By Arden Moore, a dog and cat behavior expert and author of 26 best-selling pet books. She hosts the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and is a writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.
If you are fortunate to share your home with a confident indoor cat who is pining to investigate the great (but sometimes, scary) outdoors, a safe option is to train your feline friend to ride in a pet stroller you push.
Some senior dogs and canines with mobility issues have been enjoying sidewalk trips while cruising inside comfy strollers, so why not fine felines? You are giving your cat a chance to expand his world beyond inside your home and what he can see from a window perch or cat furniture tree. Being outdoors stimulates his mental muscles and hones his senses of smell, sight and sound. And, I guarantee that after your neighborhood jaunt, your cat will be ready for a cat nap!
In order to make this a win-win for you and your cat, heed these seven safety tips:
1. Size matters. Select a pet stroller that accommodates your cat’s size. He should be able to easily turn around inside it.
2. Tap your cat’s curiosity. Bring the stroller inside your home and allow your cat to investigate it on his own terms for a few days. Make the stroller more appealing by placing treats on the wheels and in the seat for your cat to sniff, find and enjoy.
3. Put your cat in the driver’s seat. Place him in the stroller in your home and reward him for staying (even for a few seconds) with a healthy treat. Consider place his bowl of food inside the stroller to build up his acceptance level.
4. Levitate the lid. Casually close the stroller’s lid with your cat inside for a few seconds and then lift the lid. Repeat and treat when your cat stays inside the stroller.
5. Ready for a test ride. Fit your cat in a feline-safe harness and leash. Place him in the stroller and make a short, slow test drive down your hallway to get him used to the motion of the stroller. Praise him and give him a small treat when he is sitting still. Repeat this a few times a day for a few days.
6. Contain your cat. If your cat jumps out of the stroller, gently place him back in and praise and treat him when he sits down. Timing is important. You want to reinforce the desired behavior (staying put) with a reward.
7. Ready for a ride. Bring your harnessed cat outside. Place him in the stroller, close the lid and push slowly in your driveway. Watch his reaction. If he seems content, expand down the sidewalk. Walk slowly but steadily and always reward with praise and treats.
Final tip: Time your stroller walk when the neighborhood dogs are not out. This will help minimize any perceived threat from your cat. Enjoy this special type of cat walk!
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