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What to Know Before Walking Your Cat
CatsBehavior

What to Know Before Walking Your Cat

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jun 13, 2022

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Taking your cat for a walk may sound silly, but surprisingly, many cat owners do it, at least for a short time. Indoor cats often don't have the survival skills to be let loose in the neighborhood, but you still want to get them some fresh air. Taking your cat for walks under controlled conditions can get them the best of both worlds.

You might need a few things before you start walking your cat. Instead of a collar, consider outfitting them with a harness they can't slip out of. Invest in a bell or a GPS tracker if they get loose in a strange place. Finally, make sure you both are up to this by asking yourself some thoughtful questions about whether walking your cat is a good idea.

1

Does your cat need or want to be walked?

owner walking pet cat on a leash Yury Karamanenko / Getty Images

Some cats enjoy getting outdoors, even if it has to be on a harness. Some indoor cats, however, don't care for the experience and won't respond well to walks. If you have an outdoor cat, they may not want to be taken for a stroll but prefer just to be turned loose.

Before taking your cat for a hike, make an honest assessment and proceed only if you think they'll respond well.

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2

Do you need or want to walk your cat?

Woman puts a leash on a pet cat, breed Scottish Straight, on the beach on a sunny day Oksana Fedorchuk / Getty Images

Just as every cat is unique, so are its owners. Walking a cat isn't for everybody, and you owe it to your cat to be honest about what you can put up with. As with any routine you get into with a pet, it's best if you fall into a pattern and stick to it. If you don't feel you can commit to regular parols, it might be better to give it a miss.

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3

Are you expecting a dog-walking experience?

Cropped image of man sitting next to his black cat outdoor Alina Rosanova / Getty Images

Dogs generally adore being on a leash; they can't wait to enjoy the outdoors. Cats have a very different set of impulses, and they react differently to the experience. Regardless of your kitty's normal temperament, you probably won't get bouncy enthusiasm or eagerness to get out and have a jog. Cats may enjoy some time outdoors, but yours will probably show it in more subtle ways.

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4

How high is your tolerance for loitering?

Woman walking with curious red cat on a leash on nature Remains / Getty Images

Cats are seldom in a hurry, and they don't feel the need to rush when they're having a good time. Be ready for a glacial pace even if your feline has chosen to walk with you today. Happy cats outside will divert to sniff plants, roll around for a bit, rest in a sunbeam, or just sit down and lick themselves. Budget some extra time, no matter how long or short your walk.

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5

Do you have a high frustration threshold?

Top view of fluffy ginger cat with white cat paws lying on green grass in garden Damian Lugowski / Getty Images

It's part of cats' charm that they feel no need to please humans. When you take your cat for a stroll, it is very likely they'll just lie down and rest. Cats can do this for hours, and all the gentle leash tugs in the world won't motivate them to move an inch. If you're going to try walking your cat, be ready to spend a lot of time standing next to them, not moving.

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6

Do you like talking to amused strangers?

cat on a leash being carried by owner kumikomini / Getty Images

Strangers find cats on a leash hilarious. If you're planning to walk your kitty through areas with lots of other people around, you should budget some extra time to answer questions about what you're doing.

Questions to have a pre-planned answer for include: What are you doing? Does your cat like going for walks? Why is your cat just lying there? The sun is going down. Will you be here long?

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7

Where can you walk your cat?

Woman walks with a british shorthair cat on a leash along a countryside road in summer Dzurag / Getty Images

Not every location is fit for walking a kitty. Noisy, high-traffic areas may be too stressful, as are places with lots of other animals, especially dogs. Remember that cats have an excellent sense of smell, and the scent of animals that passed through the area hours ago might distress them.

Start your cat's walks in familiar areas. The area around your house and neighboring green patches are probably ideal at first.

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8

How long should a walk be?

woman walking her cat on a leash StockRocket / Getty Images

Cats can't run all day the way dogs do, and they almost never want to walk in a straight line next to you all over the park. Territorial felines will cover vast distances on patrol, but not all at once. Respect your cat's natural inclinations and schedule a shorter walk than you would for a dog. Ideally, you and your kitty won't go far beyond your front yard or park across the street.

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9

What about kitty cleanup?

Man walking the cat on pet harness and leash Daria Kulkova / Getty Images

Cats are latrine animals. That means that, unlike dogs, they're drawn to the litter box when they feel the urge, rather than pawing at the door to get outside. As a result, your cat may not use the walk to relieve itself. That's great from a cleanup point of view, though there's always the chance you may have a small-ish mess to deal with. Think about carrying a small bag just in case.

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10

What does the vet think?

veterinarian checks cat while owner watches demaerre / Getty Images

Taking your cat for a walk is a decision about how to care for your pet. Like all such decisions, it's one you should make in conjunction with your vet. Your kitty may be unlike others, with health and safety issues all their own that affect how well they can tolerate daily walks, and you may have to make a special accommodation for them. Ask your vet whether you should be walking your cat.

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