These Paws are Made for Walking
Cats are curious as to why January is National Walk Your Dog Month and not National Walk Your Cat (Pet) Month. Cats like to go outside to smell, roll around in the grass, listen to the different sounds. But with other animals and vehicles, allowing them to be outside is not always the safest thing. With a little training, your feline friend can be comfortable walking on a leash and harness.
Our indoor kitties oftentimes don't get as much enrichment as they would have in the wild. This can sometimes lead to boredom, weight gain, and behavioral issues. Allowing them to be outside safely stimulates their minds and their instinct. They get to roll in the grass, scratch at trees, explore their surroundings and you get to spend some quality time with them.
Where do I begin you ask? Well as with everything else cat like, it is important to start slow and allow your cat to decide when they are ready. Here is what Samet and Bre discovered worked best for their cats, Figero and Stevie.
1. Get a Proper Harness (and Leash) Cats are great squirmers. They can easily slip out of a collar.
a. The best harness for your cat will be good at two things:
Distributing pressure across multiple areas so the harness doesn't choke your cat Preventing your cat from slipping out of their harness.
2. Get your Cat Comfortable Wearing their Harness and Leash.
a. Let your cat explore the harness
b. Touch your cat with the harness
c. Put your cat in the harness
d. Bonus Trick - Calming pheromones, like Feliway.
3. Begin by Walking Indoors - after your cat is comfortable wearing their harness
a. Let them wander around your home while wearing their harness with you holding the leash.
b. Patients is key. Don't try to tug your cat into submission or force them to walk. Instead, reward them when they behave the way you want them to.
c. Give lots of praise and treats when your cat walks alongside you. Your goal is to get your cat walking freely, but close enough that you can scoop them in your arms, should the need arise.
After they feel comfortable with these steps, now it's your turn to take the adventure outside. Start with short walks on a quiet street. In no time, you'll add walking your cat as another long list of things you do together.
Bre and Samet want to finish by sharing some words of wisdom after your kitty has learned about the great outdoors. They might start looking for escape moments. Be mindful entering and exiting your home by slowing opening the doors. Reward them for not sprinting outside without their harness. And show them you enjoy your walks as much as they do by walking as often as you can.
Episode Sources: How to Walk Your Cat on a Leash, and Why you Should/HuffPost Life
How to Walk Your Cat on a Leash...Safely/Preventive Vet