Let me start by saying, I applaud your commitment to spending quality time with your cat. Walking a cat certainly isn't as common as walking a dog, but that doesn't mean it can't be done!
With a little patience, the right equipment, and proper training, you can turn even the most stubborn house cat into an enthusiastic walker. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Leash Train Your Cat... Carefully
The first step in taking your cat for a walk is, of course, leash training. Cats are notoriously independent creatures, so this may take some trial and error (and a lot of patience).
Start by letting your cat get used to the idea of wearing a harness or leash. Put it on them for short periods of time around the house so they can get used to the feel of it. Once they seem comfortable, take them outside for short walks around the block. Remember to go slowly at first and praise them when they do well!
Choose the Right Equipment
Not all harnesses and leashes are created equal - you'll want to find one that's comfortable for both you and your cat. For smaller cats, look for a lightweight harness with adjustable straps. For larger cats, you might prefer a sturdier option like a waist-mounted leash. And always opt for a shorter leash - you don't want your kitty getting too far away from you!
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Cats are creatures of comfort, so take care to walk them on days when the weather is mild. Avoid hot days when pavement can get too warm for their delicate paws and keep an eye out for storms - cats hate getting wet just as much as we do! If the weather isn't cooperating, try indoor walking instead (more on that later).
Be Prepared for Snags... Literally
Yes, even cats can get tangled in their own leashes! If your cat is particularly adept at doing this (or if you just want to be extra safe), consider investing in a retractable leash. That way, if they do manage to snag themselves, they won't end up getting hurt - and you won't end up being tripped or injured by the experience.
Be Prepared for Distractions
Whether it's a bird, a squirrel, or just a really interesting leaf, your cat will likely be distracted by something at some point during your walk. When this happens, simply stop and wait until your cat loses interest in the distraction before continuing on.
Cats are notoriously curious creatures, and any new sounds or just something moving in the bushes will grab their attention. They will likely try to go after it, so keep that in mind and be careful.
Try Indoor Walking Instead
Sometimes, going for an outdoor walk just isn't possible (or safe). If that's the case, don't despair - you can still get some exercise by walking your cat indoors. Create an obstacle course in your home using furniture and pet gates or invest in a specially designed indoor walking track. There are even apps you can use to virtual "walk" your cat if all else fails!
With a little patience and perseverance, you can turn even the most reluctant housecat into an enthusiastic walker. Just remember to go slowly at first, choose the right equipment, and be prepared for snags - literally! And if the weather isn't cooperating or you're just short on time, try indoor walking instead. Your cat will thank you for it... eventually.
We recently published an article reviewing five excellent cat harnesses. This is your best option for walking your cat - a good quality harness with a quality retractable leash. Check this out and get prepared for that first walk with your cat!