Should you take your cat for a walk? (Picture: Getty)When you live in a flat or don’t have easy cat-sized access to the outdoors, you start to worry about your cat never seeing a world outside your home.
Sure, they could be an ‘outdoor cat’, but you worry about them getting lost, attacked by foxes or hit by cars.
But you don’t want to keep them cooped up all day either, never knowing the joy of grass and watching the birds fly by.
A possible solution is taking your cat out for a walk. Yes, like a dog.
Walking cats on leads hasn’t really hit the mainstream, and it’s likely those who do it will get a couple of amused looks, but it is possible and people do it (we promise, you won’t be the only person in the world attempting to wrangle your cat into a harness).
Unlike dogs, however, cats aren’t always super enthusiastic to go walkies.
Starting to take your cat for walks can be a complex process, requiring lots of patience and care.
Every cat is different and has their own likes and dislikes. So before you even think of opening the door, you’ll need to work out if your cat will be unbothered by a harness (you’ll need a harness rather than just a collar and lead, to make sure you don’t hurt your cat’s neck).
That requires harness training.
If you’re going to take your cat outdoors, you’ll need to slowly introduce the harness (Picture: Getty)Pretty simple – you see if your cat will even allow you to put them in their special harness. If they clearly seem distressed or just very, very angry, taking them out for walks might not be a realistic option.
If they’re fine with wearing a harness, though, start by letting them wear it for a bit as they play around the house. Do this once a day for around ten to twenty minutes each time, checking to see your cat is able to roam around easily without any discomfort or upset.
Keep things relaxed and reward your cat with a treat and plenty of strokes after each harness session.
Daniel Cummings, Behaviour Manager for Cats Protection, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘While some cats may cope with [being taken out for walks], if introduced to the harness in a positive and appropriate way, many will find it stressful.
‘A lot of cats would not react well to being restrained by a harness so the experience may be more negative than not having any outdoor access.’
Some cats will love going for walks, others really won’t (Picture: Getty)If everything’s going wonderfully and your cat seems not to mind wearing a harness, it’s then time to introduce them to the outside world. Start small by carrying your cat just outside your home and letting them have a sniff around the area.
Again, you’ll need to keep a close eye on how your cat is finding the experience. If they’re panicked and clearly want to go back inside, cut the walk short and take them home. If they’re loving life, next time you can venture slightly further out.
If your cat is comfortable being taken outside on the harness, you can start taking them to a nearby park or just around your street.
It’s best not to plan a specific route. Cats aren’t like dogs and won’t be happy going somewhere they don’t fancy, so rather than an official ‘walk’, think of your time outside as more of a general wander.
Give your cat enough space on their lead to seek out what interests them and to not feel restricted, but of course avoid areas with cars, loud noises, or anything else that could give them a startle.
Think of the adventures you could go on (Picture: Getty)Daniel says: ‘Cats are free-roaming creatures that like to explore their environment at their own pace and easily access suitable hiding places if they feel threatened.’
They need to know that they’re in control and can move around with a bit of freedom (even if you are holding the other end of the lead to make sure they don’t run off).
Throughout every step of the process, you have to keep an eye on your cat for any signs of distress, such as cats hissing, growling, or trying to pull away. If they’re unhappy, stop right away and retreat back to their usual surroundings.
And don’t panic if your cat just doesn’t fancy going for walks. They’re not doomed to a life of being bored at home.
Rather than trying to force your cat into doing something they don’t enjoy, if you’re worried about your cat’s activity levels you’re best bet is to make your indoor environment as entertaining as possible.
The RSPCA tells us: ‘Some loving owners who have cats that live indoors-only may feel that walking cats outside on a harness or collar is beneficial for their welfare.
‘However, like all pets, cats have very different personalities and preferences
‘We would generally suggest that for most cats taking steps to provide an indoor environment which has plenty of opportunities to be active and mentally stimulated with toys, interacting and playing with their owners, and things to climb on is likely to be more beneficial for their welfare.’
In short: tune into what your cat would enjoy, take them for walks if they’re keen, but don’t worry if they’re not – plenty of playtime at home will be appreciated too.
In honour of Catfest, we will be partnering with the festival to bring you seven days of the funniest, cutest, coolest and most amazing cat content.
Until Saturday 29 June, read stories about all things cats, including kittens abandoned on rubbish dumps to fantastic cat art, and everything in-between.
Catfest will include cat-themed literature and film plus live music, poetry and crafts. There will be rescue kittens, talks from cat experts, Instagram cats and an auction as well as cocktails, cake and much more. Tickets have sold out, but you can still get involved on social media.
Part of the proceeds from the event will benefit Erham Rescue and International Trash Cat & Dumpster Dogs to help cats and kittens as well as street animals in need.
Are you the owner of a fantastic cat? Then tweet us your cutest kitty pics @MetroUK and @MetroUK_Life for a chance to be featured!
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