Is "Cat Walking" Really a Thing?
Wondering if your cat is ready to go on a leashed walk? Here's everything you need to know to decide!
Have you ever seen a cat walking on a leash, like a puppy, behind her owner? Even if you snickered or sneered at the sight, you probably questioned whether or not your own furry friend may indeed need this type of outdoor exercise. Here's an overview of "cat walking" and how to determine if you should try it with your own pet!
Why Might It Be a Good Idea to Walk Your Cat?
Think about the reasons you like to go for a walk outside. Perhaps this activity helps you to reduce your stress level, or maybe it's a fun, easy way for you to get some exercise and fresh air. These reasons can apply to your cat as well! Heading out for a walk can help your feline companion overcome a case of the "indoor boredom blahs" and ensure that she stays in tip-top physical shape.
A quick trip outside may also quench your cat's need to get back to her roots. When she's inside, a pesky pane of glass separates her from the bounty of the backyard. But if you take her on a leashed walk, she can explore and investigate without the worry that she'll get into too much trouble.
Why Might It Be a Bad Idea to Walk Your Cat?
Some shy or temperamental cats may not react well to a leash or the outdoor environment. If your cat is timid, scares easily or has anxiety in new situations, it may be best to avoid taking her on walks. It's important for you to keep in mind that along with the wonders of nature -- which for your cat translates to birds, birds and more birds -- the great outdoors comes with a variety of intimidating new people, animals, vehicles and noises that may scare your cat.
You may also want to avoid taking your cat on walks if she is a dasher, runner or Houdini-like escape artist, as she may use the daily outdoor time to try to make a break for it.
How Can You Start?
If you do decide to try out the whole cat walking thing, you must be sure to take a series of steps to prepare your pet for this new adventure. Firstly, make sure that all of her immunizations and flea treatments are up to date, as there's no telling what she may be exposed to during your daily half-mile jaunt.
You'll also need to acquire all the necessary supplies. When looking for the perfect harness and leash, be sure to choose ones that are specifically made for cats. Don't simply reuse your puppy's old set! As a harness is likely a totally new concept to your cat, you need to introduce it to her gradually.
Start by leaving it around the house for a few days so that she can get used to seeing it before you attempt to put it on her. After those few days have passed, you should let your cat rub up against the harness so she can gradually get used to how it feels against her fur.
Next, you should encourage her to actually wear the harness around your house. When she seems comfortable, you should attach the leash and practice walking around from room to room. Be sure to praise your cat and give her a few tasty treats to reward her for prancing around in her new harness.
What Should You Do If Your Finicky Feline Freaks Out?
Surprised that your furry friend didn't love his first adventure in the great outdoors? Just be patient and remember that cats don't take to harnesses and leashed walks in the same way that dogs do. Some cats may need some time to adjust to this new concept, while others may never get the hang of it. But don't get yourself in a tizzy if your cat snubs the idea of a leashed walk. There are plenty of ways your pet can exercise while indoors.
For instance, cat climbers and jungle gyms give your pet the chance to stretch his legs, jump, leap, bound and scurry upwards in ways that mimic climbing a tree. You can even make your own cat tree! If you're feeling crafty, you should check out 7 DIY Cat Tree Projects. You can also schedule in routine play time every day. Just break out the toys and treats, get down to your kitty's level and pounce away.
Are you worried that your house cat is feeling glum or constricted? Check out Are Indoor Cats Happy? for tips on keeping your pet healthy and entertained!
Erica Loop is the mom to one teenage son, two Olde Boston Bulldogges and a very shy cat. She's also a freelance writer, educator and the creator of the blog Mini Monets and Mommies.