Following the success of The Cats on Leash Campaign, we've been speaking with Sandra about her adventures with Denali. Including where they love to explore together, the negative effects off-leash dogs have had on their adventures, from attacks to a 9 day search and rescue plus what we can all do to help keep cat's safer when exploring outside.
Since rescuing Denali from a shelter 5 years ago, Sandra has taken her little adventure buddy everywhere and in doing so created such a magical bond. Hiking trails, kayaking and travelling all over the USA by car, plane, bike and train might sound like the highlights, but there's more... The bond and trust they share is shown more than ever, when they go rock climbing together. Little-big adventurer Denali rides in a backpack on Sandra's back as she climbs vertically up national peaks and landmarks, reaching the top to share the most beautiful views together. With no fear of heights, he's also a lover of sunshine to snow and is partial to a few tricks including on command sits, high 5's and spins. In the past his only fears have been intense wind and very loud sounds such as sirens and trucks on the highway (who can blame him!), but that all changed back in October 2020 when an adventure cat humum's worst fear became a reality...
How did you start adventuring with Denali?
Rescued at 2 months, 2 pounds- bought a ferret harness, then started taking him everywhere with me to get him used to sounds, sights, smells, etc. Our first camp/climb trip was at 3 months.
What is the perception of adventure cats like in America?
Dog people still think they rule the world, but cats are making a name for themselves. We are happy to be a part of this.
Do you find many cat friendly places and activities in America?
Some places are cat friendly. Most signs say NO DOGS, so we figure cats are good in those places- Ha! We also try for remote places. I am an avid rock climber so always off climbing somewhere.
What has been you experience in general with taking your cat outside?
It usually goes smooth, till we run into the unleashed dog, with an owner that doesn’t care about any other animal but their dog.
Thinking more around off-leash dogs, how has this impacted yours and your friends’ adventures?
It ruins our adventures. We have had many incidents with aggressive off leash dogs that have owners that can’t control them. It is an awful scary experience to go through. On Oct 28th, 2020- we were on a leash trail in SLC, Utah. Denali was in his pack the entire hike. I took him out to let him sniff and explore w/in minutes 2 off leash dogs came around the corner. I picked up Denali and held him up in my arms they were jumping all over my body to get to him. I then held him up higher as they were nipping at him/us. The woman had zero control of her dogs and no leash to even attempt to restrain them. In all the chaos, Denali escaped his harness/leash- he then ran down the side of the mountain with the dogs in pursuit. Had he not escaped the harness/leash- It would have gotten caught on shrubbery or rocks- I would have witnessed my baby getting mauled/killed in front of me. So, essentially escaping the harness and leash was a blessing in disguise. I tried to get down the side of the mountain, however I was slipping and falling the entire way. The dogs finally retreated back to where the owner and I were, she said that one of her dogs had blood on its face. I had no idea how bad he was injured or what. Subsequently, he was then missing for 9 long horrid nights and ten days. I slept on the side of the mountain, so I could search day and night. I was a basket case searching and hoping I would find him. The amazing adventure cat community came through with spreading the word and helping me search. I am so grateful for the amazing Cat Tribe. On Jan 13th, I was sitting in my driveway in Boulder, CO- My neighbour let his 3 unleased dogs out of his yard, they immediately ran onto my property and were circling, nipping at Denali. This caused him to once again escape his harness(again a good thing, I suppose) he ran off, I searched and begged the neighbour to help me find him. The neighbour laughed at me and drove off, thus leaving the scene of the crime. I used his tile tracker to locate him, he was 200 feet up in a tree. I sat under that tree for almost 3 hours waiting for him to come down. Animal control was called, the neighbour was issued 6 Tickets, so partial justice was served. In this ordeal, Denali lost 3 claws, one got infected. I am now sitting on a $500 plus dollar vet bill. We both suffer from PTSD when we see dogs now.
What made you want to join the Cats on Leash campaign?
Education and awareness need to be spread and shared. Dog owners need to know the impact their off-leash dogs have on other animals and people. They need to know that adventure cats are on the rise, their off-leash dog can cause permanent damage or death to our little kitties.
How have you been spreading the adventure cat message in your community?
I have been posting on local FB pages, trying to bring attention to media outlets and the rock climbing community.
How can others join in safely?
We need to continue to speak out. Share our horrifying stories, help dog owners to become aware of the danger of unleashed dogs.
If you had one piece of advice for adventure training a cat, what would it be?
Train your cat, to jump on your shoulders and learn that they are safe up there. Carry dog pepper spray and have it ready to defend you and your cat.
Do you have any travels or big adventures planned for this year?
We are in the process of building out a van, so we can have a van for all of our adventures. This will also be a good safe place for Denali to be.
You can find out more about this special pair and follow their adventures at @denaligato on Instagram. Plus don't miss their YouTube documentary feature with Sheba at: The Cats That Rule The World - Adventure Cat Denali
Want to find out more about the Cats On Leash Campaign?
- Visit founding member @catventurousmelba Catventurous community including a podcast interview with our Travfurler Team member, Kimberley.
- Visit our interview with founding member @Mr.Bingley.Maincoon including information such as:
How can others join in and what does the future hold for the campaign?
Any one can join in this campaign. You don’t even have to be an adventure cat, dog or hiker. We have two hashtags to show support. Simply add them to your posts or stories. #CatsOnLeashAwareness and #SupportCatsOnLeash . You can add the COLAM badge to your photos. Finally, you can join our distribution team to share the feature accounts. Just send me a DM to be added to one of the distribution groups. You’ll receive the photo, caption and handles to tag 48 hours before feature day.
As for the future, we haven’t fleshed anything out yet past the campaign. But the overwhelmingly positive support and use of the 2 hashtags tells us the campaign is a success, and we hope people continue to use them. We would love to make a connection with the dog community to create a general coalition of support for awareness and adherence to leash laws. When you select a place BECAUSE leashes are required, you should be able to rely on everyone complying with the law.