to go hiking with their human companion because it is stimulating. These cats accept the confined space because they are particularly laid-back and (b) their human guardian has been able to acclimatise their cat to this or train their cat to accept it.

Under these circumstances, it is beneficial for a cat to go hiking with their owner because it enriches their lives. Perhaps, therefore, this is what has happened with Nicole Kidman’s cats. It’s unfair to jump in feet first and criticise Nicole who I’m sure is a very good cat guardian. She is intelligent and sensible and has loved animals all her life. She has a good face. A face which tells me she is kind and decent. I would disagree with the criticism.

We are talking about domestic cats. Yes, they are near their wild cat cousins in terms of character but over 10,000 years of domestication they have become quite sociable and many (most) individual cats are accepting of most aspects of their human’s lifestyle.

Another aspect of the story is that it is possible that Nicole Kidman does not take her cats out in a backpack often (or hardly at all) but is discussing it on social media because she feels obliged to discuss new things about her cats and her life generally. There must be a demand upon celebrities like Nicole to keep pushing out interesting items of information on social media to keep their fans stimulated and coming back. It’s a form of self-promotion I agree. This may be a relevant element in this story.

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