I have seen a lot of advertisements and posts recently on social media about taking your cat for a walk. This can be a source of enrichment for your cat; it is also be a great time to take photos of your friend and bond with her more.
Just like many humans, cats don’t like surprises. If you want to try taking your cat for a walk, be prepared to spend at least a few weeks preparing him.
What you need
- A harness made for cats – these should be adjustable with comfortable padding to distribute the pressure on his neck and chest if he pulls against the harness
- a leash – a leash about 4-6 feet long will work. I use an extendable leash with a bungee leash on the end in case my cat goes after a rabbit or mouse.
- “treats for the trail”
Training for the Trail: The Harness
- Let your cat smell the harness.
- Slide the harness over his head. Click, treat and remove.
- Work up to clipping the back.
- Leave the harness on for increasingly longer times.
- MAKE THIS FUN – MAKE SURE TO REWARD HIM.
Training for the Trail: Walking Indoors
- Practice walks inside – using the leash
- if your cat has been trained to a target, get him to walk along for short distances on the leash following the target
- Alternatively, toss a treat in front of him to get him to move forward
Taking Your Cat for a Walk: Choose the Place
- A back yard or enclosed area is an ideal place to start
- Choose a QUIET time for his first walks
Taking your Cat for a Walk: Venturing further Afield
- your cat is a small animal who is a predator but is also prey
- you must provide a safe place for your cat if predators or unwanted people show up
- If you walk on sidewalks and paths, a pet stroller can be a wise investment
- If you are more adventurous, a backpack can be a solution.
Hazards of the “Trail”
Strange cats: Feral cats are most likely not going to be around when you are out – they avoid humans and typically hunt during the evening and night time hours. Free-roaming pets or community cats present more problems. This is when you want to have your cat leashed.
Be attentive to your surroundings – your superior color vision can sometimes pick out strange cats before your cat is aware of them. You may be able to put her in her stroller or pack or take evasive action before there are any hostilities.
Monitor you cat’s body posture (tense, alert?) and vocalizations (low growl?) – these can indicate the presence of a strange cat. Once your cat is aware of the stranger, AVOID picking him up. Encourage the stranger to go away, while keeping a firm grip on the leash.
I have had a cat stalk us while I was walking Gus. I did encourage the strange cat to go away, verbally and with a well thrown pebble while keeping a firm grip on Gus’s leash.
When I started walking cats around my townhome, I very quickly learned that many dogs are not well-trained – they escape their owners, leashes flying the breeze and make a beeline for your cat.
Offer the stroller or pack to your cat as a refuge. Training your cat to sit when dogs approach can be helpful – if your cat does not run, the dog usually will not chase them.
Be calm and assertive to the approaching dog – firmly command them to “sit” or “down” or “stay” (common commands the dog may know). Don’t turn your back on on the dog; don’t stare directly at him. Back away slowly. More tips..
Cars are terrifying – we need to get kitty into a safe place.
Train your cat to be picked up so that you can hold her or put her in the stroller or pack. Cue is “up”, click while lifting, and make sure to reward when you put her down.
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