New Hampshire resident Mel Elam and her rescue cat Floki got a lot of media attention earlier this month after summiting New Hampshire’s Mount Washington — the highest peak in the northeastern United States at 6,288 feet.
“When I see her ears perk up and her pupils widen, I think, ‘What is she hearing? What is she seeing?’ I just sit and watch with her,” Elam, 37, told Lady Freethinker of her constant companion. “Hiking with a cat takes patience.”
Elam, a surgical technician and mother of four, adopted Floki from a rescue shelter in 2020 when she was a kitten and began hiking with her almost immediately. While Floki spends much of each hike safely aloft, harnessed and snug inside a DIY pet carrier — a modified backpack. When the terrain becomes less demanding, Elam takes her out to walk along and explore on a leash.
“Floki will walk about a foot and then sit back down,” Elam said. “There are a lot of starts and stops. But I don’t mind.”
Elam said she is not hiking for efficiency, or to check off another mountain on her bucket list.
“She has helped me to really take everything in,” she said. “To smell the trees, to listen, to learn to sense the snow coming on.”
“The list [of peaks] never mattered to me,” she added, of the duo’s recent headline-catching climb. “We love being out on the trails. Floki and I hike in all seasons. The trails are never the same. Even in the same week, the trails change.”
When the two take a break from hiking, Floki is a full-on indoor cat.
“She never goes outside. She never even tries to get out of the door,” said Elam. “But when she sees the pack come out, she knows what’s coming.”
When taking pets outdoors, especially to new and unknown environments, make sure to keep them properly leashed or harnessed and use certified pet-friendly equipment. Remember, many cats are travel-averse, so make sure your feline companion is comfortable and enjoys the experience. If they display fear or anxiety, it’s better for everyone to just leave them home with a trusted sitter.