Many cat owners wonder whether or not they should take their cat for a walk outdoors. When you think about it, today’s indoor cat is like a tiger robbed of his freedom. Their ancestors hung out in the deserts and jungles to hunt mice. Slowly, they evolved into our living rooms and while people took their dogs for walks, cats were kept from the world. There are many people nowadays who feel you should take your cat outside for a walk or at least let them outside to rove yards and disappear into the shrubbery for at least 30 minutes a day. It really comes down to your own personal opinion and decision.
Some cats certainly have the interest and personality for an outdoor environment like leash walking. It’s a novel way to give them the physical exercise and mental stimulation that they crave. The types of cats that would enjoy an outdoor leash walk include cats that show signs of boredom or stress, apartment cats, and cats that are adventurous. Stress in a cat is typically demonstrated by overgrooming, urinating outside the litter box, and destructive tendencies around the home. If your cat spends a lot of time looking out the window, it would likely enjoy an outdoor walk. And if they bolt for the door whenever it’s opened, they are ready for an outdoor leash walk.
Equipment for Outdoor Walks with your Cat
Keep in mind that walking a cat is not like walking a dog. Felines don’t always take to walks and leashes as quickly as dogs. And as we all know, cats are not inclined to be leashed. The best thing to do is to train and prepare your cat for this new outdoor adventure. Cats are squirmers, so be sure to have a harness. The best harness for your feline friend is one that distributes pressure evenly across their body and has safety measures so your cat cannot slip out of it.
This means your feline’s harness should have adjustable straps that go around the body and neck. Depending on your cat’s fur length and body type, you can choose fabric wraps or strap harnesses. Wraps can be tough to fit around a fluffy cat, and strap harnesses can slip off a slim cat. To begin training your cat for an outdoor walk, fit the gear on them and let them walk around inside the house for a while. You should also ensure that your cat is safe with updated vaccinations and a legible ID tag.
There are plenty of good cat leashes on the market, just don’t use a retractable one. Retractable leashes increase the distance between you and your cat and give you less control.
More Tips on Getting Your Cat Ready for an Outdoor Walk
Let your cat explore the harness and leash. Make sure to have plenty of treats on hand. Every time they smell or touch the gear, give them a treat as a reward. Drape the harness on your cat and let him touch it. Again, mark the behavior with a treat. Put your cat in the harness once he is comfortable with this new wardrobe. Provide treats the whole time. This will reinforce that wearing a harness is a good thing. You might even want to try calming pheromones to help him adapt to this new situation. You don’t need much, a spritz or two will do.
Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness, take him for small indoor walks. Let your cat wander around the home while wearing the harness and with you holding the leash. Again, give him treats to encourage a positive association. If your cat refuses to walk or struggles with it, take a break until he is more comfortable. Patience is an important factor here. Instead of trying to tug your cat to obey and force him to walk, just reward the behavior that you want. Be sure to give lots of treats and praise when your cat decides to walk beside you. The goal is to let your cat walk freely but close enough in case you need to pick them up quickly.
It’s important to take your time with this training process. Acclimation takes time. While it may be easier to train a kitten to do this, you can train an adult cat, too. With all of this indoor prep work, your cat will eventually be ready for an outdoor walk on a leash. On the first walk, it’s wise to do it in a relatively private outdoor space. Your own backyard is a good place to start. Wait until your cat is comfortable with this before venturing out further.
You’ll also have to ensure that your cat is protected. Leashed cats are at more risk for fleas, heartworm and intestinal worms. Use a safe flea medication on your cat. And, use a heartworm preventative. Intestinal worms are typically found in mud and dirt, but you can use a heartworm preventative to help prevent your cat from getting heartworm.
Most of all, have fun taking your cat for an outdoor leashed walk. It’s an ideal time for your cat to experience the outside world instead of just the indoor of your home.