I live in a flat and want to teach my cat to go on walks. But she won’t. Any advice?
Straight up: Not all cats want to be walked — or should be walked — but for those who are keen to the leashed life, there are steps to take to make the move to the outdoors less stressful and more bearable.
It’s true that our whiskered friends find it hard to express their natural urge to explore, climb and hunt prey while perched atop a window box or on the back of a recliner. When out for a walk, a cat will use her brain in different, more thoughtful ways. She’ll sniff and see new things, and scratch real trees.
Keep in mind that walking a cat is different from walking a dog. Walking a cat is more about accompanying a cat while she wanders around. Remember: Cats don’t take to a harness and leash the same way dogs do. Some cats may need time to adjust, while others may snub the idea altogether.
If you decide to give cat-walking a try, be prepared to find a cat harness — not a collar — that fits purrfectly, and take these steps to ensure her safety.
Know Your Feline.
Most, but not all, cats can be trained to walk on a leash. If you suspect your cat would never in a million years be agreeable to walking on a leash, you’re probably right.
Before taking that first step to the great outdoors, let her get comfortable wearing the harness around the house. Don’t be alarmed if she lies down or walks oddly at first — it’ll take time for her to get used to it. The second you put it on, give her a treat. If she takes a step, give her a treat. Giving treats is crucial to connect action with reward. Do this a few minutes a day until she seems adjusted.
After she proves she’s a master on the leash, venture outside. Find a quiet location where she won’t face frightening distraction. Always follow her lead — she’s the one calling the shots. She may want to walk slowly, sniffing and exploring along the way, or she may opt for a brisk stroll. Be mindful of her behavior. If she freaks out, it’s time to head back inside, but once she reaps the benefits, she’ll be eager to leash up and take a walk on the wild side.
If it’s not going to work for your cat, it’s just not going to work.
While walking a leashed cat is safer than letting her explore on her own, there are still pitfalls.
- Cats can easily become agitated and potentially hurt themselves or their human.
- Walking cats can trigger behavior problems, like howling or door-darting in attempts to get outside.
February is Cat Health Month. Exercise is essential to a cat’s health and well-being, so, no matter the activity, aim for at least three short playtimes a day. Spending time with your cat by playing will strengthen your bond — and lengthen her life.
Davi the dachshund prefers not to walk too close to the hissy side of life.