Are you interested in walking your cat? Before you start planning your cat's walks, it's important to determine whether he will enjoy being outside. Time spent on a leash is best for adventurous cats who spend a lot of time looking out windows or trying to get outside when you open the doors. Cats that show signs of boredom, such as grooming too much or destroying things around the house, are also good candidates for leash walks. Other cats who may enjoy time outside include those who live in small apartments and those who are transitioning from living a life mostly outside to living one that is mostly indoors.
1. Find the Right Equipment
Your cat probably already has a collar, but does it have the right identifying information on it? If not, purchase an ID tag that includes your cat's name and your phone number. This way, should he slip away while on a walk, people will be able to get him back to his home.
Despite having a collar, it is essential that you purchase a harness for your cat. Cats are slippery animals who are used to getting out of tight spots, and that includes a leash and collar. Because a harness hooks itself around most of your cat's body, it will be much harder for him to slip out of during his walk.
It is also important to find a sturdy leash for your cat. Choose one made of strong material (cats can be deceptively strong when they pull) and that is no more than six feet long. Always hold onto it tightly when walking your cat.
2. Teach Your Cat How To Wear His Harness
Before you start walking your cat outdoors, it's important to let him get used to his new equipment. First, set his new harness and leash out where he can explore it on his own time. Use a clicker, treats, or both to help him view the harness as something positive. Every time he sniffs, touches, or otherwise shows interest in it, make a clicking noise and give him a treat.
After he's checked it out by himself for a while, pick the harness up and drape it over him. Chances are he will run or pull it off, especially if he's never been around one before. However, do this every once in a while. When he starts to stay still without running away, use the clicker and give him a treat.
Once your cat is used to how the harness feels draped over his body, you can put him into it. Throughout putting the harness on him and snapping it into place, use plenty of clicking noises and give him treats to show him that wearing the harness gets him rewarded.
3. Walk Your Cat Indoors First
Allow your cat to get comfortable wearing a harness indoors first. There are several steps to take when walking your cat indoors. First, let him wander around the house in just the harness, then add you holding the leash to the mix. Provide lots of clicks and treats to show him that he is doing a good job and help him create a positive association with the leash and harness. If he starts to struggle or refuses to walk anywhere, take a break. Try again later, working your way back to a level your cat was previously comfortable with before moving forward. Take as long as you need for your cat to regularly be comfortable walking around the house on the leash, whether it is hours, days, or weeks. You never want to force your cat into a new situation.
4. Stay Close To Home
When you first start to walk your cat outdoors, stick to your own yard or nearby to your apartment. You can gradually go a little further every time you walk him. Remember that walking a cat is much different than walking a dog. Cats are much more independent and will expect to lead the walk themselves. It may be a slower walk as your cat sniffs things, chases bugs, and so on. If you need to make any corrections, do so gently. Yanking on the leash will only anger your cat and make him more likely to try to go where you don't want him to go. Keep walks short so your cat doesn't tire too easily.
5. Protect Your Cat While You're Outdoors
It is important to protect your cat when you walk him outside. Before you venture outdoors, take him to the vet to make sure all of his shots are up to date and get him microchipped. This way, he is less likely to find something that makes him sick and more likely to find his way home should he slip out of the harness.
Protecting your cat from fleas, heartworm, and other parasites is also important. Talk to your vet about the best flea medications and heartworm preventatives for your cat. Heartworm preventatives will also protect your cat from other types of parasites, such as roundworms and hookworms.
Finally, remember to avoid letting your cat chew on the plants he finds. Many plants, such as lilies, tulips, and azaleas, can cause your cat to vomit, have diarrhea, or even lead to kidney failure. Be sure to familiarize yourself with plants that are toxic to cats and what they look like before you venture outside.
Whether you're going on a short walk each evening or using it as a special treat for your cat, preparing first will ensure you and your pet both have a great time exploring new things together.