Meet Honey Bee, the Blind Hiking Cat
Meet Honey Bee the blind hiking cat. Hiking (or hitching a ride atop a backpack) this one-of-a-kind kitty bravely explores the parks paths and trails around Seattle.
When it comes to animals on trail, the last thing most people expect to see is a housecat—let alone a blind one. That’s until they meet Honey Bee, a Seattle-area kitty with a penchant for hiking. We recently chatted with Honey Bee’s owner, Sabrina Ursin, about everything from Honey Bee’s home country (hint: it’s not the U.S.) to her favorite Washington destination to the logistics of being a cat on trail.
How did Honey Bee come into your life?
I volunteered at Animals Fiji for 3 days at the beginning of a vacation. It’s a wonderfully run little shelter and low-cost clinic. I've volunteered with other animal groups internationally, but Honey Bee was the first cat I couldn't resist keeping. She was just so affectionate and adorable, and I couldn't say no. We imported Honey Bee in January; she's just over a year old.
What made you decide to take Honey Bee hiking for the first time?
Honey Bee was accustomed to the outdoors at Animals Fiji. She was free to roam around the clinic property during the day. Living in a busy city, however, I wouldn't feel comfortable with a blind cat wandering around outside.
I started taking her on little walks in the yard, which turned into trips around the neighborhood, which turned into visiting Seattle city parks and then some hikes this summer.
What are the logistics like of hiking with Honey Bee?
To get Honey Bee ready for an adventure, my husband and I first offer her a clean litter box. If you have cats, you know that they love to get in there and make use of a fresh box—and that way you don’t need to worry about any accidents in the car.
We put her harness on and then pack a water bowl and kibble, the pet sling for when she gets tired, and of course, plastic bags for scooping any kitty waste.
We don't go farther than about an hour from Seattle, because the car ride isn't the fun part for Honey Bee. She's gotten better at not crying on car rides, though, and we're hoping that she'll eventually associate the car with the fun reward at the end.
How do people react to Honey Bee on trail?
Honey Bee always draws amused surprise from people who see her on the trail. People are so struck by seeing a cat that they usually don't notice right away that she has no eyes.
Honey Bee is also a magnet for kids, and thankfully she doesn't mind being held by kids or being sniffed by dogs. She gets along with everyone and is a wonderful ambassador not just for cats but for special needs animals.
You might expect a blind cat to be less able than a cat with eyes, but Honey Bee's boundless curiosity leads her to explore and enjoy everything the world has to offer. She's quite good at sensing the presence of objects or drop-offs and doesn't often run into things or slip on edges.
What does Honey Bee love about hiking?
Honey Bee can't see, but all of her other senses are fully engaged.
She walks around sniffing things, listening to the sounds of other people and small animals, digs little holes and explores textures on the forest floor. She even licks trees and rocks occasionally. Anything new is exciting, whether it's a package in the mail or a place she hasn't been before.
Does she have a favorite Washington trail?
I think our Mason Lake hike was her favorite. There was a range of plants and environments, and the rock boulders with pikas were especially interesting. She knew they were there but wasn't sure how to find them. The Mason Lake hike was her longest hike. Despite it being only 7 miles roundtrip, it took us about 6 hours.
What would you suggest for other people who want to take their cats hiking?
If you want to take your cat hiking, the first thing to accept is that most cats are not going to be interested. Cats generally don't like being walked on a leash.
Start small, like by taking your cat around your yard on a leash and then around parks near your home. Many cats will simply flop over in protest if you try to walk them, so it depends on the personality of the cat.
My husband and I have four other cats, and none of them would enjoy hiking. Honey Bee is a special girl with a fearless personality so everything new is interesting and exciting, rather than scary.
How does Honey Bee inspire you?
I love how confident Honey Bee is, even though she doesn't know where she's going. Humans are so hesitant and over-think things. She just trots along, as happy as can be, eager to make new friends and have adventures. She's a shining star of pure optimism.
Want to keep up with Honey Bee’s adventures? Follow her on Facebook.