By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a cat insurance and dog insurance agency.
Got a bold, confident, curious cat? You know the type – the feline who loves snooping in drawers, watching the happenings in your street from a window perch. He may gain a lot of mental and physical stimulation benefits from leashed walks with you.
Daily walks, when done safely, also help your cat maintain a healthy weight. And your indoor cat will benefit by having the opportunity to explore a varied environment.
Before having your cat join you for a walk in your backyard or neighborhood, consider these tips:
1. Book an appointment with your veterinarian for an examination to make sure your cat is healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations to reduce his risk of contracting a contagious disease outdoors.
2. Select a harness and leash designed for cats and not for little dogs. Keep in mind that cats possess flexible spines and therefore, can easily wiggle out of dog harnesses. Consider bungee-style cat leashes rather than nylon leashes because they offer more give. Cats do not like being yanked. And make sure to attach the leash to the harness D ring and not to the collar because a sharp pull could injure your cat’s trachea.
3. Remember to be patient. Start by introducing your cat to the harness and leash inside your home. Let him become accustomed to it by first placing them around his food bowl or near his scratching post. Then put them on him and let him walk around the house. Be sure to praise him and provide him healthy treats to reinforce wearing the harness and leash. If he seems to accept wearing them, then try him in a secure outdoor location, such as a fenced backyard, before going out on the sidewalk together.
4. Accept the catwalk style. Cats, unlike dogs, prefer to meander, stop and start and walk in all directions, depending on what attracts their attention.
5. Stick to a schedule. Cats crave routines and your cat may look forward to your daily walks. Limit the walk to 10 minutes and time it, if possible, when the neighborhood dogs are not on their walks.
6. Look forward and all around. Pay attention to your surroundings and steer clear of spraying sprinklers, lawns sprayed with chemicals, leashed or loose dogs and other potential hazards to your cat.
7. Consider wheeling your cat. If your cat enjoys being outside but not walking on a leash – or if he is elderly – consider having him ride in a baby stroller. Just be sure to tether him to the stroller to safely prevent any escapes.
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