It’s common knowledge that dogs love walks. But what about cats? Have you ever thought about taking your cat for a walk outside? Would they enjoy it?
The good news is that yes, you can take your cat on walks. In fact, many cats will enjoy the exercise and being outdoors. Training your cat to walk on a leash may take some patience and practice, but these tips for walking your cat can help.
Get the Right Gear
Chances are your cat already has a collar, but if not, find a cat collar that adjusts to fit comfortably yet securely around their neck. A good rule of thumb is keeping the collar loose enough that you can put two of your fingers through it. The main purpose of your cat’s collar should be to carry their identification, your contact information and important medical information should your cat get lost.
It might be tempting to hook a leash up to your cat’s collar when you go for a walk, but many cats can get out of their collars or be choked by them. Cats have more sensitive throats than dogs, which puts them at greater risk of injury when the leash is connected to their collar. Your cat will be safer and more secure in a harness than just a collar and leash.
Choose the Right Cat Harness
There are two different types of cat harnesses – leads and vests. Leads are made up of several straps that go around the cat’s neck, legs and back, and it attaches to a leash. Vests are more secure and fit around your cat like clothing. Walking vests are a good option if your cat pulls during walks or is flexible enough to squirm out of a lead harness.
Choosing the right size harness is also essential for a comfortable walk with your cat. You can measure your cat for a harness by taking its girth measurement snug against the fur, then add one or two inches to that number to ensure a fit that’s not too tight. Again, you should be able to slip a finger or two underneath your cat’s harness.
Test it Out
Once you have the proper gear for taking your cat on a walk, slowly acclimate your cat to the concept of wearing a harness and walking on a leash. Start by putting the harness out near your cat or its toys. Allow your cat to smell the harness and play with it. You can use a treat as positive reinforcement if your cat shows interest in the harness.
Next, hold your cat and loosely drape the harness over it. Allow your cat to get used to the feeling of the harness on its body without putting it on completely. Again, use a treat as positive reinforcement. Once your cat is used to the idea of wearing a harness, put it fully and securely on your cat, just as you would if you were going out on a walk. Allow your cat to roam around its normal environment for several minutes wearing the harness, then gradually increase the amount of time over several days. Feed a treat each time your cat responds well to wearing the harness.
If your cat is not responding well to any of these steps, do not become impatient. It may take days or weeks for your cat to become used to this new concept, and rushing them will only make your cat less receptive to walking outside. Once your cat is comfortable in their harness, add the leash and let your cat drag it around inside for a bit to get used to the weight. You can also hold the leash and follow your cat’s lead to further reinforce the concept. Finally, once your cat is used to and comfortable in its harness and leash, try going outside for a short test walk.
The first time you take your cat outside, give them time to explore their surroundings. Especially if your cat has not spent much time outside the house, the outdoors can be overwhelming. Allow your cat to explore the yard, smell the grass, plants or trees.
NOTE: Be mindful of any vegetation that can be toxic, such as lilies or azaleas.
Once your cat has had a chance to explore the outdoor world, try going for a short walk. You may want to walk around your yard or even just to the end of your street. It’s also a good idea to scope out your neighborhood before going too far around it. You’ll want to make sure none of your neighbors let their dogs run loose and there are no other hazards present.
Enjoy Your Walks!
Once your cat has shown they are comfortable and enjoy outdoor walks, continue to take regular walks together. Having a consistent time to walk can give your cat something to look forward to, and the regular exercise will help promote their overall health.