January is Walk Your Dog Month. While we usually associate walking pets with Fido, that may not be fair. Why should our canine pals have all the fun? Some cats actually like to be walked on a leash! In this article, a Fort Myers, FL veterinarian offers tips on walking your feline buddy.
Many kitties enjoy the stimulation and exercise provided by walks. However, that isn’t universal: some of our feline pals are scared of the outdoors!
It really comes down to the individual kitty. Our feline pals are all unique, to say the least. Some cats, such as Siamese cats, Bengal cats, Abyssinians, Manx cats, and Persian cats, enjoy being walked more than others. Former strays and shelter cats may also enjoy being walked.
While most cats should be fine to go on walks, it’s a good idea to check with your Fort Myers, FL vet, especially if your kitty is a kitten, senior, or has health issues.
It’s also important to make sure your feline pal is current on her preventative care. Fluffy should be fixed, microchipped, and current on vaccines and parasite control. Id tags are also a must. We recommend GPS tags as well.
Always put Fluffy’s safety first!
There are a few things to consider here. Avoid taking your feline pal near busy roads or places where she might run into loose dogs. Rivers and streams can also be dangerous. And while a few adventurous kitties may enjoy going to lakes or oceans, be very careful taking Fluffy near water. This goes double for us Floridians, as we have gators to worry about on top of everything else.
We would advise staying away from trees. When our feline buddies feel scared, they often climb trees instinctively. Fluffy’s little claws are curved in such a way that it is easy for her to climb up things. Going down is a whole other story: kitties have to learn that trick. (This is why cats can get stuck in trees.)
Exercise is first and foremost here. Staying active and fit is essential for all of our feline friends! Kittens can burn off some of their zoomies, adults can get a good workout, and senior kitties can stay strong and fit.
Some cats just enjoy being walked. Former stray cats, those who were previously allowed outdoors, and/or those who have bold and curious personalities tend to like walks the most. Super frisky furballs may also really enjoy it.
Walks can also provide Fluffy with much-needed mental stimulation. Despite their occasional (or ongoing) bouts of laziness, cats do require some type of enrichment. Just like humans, felines can grow tired of staring at the same things all day, every day. Investigating scents and observing birds and squirrels is great fun for Fluffy, and can help keep that motor going.
This is also much safer than letting Fluffy roam freely. Our feline friends may be quite adventurous, but they are also very small and fragile. When your kitty goes outside, she is exposed to a number of threats, including the weather, wild animals, cars, the weather, parasites, and even other cats. (It is also safer for wildlife! Every year, our adorable feline pals kill billions of small animals.)
The majority of the time, taking Fluffy on a leash should be safe, as long as you are taking proper precautions. However, there are a few things to consider.
Your kitty may pick up parasites or diseases. keep Fluffy’s vaccinations and parasite control up to date! Ask your Fort Myers, FL veterinarian for specific advice.
Stress is another possibility. Not all cats enjoy being walked. In fact, some may be terrified of the outdoors! If your cat doesn’t enjoy going outside, leave her alone.
There is a possibility that your pet will be injured or even get loose and run off. There could be a dog roaming loose, or you may lose control of your leash. These things aren’t necessarily likely, but they are possible. Stay vigilant and watch out for potential hazards.
Of course, the most likely con may also be the cutest. You may end up spoiling your cat! If Fluffy ends up liking her walks, she might give you an earful if you don’t take her out right meow!
Generally speaking, we’d say a one-mile round-trip is probably enough. However, it varies from kitty to kitty; for some cats, that may be too much. You may also need to keep walks shorter in that sweltering summer heat. Remember, even if you walk slowly, your kitty may have to run to keep up with you on those little legs.
If you notice your cat lagging or attempting to sit or lay down, it’s time to bring her home.
It’s worth noting that panting is a huge red flag in kitties: if Fluffy is panting, it’s a sign that she’s too hot and/or has overexerted herself. Offer her water, then carry her home right away.
This one is pretty easy, as the only things you need are a good, comfortable harness and a leash. We recommend using a regular collar for tags and a harness for the leash. Don’t clip a leash to a regular collar, though; it could be dangerous if Fluffy got stuck on something.
Don’t just immediately take Fluffy out. Your feline pal should get used to wearing her harness indoors. Once she’s comfortable with the harness, attach a leash to it and let her drag it around. It may take a while for her to get used to her gear. That’s purrfectly fine!
Only keep your pet’s gear on when you’re there so you can keep an eye on her. Cats are very playful, as we all know. Your cute pet may play with her leash, and could get tangled. That could be quite dangerous!
Once your furball has gotten used to her harness, you can just try taking her outside. A fenced yard is ideal for that first walk, but a quiet sidewalk will do. Of course, if there are loose dogs or other hazards in your neighborhood, you might want to hold off.
Give Fluffy a few minutes and see what she does. If she seems confused but interested, give her a few minutes, and see what she does. If she seems scared, take her back inside and offer her a window seat and a catnip mouse.
Don’t go too far on that first walk! There will be plenty of time for exploring later.
You may also want to film this: it’s bound to be cute.
First things first: Fluffy’s vaccinations and parasite control should be up-to-date. She should also be fixed, microchipped, and wearing ID tags. We also would suggest GPS tags, for added safety.
If you have any questions about your cat’s health or care, please contact us anytime. As your Fort Myers, FL pet clinic, we’re here to help!