Should I Walk My Cat? Is It Suitable to Take My Cat Out? How to Walk a Cat Scientifically?
My cat always sits by the window, looking outside. Whenever I open the door to throw out the trash, he immediately sticks his head in to see what's going on. It seems like he is...
“My cat always sits by the window, looking outside. Whenever I open the door to throw out the trash, he immediately sticks his head in to see what's going on. It seems like he is very curious about the outside world. I also want to take my cat out to play, but I'm worried about potential issues. Should I take my cat out?”
1. Is it beneficial to walk cats?
In many people's minds, walking dogs is a common practice, and those who don't want to walk dogs opt for cats. This belief is only partially true. Most of the time, cats are content staying indoors because they are creatures of habit and prefer a defined territory. However, cats are natural hunters, and they need activities like hunting, roaming, and patrolling their territory. Without enough space to climb, explore, toys, and interaction with their owners, cats can exhibit abnormal behaviors such as compulsive grooming, excessive meowing, and may even develop health issues like obesity and urinary problems.
Renowned cat behavior expert Jackson Galaxy has mentioned in his show "My Cat from Hell" that about 15% of cats are suitable for outdoor walks. Outdoor activities help cats expend excess energy, enjoy the sun for bone health, and return home to eat, sleep, and groom without causing trouble. So, if a cat has a sufficiently large and stimulating indoor environment with the owner's company, they may not feel the need to go elsewhere.
However, some cats are naturally energetic and need more stimulation. In such cases, taking them out for a walk, not allowing them to roam freely, especially in urban areas, is responsible pet ownership. The risk of a cat getting lost is high in densely populated areas, and, for instance, if you live in a high-rise apartment, the cat won't use the elevator, so walking the cat with a leash under supervision is the preferred method. Not all cats are suitable for outdoor walks.
2. Benefits of outdoor activities for cats
Allowing cats to explore the outdoors provides them with a chance to satisfy their curiosity, offering a vast space to discover new scents, sights, insects, and more. Cats become excited and happy during outdoor adventures.
Outdoors, cats can freely scratch to maintain their claws, expressing their natural behavior. Outdoor activities increase a cat's overall physical activity, serving as a form of exercise, particularly useful for overweight cats. Experiencing the outdoor environment helps cats build a perspective on life, reducing fear of humans and promoting mental and physical well-being.
Just like dogs, cats can interact with other cats through scent, creating their own "social circle."
3. Understand your cat's personality first
If you want to nurture an outgoing cat, start by understanding its personality. Spend time playing and interacting with a cat, especially if it is timid. Socializing a cat is easier when they are young. However, older cats may resist such efforts more strongly.
Not all cats are suitable for outdoor activities. Cats with a bold and sociable temperament or those already familiar with various stimuli are more likely to adapt. Most cats, however, are cautious and careful, making any outdoor environment potentially dangerous. Introducing a cat to the outdoors without proper preparation may cause stress and, in severe cases, stress-induced illnesses.
Why do cats often stare out of the window or put their heads outside when the door is opened? It's mostly due to curiosity. Cats see their visual surroundings as their territory and need to ensure it is safe. Additionally, the movement of birds and leaves outside easily captures a cat's attention. Some cat owners mistakenly believe their cats desire to explore the outside world, only to find them trembling and afraid when taken outside.
How to determine if a cat is bold enough and not afraid of new experiences? Consider its behavior when taken to the vet. If it remains calm or even plays, you can try taking it outside. However, it's not an immediate process; preparation is necessary to ensure the cat's health and safety. This includes selecting an appropriate harness, acclimating the cat to it, and gradually introducing the cat to the outside environment.
4. Risks of outdoor activities for cats
Hygiene: Cats are more exposed to common parasites in outdoor environments, especially in grassy areas or trees. Regular internal and external parasite prevention is essential.
Territorial Nature: Cats have strong territorial instincts. When encountering other cats or dogs outdoors, cautiousness is crucial. Gradual introductions can help prevent aggressive reactions.
Toxic Plants: Some common garden plants and flowers are toxic to cats, such as lilies or poinsettias. Awareness and avoidance are essential to prevent poisoning.
Emergency Preparedness: Always carry a cat carrier bag in case of unforeseen events or emergencies. This provides a safe space for the cat if it gets scared or stressed.
5. How to Train Your Cat
Now, let's discuss how to train your cat for outdoor activities. Training requires patience and understanding of your cat's behavior. It's an ongoing process that requires time and dedication. The goal is to build a positive relationship with your cat during this training.
Psychological Preparation: Before training, expose your cat to indoor noises like cars, walking, running, and even intentionally create sudden sounds to observe their reactions. Regular play and interaction with family and friends help accustom the cat to different stimuli. Opening the door occasionally, allowing the cat to explore, contributes to its gradual adjustment to the outside world.
Preparation for Training: Necessary training equipment includes a cat harness, leash, small treats, and an outdoor backpack. Cats have flexible bodies and can easily escape, so a well-fitting harness is crucial. Start by having the cat wear the harness indoors for short periods, using treats as rewards. Once comfortable, attach the leash and let the cat explore indoors.
Initial Outdoor Activities: Start with short outdoor activities in a confined space, such as a backyard or hallway. If the cat becomes nervous, provide comfort through petting or treats. The leash should be kept at a manageable length, allowing the cat freedom but ensuring control. Never forcefully pull the cat if it resists, but instead, use a gentle approach or move to a more open area.
Exploring the Wider World: After successfully adapting to small outdoor spaces, gradually expand to more extensive environments. Choose bright, quiet areas for observation. Before each outing, ensure the cat isn't overly fed. If the cat becomes scared, offer comfort or treats to alleviate its anxiety. Keep the leash at a controllable length, and limit outdoor activities to 10-15 minutes, as prolonged exposure may cause psychological stress.
After each outdoor adventure, clean the cat's paws thoroughly due to potential dust and bacteria. Allow the cat to drink water and eat, observing its behavior for any unusual signs. If everything is normal, consider it a successful exploration.
Training is a long-term process, requiring patience and an understanding of your cat's behavior. Many cases abroad demonstrate that cats can be trained for outdoor walks. If you aim to master the art of walking a cat, be prepared to invest time and effort, setting a goal to persist for at least three months.