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Why should dogs have all the fun? Walking your cat is a wonderful bonding activity for you and your feline friend, and a great way for them to safely explore the outdoors. Walking a cat can provide the exercise and mental stimulation they need, while also offering plenty of outdoor enrichment. It is a safe and fun way to let your cat experience the great outdoors without letting them roam free as an outdoor cat, which reduces their life expectancy.
Believe it or not, plenty of pet parents take their cats out for walks — and their cats actually enjoy it! While putting a leash on your cat might seem like an impossible feat, with a little patience and training, your cat just might find that they don’t mind it.
Actually, if you want to try walking your cat, you’re going to need more than a little patience. This isn’t a process that’s going to happen overnight. First, you’ll want to get a harness that was made specifically for cats. You’d be surprised how fast your cat will slip out of a small dog harness, and a collar alone just won’t cut it.
Tips for Walking a Cat
Walking your cat is a fun activity that will get your cat out of the house and allow them to release some pent-up energy. If your cat is climbing the walls and constantly getting into mischief, training them to go on walks might be just what they need to calm down. On the other hand, if you’re worried that your cat is bored and not getting enough stimulation throughout the day, a walk could be an energizing boost that perks up their mood.
Leash and Harness Walking
If your cat is tired of being pent-up all day, or if you live in a small apartment, your cat just might enjoy some leash walks outdoors. Leash walking is also a great option for adventurous cats and for cats that are transitioning from an outdoor to an indoor living situation. Just make sure your cat is ready to delve into this new activity. Not only should all of their vaccinations be up to date, but they should also have a microchip and an ID badge.
You’ll need to have a proper harness for walking your cat. A fabric-wrap harness can be somewhat hard to fit around an obese or furry cat, while strap harnesses can slip off slim or short-haired cats. You’ll also need a good leash and, for maximum safety, we recommend that you go with the non-retractable kind.
In order to get started walking your cat, you’ll need to make sure they are absolutely familiar with their new harness. You’re going to want to tackle this process in stages, and take everything as slowly as your cat wants. Remember that whether or not this works is up to your cat and not you, so don’t push it too hard.
Leave the harness on the floor in a room your cat frequents so they can check it out and get acquainted with it. Once you’ve made it through this step, you can try putting it on them, but keep in mind that if they’re not into it, you shouldn’t force it. For this to work, your cat has to be willing, otherwise you’re going to end up dragging an angry cat down the sidewalk.
After you’re able to clip the harness on, let your cat walk around the house with it so they get used to wearing it. You can do this for a few days or however long it takes until you feel like your cat is comfortable. Again, patience is the most important part about walking a cat. It’s possible that it could take weeks for your cat to get used to wearing the harness, but don’t give up. You’ll know when they’re OK with it once there’s no issue putting the harness on, and they don’t have a problem walking with it.
Then, and only then, you can attach the leash and let your cat see what it’s like walking around with it. Make sure you watch to see if it’s better to hold it or let them drag it — some cats can be frightened by the leash trailing behind them. Be generous with treats while you’re doing this, so your cat understands that it’s a good thing. Play with them or engage them any way you can to help reinforce this; it’ll make it more fun for you and easier for your cat to adjust.
Remember that the key to success here is patience. Never tug on the leash or try to force your cat to walk. Instead, reward your cat with treats when they follow your instructions. When your cat walks next to you, give them plenty of praise and treats. The younger the cat, the easier it should be to train, but you can teach an adult cat to walk on a leash. Just take it slowly and don’t get discouraged along the way.
Into the Great Wide Open
The next step is to take your cat outside, preferably in your own backyard, to an area that’s quiet and safe. Be sure to carry your cat outside. Don’t let them just walk out on their own. Carrying your cat outside prevents them from making a break for it and getting into harm’s way. Any and every time you walk your cat they should be carried out. Even the best leash-trained cat could still make a mad dash if left on their own.
Keep your cat in the quiet area you’ve selected and let them walk around and experience what it’s like to explore the outdoors on a leash. If your cat doesn’t have any knowledge of what the outside world is like, make sure you give them time to relax, because they’ll be on high alert. Let them be curious, but keep them away from potential dangers (like dogs).
Continue to take it slowly from there, but, after this point, you should be able to start walking your cat. Pay attention to how your cat reacts to being on the leash; every cat is going to behave differently. Your cat might be open to going for a walk around the block, but they also may prefer to just wander around your yard and not want to go any further. Enjoy the moment either way, you’ve made it this far and it wasn’t easy.
Go at Your Cat’s Speed
Essentially, your cat’s personality will determine how they’re going to react to this situation. You already probably know how they feel about going outdoors, and if they’re a bit jumpy, this might not work out. Ultimately, you have to try before you know, but if you can tell your cat is uncomfortable or unhappy, you should stop. If you still want to venture with your cat outdoors, there are other options. A cat stroller is an easy way to go on walks safely with your cat, and you won’t have to go through a lengthy training process.
Be aware of your environment as you take your cat for a walk outdoors. Many flowers and plants are toxic to cats, so keep them away from the foliage. Also, keep them safe from fleas and other parasites by keeping their flea and tick medications and heartworm preventatives up to date.
When you are walking your cat, safety should always be at the top of your mind. Keep your cat close to you so you can grab them quickly if you encounter a menacing dog or another cat. Never leave your cat alone outside, and try to keep them away from dogs, whether they’re also out for a walk or just hanging out in their own yards. It’s also good practice to keep from putting the harness on your cat if they start whining for it. While it’s great that they like it, you don’t want to reward negative behavior.
Walking your cat can be a fun experience for both of you if you stay patient and take note of your cat’s behavior. Always do what’s most comfortable for them and you’ll be on the right track.