Cat Walking, Your Questions Answered!
Can you walk a cat?
Absolutely! Did you know that people have been walking with their cats for decades? Just check out this incredible photo of Hollywood legend Cary Grant taking his Siamese kitty for a walk back in the 1950’s! Bill Clinton was also a fan of cat walking, often taking his cat Socks for a stroll around the grounds of the White House.
When thinking about cat walking, it's important to remember that...
You will need to harness train your kitty
Our cats are smart, but they will need some time in 'harness school' to get happy and confident with a harness and leash. Carve out a few minutes each day or couple of days, and work your way through our fabulous step-by-step harness training guide.
Walking a cat on a leash isn't like walking a dog!
First of all, your cat will be walking you! Think of a taking a cat for a walk as more of an exploration outdoors, guided by your kitty, with you looking out for them to make sure they are safe.
As you'll soon discover, cats rarely navigate from A to B. Instead they like to cover the same ground multiple times, often rubbing their cheeks on the items they pass to scent mark them as they go! This is great fun, but it means that you're unlikely to be able to cover much linear ground, so don't plan a trip to the local coffee shop and expect them to walk to with you the whole way! If you do have some ground to cover, cat backpacks can be a great way to do so.
Why would I walk my cat?
If you're curious about walking a cat on a leash but not sure if it's right for you and your kitty, here are some of the reasons you may want to give it a go!
Enrichment for indoor cats
Much as our cats love curling up in front of a cosy fire, our curious kitties can also benefit from a walk in the 'wild' to excite all of their natural senses, especially if they are indoor cats. The 'wild' doesn't have to mean the great outdoors - in fact, in a recent Supakit survey we found that most of our community who walk their cats do so in their gardens. Just a short time exploring the garden with your cat can satisfy their sensory needs and ensure that their days are rich with stimulation.
If your cat is not fond of a carrier, travelling with them on a harness (for example to the vet) is a great alternative. We find in our community that once a cat is happily harness trained, it opens up a world of additional possibilities when it comes to taking them from A to B. You can go for a harness on its own, or in combination with a backpack or carrier, and tailor your methods to your cat's preferences. Just a note though, make sure to get all your harness training in well beforehand before you embark on your first trip!
Helping our cats stay trim and healthy is a priority for any owner, and with 50% of cats in need of some degree of weight loss to achieve a healthy weight, gentle leash walks are the perfect way for a cat to keep fit and healthy! Walking is also very low impact, so gentle on your kitty's joints, although if your cat is a little older or arthritic it's worth checking in with your vet to work out the best plan for them.
Strengthening your bond
Walking your cat can create an amazing and deep bond of trust between you both. You'll find yourself becoming more tuned in to their body language as you interact together to navigate the outdoors, and you'll get to enjoy a guided tour of the world from your cat's unique perspective! The saying 'take the time to stop and smell the roses' has never been more appropriate than when out exploring with your cat! Some of our most special moments with our cats have been while walking together.
How do I know if my cat will enjoy walking?
Under the right conditions, almost all cats will enjoy time spent outdoors. Just remember to master the harness training first, and follow your cat's cues about what their comfort level is. It might be that your cat is content to just stand on the back door step, sniffing the breeze, and that's totally cool!
Your cat will let you know what they're comfortable with, so just take the time to get to know their body language and never force them to do anything they're not into.
One additional top tip is that even for confident kitties, it can be very beneficial to take a 'safe space' with you for them to retreat to if they are ever spooked while you are out and about. A backpack, carrier or stroller is perfect for this! We also know that many cat parents are nervous about running into off leash dogs whilst out exploring, so a safe space is ideal for these sorts of situations (which are thankfully rare).
Related post: 'Cat Exploring For Beginners'
What is the best age to start walking with my cat?
If your cat is a kitten, then it's a wonderful time to introduce them to walking on a harness and leash, but it's it absolutely never to late to begin walking your cat - even if your cat is well into adulthood or even a senior kitty!
All of the same principles apply. Just progress patiently and consistently with your harness training, following your cats cues and making sure they've aced each stage and are super chilled before progressing to the next one. You can use our harness training guide to plan your training schedule.
If you’d like further information on how to keep your cat happy on a walk, head over to our blog post ‘How to keep your cat happy outside of the home with Tabitha Kucera’.