I’ve begun to gain a reputation in my new neighborhood, and whether or not it’s a bad one depends on your view. I’m the cat walker. Every day, me and Roxy take to the streets for a walk. Or whatever it’s called when your cat is on a lead, taking three steps beyond the end of the drive before running back to the front door. And repeat. I’ve read all there is to know about cat walking. Now I’m going to share that information with you.
Anyone whose ever taken their cat for a walk will tell you it’s nothing like walking a dog. Dogs will follow you where you want to go. When you walk a cat, you’re very much subject to their whims. A leaf blows across the pavement? Be fully prepared to chase that leaf. Find a nice smelling bush? Be fully prepared to stand by that bush for five minutes while your cat gives it a good sniff. Or maybe your cat has a crazy five minutes and decides to race off up the road? You’ll be running after it as fast as you can.
It’s an unusual experience, but not one I’m going to give up any time soon. For a start, the benefits for Roxy are obvious. As an indoor cat, going for a walk means she gets to experience the outdoors safely. I’m there to stop her from running in front of any cars while she chases birds to her hearts content. Plus, it lets her work off some excess energy. Even if it doesn’t feel far for me, she’s got such little legs it must be the equivalent of a marathon on days when we actually make it to the end of the road.
And it’s not just Roxy who feels the benefits. There’s some relaxing about taking her for a walk and being forced to stop and, sometimes literally, smell the roses. It gives me time to just relax. And it gives purpose to my walk; sometimes, taking Roxy out is the only thing to motivate me enough to leave the house.
Our Top Five Tips
If you want to feel the benefits of cat walking, here’s a couple of tips from me and Roxy:
I really lucked out with Roxy. When I put her first harness on her, I don’t think she really noticed. She kept running around like nothing had happened. This is extremely rare. It’s highly recommended that you build up to walks slowly. Start with your cat just wearing their harness around the house. Then attach the lead. Give them time to get used to this. Only when they’re completely comfortable should you take them outside.
Don’t force it.
Even with all the patience in the world, some cats just don’t want to be walked. Maybe they don’t like the harness, maybe they get outside and just sit terrified. Maybe you’re dragging them along behind you while they refuse to walk (Please don’t do this.) You know your cat, you know when they’re unhappy. I have attempted to walk five cats in my life; Roxy is the only one who has taken to it. If they don’t like it, don’t force it. It’s not worth the extra stress you’ll be causing by forcing them to do something they clearly don’t want to do.
This applies to both you and your cat. Stay alert; keep an eye out for oncoming cars, approaching dogs, sharp objects on the pavement. You’re not just trying to protect yourself, you’re protecting your cat too. If the area where you live just isn’t suitable for walking your cat, consider going to a local park or a quieter street before letting them out their carrier.
Encourage good behaviours.
Roxy has always been a door runner. The second I turn the handle she’s trying to get out. But after months (and I mean months) of trying this little trick, she’s starting to get the message; She is not allowed to walk out of the door, even when she’s on her lead. I pick her up, take her out of our flat, walk down the two flights of stairs to outside, and then put her on the ground. And on the way back inside, I do the same. Carry her from door to door. And then she gets a treat, because I’m not a complete monster.
A cheesy one I know, but still important. You’re getting to spend time with your fur baby. You’re spending time outside. You get to self-deprecatingly laugh along with passers by. Embrace it.