Walking the Catwalk: A Guide to Walking Your Cat

I’ve had a bit of a reputation in my old neighbourhood. Not one that I particularly thought was bad, but I guess that really depends on your opinion.

I was the cat walker.

Roxy and I would regularly 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 repeating that action over and over again until you eventually gave up and took her inside, when she would then sit by the front door waiting to go back out.

Our new neighbourhood is by quite a busy road, so I don’t take Roxy out as often – but I still have a whole load of knowledge about taking your cat out on a lead, and I’m now going to share it 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.

On one of my recent walks with Roxy, we came across a group of squirrels in the park. While Roxy is fairly well behaved and didn’t chase after them, they had a hypnotising effect on her. She stood stationary for fifteen minutes just watching as they got up to their usual antics – and I had to stand there with her.

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 heart’s 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; in the past, taking Roxy out was the only thing to motivate me enough to leave the house. Whilst this isn’t true anymore, it’s certainly a good incentive sometimes.

Our Top Five Tips

If you want to feel the benefits of cat walking, here’s a couple of tips from me and Roxy:

  1. Be patient. 

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. Stay safe. 

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. Have fun! 

    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.

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