If you visit Skåne in the south of Sweden you’ll be met with a wilderness wonderland with thick forests, endless plains and beaches, and dramatic clifftops dropping straight into the ocean. An area known to hikers for its thousands of kilometres of trails crisscrossing through endless National Parks and reserves.
But find yourself on one of the quieter trails on a nice day and you just might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Helga, a beautiful ragdoll adventure cat who has made the forests her second home. I was fortunate enough to be able to catch up with Helga’s caretaker and forest guardian Christel to learn more about their amazing adventures!
I was already a very keen hiker, so it was natural to take Helga with me as soon as I discovered that she likes it. I love to look up new forests or trails that I haven’t visited before – and even though some I have visited before, having Helga with me makes me see it from a new perspective.
Christel adopted Helga one year ago, a year after the loss of her beloved 20 year old pet parrot. She knew that she wanted to get another pet but wasn’t quite sure what. Realising that another parrot wouldn’t be the same, and a dog requires to much attention she started looking into cats.
I was looking for a cat who was not too energetic. So I found the Ragdoll breed, who is said to be the most “dog-like” of cats, as well as having a good temperament, and didn’t need a lot of exercise.
And so little Helga was brought home at 12 weeks of age and it wasn’t long before her adventurous side came out.
After settling in, I noticed that she had A LOT of energy. Everything was so fun for her and needed to be explored. So, eventually, super slowly we started to go outside…
Mastering the leash
Christel started leash training with Helga early on by incorporating the harness into their play sessions. As Helga got used to having it around it was soon time to put it on for short periods.
I noticed she didn’t really enjoy the kitten harnesses made out a narrow band – so I made one for her, more as a vest than a harness. She was so much happier with this. Even though we did have some of those classic moments, when she just froze – and fell to the side as soon as I put it on!
Christel overcame these classic ‘cat freeze’ moments by distracting her with a favourite toy, and soon she was back up and walking around the communal garden.
A lot of it is just verbally rewarding when she does good, and ignore her when she does things I don’t like. And get a good backpack for your cat, to help them rest when they need to, and also a place where they are comfortable in.
So the two started small and not before long would be taking hikes in some very spectacular surroundings. Helga will sit in her backpack between the apartment and the car. On the trip out to the forest she will stay in her cat carrier which gives her enough room to stretch out as some of the places they visit can be an hour and a half away. Arriving at the start of the hike Helga will be ready to go with harness and leash.
She likes to get carried in the backpack when she gets too tired of walking herself. Or sometimes I just use it to bundle her up in blankets to dry up or get warm. Then she can jump out whenever she feels ready as it opens up on three sides.
The first time I ever took her out to the forest she seemed soooo happy! Just kept walking, more than she ever had before. Looking around at everything with big curious eyes. It was fantastic to see. That definitely made me into a crazy cat lady!
Off the leash
Helga also enjoys spending time off the leash on her hikes when there are no dogs or cars around! She will stay by Christel’s side whilst the two explore, only occasionally going off the trail to check out something which might capture her curiosity.
But if I get too absorbed in taking photos of flowers or the landscape (or her), she might get bored. Then she comes back to me, meowing loudly telling me to move along!
With some winter days with temperatures down to -10°c it’s not always ideal weather for heading out. But as soon as it warms up the pair are rugged up and out exploring the recent snowfalls.
She really does not like when it is windy! Some wind is ok, but not too much. Too much noise and it gets cold I guess. When it’s raining she usually tries to find a bit of shelter, but she doesn’t mind getting a bit wet.
But Helga has a full range of coats to keep her warm on her outings. Most of which are actually dog jackets in small sizes including a fleece sweater and a rain jacket. Although it took some looking around to find the perfect ones, they fit her well.
All in the purrsonality
Helga is described as being very easy going and curious, a high energy cat but also super relaxed and loves to cuddle.
She is usually cautious to new people and things, but her curiosity usually gets the better of her. If there is something new, you can play around with it – and she takes to it really easily.
Having an adventure cat in your life can teach you lots of things. For Christel it’s all about the here and now.
My hiking has become so much less about walking long distances, and more about appreciating what’s in front of me. I have started to see the little things more than before. Flowers, animals, weather… I learned that having an adventure cat makes me take more time for myself (and her).
Giving her the opportunity to see something else other than the views from my apartment, and also giving her the opportunity to move around and get some excercise – I believe it makes her a much happier and satisfied cat.
But the benefits are mutual. Christel has found that she is also much happier for the experience and she enjoys sharing the adventure cat experience with others.
We have a much stronger bond I think than we might have had otherwise. People I meet on the trail are usually so curious and interested – and haven’t thought about it at all themselves. I do hope taking your cat out becomes as common as taking your dog.
…and we do too! For Christel who has always had a passion for the outdoors and travelling the world, Helga has proven to be the perfect companion and adventure buddy. But what’s next?
I hope to eventually travel abroad with Helga, bringing her on a plane and hiking new trails – but it takes a bit more planning. We will see what the future brings!
To see more of Helga’s latest adventures check out her Instagram.