WALKING CATS PROVIDES ENRICHMENT

Indoor cats must always stay indoors! Not true. Many pet parents have found that walking cats provides enrichment that cannot be equalled. Sure, watching birds, squirrels and lizards through the window is okay but allowing them the opportunity to breath and smell the fresh air brings far greater joy. Plus, it’s an experience that feline and human can engage in together. It strengthens their bond, an unbreakable bond.

Walking cats provides enrichment which can be done safely by using a strap harness 
Credit: Photo by K B
Walking cats provides enrichment which can be done safely by using a strap harness
Credit: Photo by K B

Some Kitties Also Hike And Swim

Although it’s not very common that you’ll actually see a cat being walked, sometimes they participate in other “unusual” activities, too. There are kitties that go hiking. Others enjoy a little swim in the pool. 

It’s all up to the creativity of the cat guardian to experiment and find ways to stimulate their pet. The relatively effortless act of walking enriches feline lives. It’s worth remembering that both physical and mental exercise prevent boredom and help keep them in good health, as well. It allows them to thrive, not just be.

As you can see, walking enriches feline lives by allowing them to experience nature up close
As you can see, walking enriches feline lives by allowing them to experience nature up close

KITTING OUT YOUR KITTY

Kitty ID

Before your cat companion ventures beyond your front door, make sure you have everything it needs to be safe and comfortable.

As you know by now, I do not take chances. So, if Fluffy tolerates wearing a collar that displays her ID, make sure she is wearing it while on her trip into the big, wide world. Please ensure it is the breakaway type so that it will unfasten if she were to ever get caught up or tangled. That way, she can free herself and avoid further injury.

Made by hand and made to measure, a harness designer can offer unique detailing
Made by hand and made to measure, a harness designer can offer unique detailing

Harness And Leash

Since cats are far more delicate than dogs, it is never advisable to try walking her with the leash attached to a collar. There are special harnesses just for cats and the leash will clip onto the ring between the shoulders or a little further down the back.

There are two basic styles of harnesses for cats. 

Firstly, we have the fabric, vest-type design, that is usually made of soft mesh. It slips over the head, passes underneath the chest, behind the front legs and two side straps snap together between the shoulders.

An example of how cats can enjoy the outdoors and bond with their guardian 
Credit: Photo by Birhanb
An example of how cats can enjoy the outdoors and bond with their guardian
Credit: Photo by Birhanb

Then there is the one that is all straps. It is actually two loops that are joined together by a strap that rests on the cat’s upper back. The straps that form the neck loop and the girth loop are positioned and then snapped in place.

Getting Accustomed

Now, if you strongly believe that walking cats provides enrichment and you want to give it a try, ideally you should start in kittenhood. To begin with, the youngster will need to learn to accept a harness, firstly indoors and then outside. Try it out for just a few minutes and then gradually build up to longer periods. 

Since cats are more delicate than dogs, a snug-fitting, fabric harness vest is ideal
Since cats are more delicate than dogs, a snug-fitting, fabric harness vest is ideal

Getting used to how the harness feels and walking at the end of a leash requires practice. This will help to minimize any possible stress and reluctance, and ensure it becomes an experience to look forward to. 

However, you need to realize that not all cats like wearing a harness. The older they are when they are first introduced to it, the greater the likelihood that your feline friend will refuse to wear one. You simply won’t know how she will react until you try.

In cooler weather, your kitty can still enjoy a walk wearing its harness over a sweater
In cooler weather, your kitty can still enjoy a walk wearing its harness over a sweater

To Sum Up

Most indoor cats never have the opportunity to go outdoors. They can only imagine what it’s like by staring at the outside through a window from the inside.

An indoor cat can benefit greatly from these walks. It is really great exercise. She will stay agile and in her optimum weight. It will stimulate her senses, serve as enrichment, and make her a very happy kitty indeed!

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  


USE HEAD COLLARS CAUTIOUSLY

Use head collars cautiously to avoid injury if you are walking a reactive dog
This head collar is also sometimes called a gentle leader

So, what are the options available to pet parents with a dog that is reactive on leash? A head collar is just one of them. But you need to use head collars cautiously.

Also known as a gentle leader, this tool needs to be introduced with a lot of care and patience so that Fido does not become fearful.

How To Use Head Collars/Gentle Leaders

It’s only fair for me to start off by saying that I have not yet met a dog that likes being fitted with one. My experience is that at the outset, dogs will usually show some degree of resistance. However, that uncertainty is soon short-lived because of the overwhelming desire to go walkies!

The loop fits over the snout and two straps snap together on the back of the neck. It needs to fit snugly but never too tight. A dog still needs to be able to open its mouth sufficiently to allow for panting. The ring for connecting the leash is located on the short strap that hangs down the center of the dog’s chest.

Watch Out For Rolling Antics 

A lot of dogs act out on the walk and will roll around on the ground trying to get the head collar off. As an extra precaution, I will also use a regular collar and leash just in case that happens. 

One of my dog clients is a GoldenDoodle, very sweet, very playful and very comical. He loves to roll on grass and he can run like the wind. So, here is an instance where I prefer to pre-empt an unfortunate situation and use both restraints simultaneously.

Gentle Correction With The Gentle Leader 

A dog’s nose is a very sensitive area so any correction must be done cautiously. Pulling hard on the leash and jerking must be avoided at all costs to prevent injury.

To Sum Up

As I said at the outset, be careful when using head collars (gentle leaders). They only work well if both the walker and the one at the end of the leash are in harmony. Give it a try. It’s well worth the effort! 

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  

ARE RETRACTIBLE LEASHES SAFE?

Two types of retractible leashes

This is definitely one of my major pet peeves.
Why?
Because they are misused, they can break, they may cause injury
and, 99% of the time, handlers are clueless of the risks involved when they are used to go walkies.

Misuse
Any leash that has a reach of around 30 feet is not meant to be used for regular dog walking and certainly not where there is traffic, however light. Nevertheless, a retractable leash can be a good tool for obedience training in a wide open space.

Breakage
The spring mechanism can malfunction; either not extend or not retract. If the thin cord or the flat nylon strip snaps, you have a dog on the loose and the leash can boomerang back to hit the person holding the plastic handle.

Injury
If any part of the leash gets wrapped around the human’s leg, it can cause burns or cuts. Also, the dog, as well as other dogs, may be at risk of injury if they become entangled.

Another harmful scenario is when the human suddenly stops the leash from extending, or when it is allowed to spool out totally and the moving canine is suddenly stopped in its tracks. Neck wounds and throat injuries as well as damage to the spine are frequently the result.

The 99 percent
In my experience, 99% of retractable leash dog walkers are clueless risk takers. Here are some examples to ponder.

  • A dog that has not be trained to walk correctly will pull because it knows it will always be given more leeway.
  • The plastic case is bulky, you bend over to pick up his business, you fumble, you drop the leash… it’s dragged along the ground and makes a noise which scares the dog as it runs faster to get away from the noise, traumatized.
  • You are distracted, you forget to click the spool tight, your dog sees a squirrel, your dog takes off…
  • You are still distracted, you are still talking on your phone, but this time your dog is walking 12 feet behind you, you have no idea what he’s up to.
  • Your dog is 6 feet ahead of you, turns the corner and comes face-to-face with an unfriendly canine, an altercation begins, you are unable to control your dog…

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!