How To Start Walking Your Cat
How To Start Walking Your Cat
Many domestic cats have had little to no exposure to the outdoors (aside from that one time a few years ago you left the back door open – yikes!) so walking your cat will not happen overnight. However, with a good attitude and some smart planning, cat parents can learn to support their kitties and venture into the wild safely. Check out the below tips to learn how to encourage your cat and raise your awareness on potential dangers.
Collar vs. Harness
Undoubtedly, a harness is the way to go. As cat owners well know, kitties are tricky, clever, and, for lack of a better word, malleable. Most cats can easily slip out of standard collars, which could be very dangerous in a new environment or near a road. Even if they keep their collar on, a frightened cat leaping over a tree branch or fence could leave them dangling by their neck. Scary to even think about, we strongly suggest springing for a well-fitting cat harness.
Begin in the home! This is a great time to make sure the harness fits well, as in neither too tight or uncomfortable but snug enough to keep them secured in it. The harness may irritate your cat at the beginning, so let them wander around the living room awhile to get used to it. After that, take a few laps of your backyard or common grounds (if you live in an apartment.) Allow them to accustom themselves with this new endeavor of leashed walks in the comfort of the familiar sounds and smells of your home and neighbourhood.
Taking your cat on a walk may not be a roaring success the first, second, or third time even. Cats are smart and cautious creatures, and don’t appreciate being forced into anything. Don’t drag your cat along according to whatever expectations you may have, instead give them options. Pop them down carefully in front of your door and allow them to explore at their own pace. If your cat appears excessively stressed or fearful while on a walk, don’t push it. The below tip may help you in these instances.
There simply will exist stressors for your cat in the outdoors. At a certain point, they will be unavoidable. Consider bringing a cat carrier around while you’re still working out the kinks, so your cat has a safe refuge wherever you are. Bring a beloved toy or blanket in the carrier to surround them with familiar scents. In the anticipated presence of a dog, loud truck, or other stressful stimuli, try calmly ushering your cat into their carrier.
Use A Locked Leash
Retractable leashes are super cool, no argument from us. But with a frightened kitty who could dash into oncoming traffic in the blink of an eye, a locked or non-retractable leash is essential. A 4 foot or similar leash is recommended to start. You may go longer as you and your cat get more comfortable, but it’s a good idea to always air on the shorter side.
Know Your Neighbourhood
In the beginning especially, this will take a combination of careful planning and good on-the-spot reactions. If you know your neighbour down the street has three cats that like to roam the front yard, steer clear. Similarly, if there are rats or raccoons who like to congregate in a certain alley or bushy area, avoid these. The scents alone of these other creatures will disrupt your cat’s calm. Cats like to have escape routes available, so don’t start with cramped or dead end areas. In time, they will learn to handle these new stimuli and you will have more freedom in terms of your route.
Up To Date On Vaccines
As a preventative measure, check with your vet that your cat is topped up on their necessary vaccinations and parasite treatments. Your cat can be exposed to unpleasantries like heartworm, fleas, ticks, and various feline viruses in the great outdoors. We also recommend following up on any pre-existing medical concerns that might be aggravated or worsened by outdoor walks. Feel free to ask your vet if they have any additional tips on protecting your cat’s health while on walks.
Walk This Way
Embark on this exciting adventure with care and thoughtfulness. Take tabs on your cat’s health and mood before, during, and after your walks. All going well, walking your cat can be a great bonding experience and opportunity to introduce them to a whole new world of sights, smells, and sounds. Take a look at Pep & Pup’s blog on potential stress and fear behaviours in cats in Why Is My Cat Meowing So Much? so you can remain vigilant and ready to de-escalate.