Is Cat Walking Right for You?

May 13, 2019

Sun’s out, leashes out! Springtime means no more excuses for getting our pets active and outside. This definitely applies to dog owners, but what about our feline friends? Dogs require exercise and socialization to release their energy and develop important social skills. Cats also require exercise and socialization but it’s important to know your cat before taking them outside or attempting to use a leash.

While many cat owners today believe keeping them indoors is safer than letting them roam outside, owners often feel guilty confining their pets to an indoor life. As a result, a growing number of cat owners are bringing their pets outside for supervised play or even leashed walks.

If you would like to take your cat outside, start training them indoors. Being outside may create a more stressful environment for your pet, so start small and don’t overwhelm them. Some cats love the outdoors while others are simply not suited to the change in environment and stimuli. There are many factors that may trigger a different response for the cat, including:

- Age: In general, kittens are much easier to leash-train than an older cat. The younger the cat, the more likely they will accept being on a leash. Of course, this is not a rule as your cat’s ability to walk on a leash will be based on their individual temperament or personality. For tips on leash training your cat, check out this handy article!

- Temperament: A cat’s reaction to leash training stems from their internal instincts and behaviours. It is not uncommon among cats to feel stressed in a leashed situation. Cats generally prefer a sense of control and wearing a snug harness may give them the opposite feeling. With cats having a natural territorial instinct, they may also feel uncomfortable in areas they are not familiar with. Start with reasonably small, familiar places when beginning to explore the great outdoors with your cat.

- Uncontrolled Environments: Smells, movements, and loud noises may startle your cat and can easily cause distress. As pet owners, we may have little control over these external factors. Bring a small towel with you when leash training or on walks to wrap and hold your cat if they are startled while outside.

Once you and your cat have mastered leash training and they have become comfortable with being outside, you may be faced with a new, indoor challenge. Many cats develop unwanted tendencies such as door dashing and meowing once they become more comfortable outside. As a precaution, microchip your pets and keep this in mind before you begin leash training!

Finally, it’s important to remember that your cat will not act like a dog! Cats will certainly act differently on a leash. Successful indoor leash training may not translate to successful behaviour outdoors. Every cat is different and training them for the outdoors is a lengthy process that not all felines will accept. However, like leash training a puppy, persistence and patience play a huge role in their success!

If you’re wondering if leash training is right for your cat, or if you have any other questions about cat-walking or cat behaviour, the helpful vets at Healthy Pets are just a text or video call away! Relax. Online vet care is here!