Cats, by their nature, are curious creatures, always looking to explore, hunt and play. They can vanish for days at a time, often leaving their owners worrying. 9 times out of 10 though, the feisty feline returns ready to terrorise you and your home again. We wouldn’t have them any other way though! Except for the vanishing, that’s the part no cat owner enjoys.
The long periods of absence are just one example of why many people take to walking their cats rather than letting them run wild. An increase in built-up housing estates near busy roads and declining green spaces also add to the reasons many people prefer to harness their little friends rather than let them loose in the neighbourhood.
How though can you make walking a cat an easy experience for both you and your pet? Read on to discover all there is to know about cat walking!
Can you take cats on walks?
Well, the simple answer is of course you can! Over the past few years, taking your car for a walk has become almost as common in some areas as taking a dog for a walk. It gives them a great opportunity to get some fresh air, a chance to explore and play and gives you the added benefit of some exercise for yourself.
Unfortunately, though, many cats are not fans of being restrained in any way, they are natural hunters after all. They want free reign over where they go and what they do. Being tethered to something restricting that ability won’t be much fun.
That being said, if you gradually introduce a harness, you may be able to help make your cat feel more comfortable and accepting of the idea. If they seriously do not like it and resist every opportunity, do not force it upon them. An unhappy cat outside could very quickly become an unhappy cat indoors and you wouldn’t want to ruin what was once a perfect owner-pet relationship!
To get the best possible outcome, it is often suggested that you put the harness on indoors, let them get used to it, feel safe with it and eventually just forget it is even there.
Only once are they comfortable with the harness should you consider the leash. Going for both right away will lead to problems.
What are the difficulties with taking a cat for a walk?
Even though your cat may be a house cat, it will still have the ingrained instincts to hunt and defend itself as any other cat would. Therefore, it is especially important to take note of a few things before you head outside with your feline.
Cats can react to scents, sounds and sights very quickly. Some may scare them; some might entice them. How you handle it could determine whether walks with your cat are the way to go moving forward.
Cats and scents
When you walk your cat, it will no doubt encounter a variety of scents. Some will be pleasing but if it discovers the scent of another cat, it may become scared, nervous or agitated. You will no doubt aim to calm it down, but this agitation can soon turn to aggression where you end up scratched, the cat ends up stressed and the walk ends up ending before it’s started.
Cats being predators
We touched upon their love of hunting earlier, but it is a very real aspect of their DNA. It’s an instinct and one that you will never shake from them. Walking a cat that suddenly spots something it sees as prey could see you go from having a stationary pet to one that accelerates quicker than a Ferrari. In that time span, how are you going to react in a way that is safe for your pet and you?
Cats being the prey
Just because cats hunt, it doesn’t mean they can’t be the hunted. Other cats and of course, their old adversary the dog could all attempt to lure your cat into a trap. Likewise, your cat could sense danger and switch to one of three options. Fight, flight, or freeze! There are none of these that you want to have to happen when walking your cat. A fighting cat can be a danger to itself, to you and other animals. A cat that decides to run, whilst harnessed, can pose a tremendous risk to itself as it tries to run away. Finally, a cat that freezes will not move as you attempt to take it away from the situation and when you try to pick it up, it can very quickly turn aggressive towards you.
Walking cats outside safely
Once you have evaluated the risks, if you have decided that taking your cat for a walk is worthwhile it is important you take a few steps to ensure the best experience for you and ultimately your cat.
Using a cat harness
Never attach a lead straight to the collar. This is very dangerous to the cat. Their agile nature means they could potentially strangle themselves or cause themselves significant damage. A harness will give control and stability that takes away this risk.
Take a cat carrier with you
It may not sound like the most practical option but if your cat was to get scared or agitated, a retreat to the carrier may be enough to calm it from an uncomfortable situation. Picking it up when it is scared can lead to it turning its fear into aggression with you becoming the victim.
Stay close to home
If your cat hasn’t got much experience being outside, a walk in a strange area may not be the most welcoming thing for it to do. Perhaps try a walk in the garden first, with the harness and leash attached. Once it starts to feel comfortable, build up the distance and areas you cover.
Avoid retractable leashes
You may see these on dogs but on a cat, it is altogether different. The rapid acceleration means that if your lead is not locked, they could soon be off in the distance posing a risk to themselves, other animals and yourself. Keep the leash locked and then they can’t get too far away or in some cases, scamper up a tree whilst still attached.
How can you tell if your cat is scared?
If you are walking your cat outside but are unable to tell how comfortable it is, check for a few pointers. The common hissing and resistance to walking are clear indicators but also look for:
- Puffed tail
- Ears back or down to the side
- Locking on to animals or objects
- Trying to run away
- Dilated or slit-like pupils
- Enhanced posture
- Lots of meowing
- Darting eyes and head
All the above can indicate a cat is not happy in its surroundings. If you recognise these things, abandon the walk, and continue the garden or indoor training for a little while longer.
Taking your cat abroad
Going abroad and wanting to take your cat to explore with you? Speak to the team at PBS Pet Travel. We have years of experience in cat shipping so can organise hassle-free, worry-free transportation for your pet. Whatever type of pet travel you need, reach out today! Our animal experts can guide you through the process and give you all you need to know. Whether it be the journey your cat goes on or the need to know info regarding a pet passport, PBS Pet Travel will have the answer.