Meet Nymbus, the bicycle-riding cat. Here’s how I trained him to safely enjoy bike rides, and how you can do the same with your own kitty.
When I was a child, I took my cat, Gala, bicycle riding by putting her in my bike’s old metal basket. She sat in there on a towel, trusting that I would protect her from any worldly dangers we might encounter along the way.
Today, 55 years later, I still enjoy cycling with my cats. My Persian, Nymbus, began his bike-riding training as a kitten. But he soon outgrew the bike’s metal basket. His long tail dangled through the basket’s openings, too close to the bicycle’s spokes, so we discontinued our outings for the sake of his safety.
Then one day, five years later, I discovered you could buy bike baskets designed specifically for small animals. These baskets are made with the animal’s safety and comfort in mind, and come with clasps that hook onto his harness to prevent him from jumping out. They also include pockets to store a leash, potty bags, cell phones, keys and a water bottle. I was delighted – but after all this time, would Nymbus still remember the joys of feeling the wind through his fur?
As soon as the postal worker delivered the bike basket, it was unpacked and assembled. To my amazement, Nymbus jumped up onto the kitchen counter and right into the basket. We have three other cats, but Nymbus was the only one to claim the basket. He was obviously ready to ride!
My husband carried the basket out to the garage to install it on my bike, while Nymbus stood at the garage door, meowing loudly and impatiently. When we were ready, I picked him up, carried him into the garage, and lowered him into his soft new bike basket.
Nymbus purred as he nestled into the basket. We then secured his harness to the clasp and went for a brief ride. There I was in my pajamas, in the rain, bicycling down the street because the cat wanted to go for a ride! You’ve heard the saying that dogs have masters, and cats have staff. It was obviously true in this case!
What’s also true is the old adage that you never forget how to ride a bicycle. Apparently, it applies to cats too. Nymbus’s huge green eyes were lit up with excitement. He loved the experience so much that he was still purring after we arrived back home. He obviously missed bike riding as much as I’d missed having him ride with me.
The only time Nymbus squirmed or complained was when I lifted him from the basket. He voiced great disappointment over the shortness of the ride and loudly meowed his disapproval all the way into the house.
The second time out, Nymbus happily rode for two miles through town. His body language and facial expression exuded relaxation and joy, and he watched the world go by as the wind tickled his whiskers. He sat there proudly, his huge furry white head poking out of the basket like the hood ornament on a pink Cadillac.
Riding in Style
You’ll find several products on the market that allow you to take your cat – or your small dog – bike riding with you. One is the Sidekick Bike Rack from Sleepypod (sleepypod.com), a corrosion-resistant stainless steel platform designed to securely hold one of the company’s pet carriers. This front loading rack uses the center of gravity right above the front tire for maximum stability.
Another alternative is the Buddyrider (buddyrider.ca). Designed for small dogs, it allows your companion to sit safety strapped into a comfortable and centered position between the bicycle seat post and handlebar stem.
Because Nymbus is an indoor cat, bike riding helps magnify and expand the usual sights and sounds of his world. He enjoys cruising through town, watching the world go by. As we sail along, people walking by or children peering out car windows jump with delight at the unusual sight of a cat riding by in a bicycle basket, just like Toto in The Wizard of Oz.
When I take one of our other cats for a ride, Nymbus jumps up on the laundry room windowsill and protests until my return. He won’t stop until he is once again in the basket, riding off on another adventure.
12 Safety Tips
Bike-riding with your cat can be one of life’s simple pleasures. But it’s important to keep your feline’s safety, and your own, in mind.
1. Always wear a helmet. Unfortunately, there are no cat helmets on the market (yet), but if there were, Nymbus would definitely be wearing one.
2. Do not place your cat in an ordinary metal bicycle carrier. He could easily jump out and hurt himself. Also, his tail may dangle dangerously close to the bike’s spokes. Invest in a bike basket specifically designed for small dogs or cats. Nymbus has two different carriers from Snoozer Pet (snoozerpetproducts.com).
3. Acclimatize your cat to wearing a harness before you try bike riding with him.
4. Keep the bike basket inside the house, and place your cat’s favorite towel in it so he will view it as a safe and comfortable place to nap/sit.
5. Make sure the basket is attached correctly and securely to the bicycle before using it.
6. Gently place the cat into the bike basket and attach his harness to the basket’s clip to prevent him from jumping out. (Someone once told me they forgot to clip their small dog’s harness to his basket and he jumped out, costing them $900 in vet bills.)
7. Fasten some form of ID to your cat’s harness, with your phone number, and also carry your own ID while biking.
8. Carry a collapsible water dish that can be filled using your bike’s water bottle.
9. Begin by riding very short distances in a quiet and familiar spot (for example, up and down your driveway), while observing your cat’s body language. If he appears afraid or apprehensive, or tries to get out, stop and remove him from the basket. Not all cats will take to this activity, and it’s important to respect your cat’s personality for the sake of his own safety and comfort.
10. If your cat seems happy, increase your riding distance each day, until he is totally relaxed and acclimated enough to “go the distance” with you. Avoid busy, noisy streets and be sure to obey all the rules of the road.
11. Your cat will signal he’s had enough for one day by moving around in the basket.
12. When removing your cat from the basket, attach a leash to his harness, then release the bike clip. Never allow him to jump out of the basket; rather, lift him out while repeating “up” or “out” to promote an understanding of what’s going on.