February is National Walk Your Pet Month. I see a lot of dogs on leash (and off—which is a huge no-no). But even the dogs with unlawful owners are getting walked. They’re getting exercise and they’re being stimulated by new sights and sounds. Walking can give dogs the same benefit this activity gives you. In our area, I’ve even seen ponies being led through neighborhoods, sheep and goats on leash, and even some sort of big, colorful lizard. But what about taking your cat for a walk?
I’ve had cats who followed me when I’d go out for a walk. On those days, I’d walk close to home—not wanting to lead my cat astray or into danger. I had one cat who didn’t mind wearing a harness and I’d often take her outside on a long leash with me. But I didn’t try to take her out for a walk. Rags, in my Klepto Cat Mystery stories is leash-trained. Well, I must say, he’s not actually trained. He often pulls his mistress, Savannah, in direction she doesn’t want to go—but usually for a very good reason. But he does wear a harness—in fact, he’s usually eager to climb into his harness when it’s presented—and he does go outside for supervised activity.
It’s not a totally uncommon practice to leash-train a cat. There were maybe two dozen or more cats at the Blog Paws/Cat Writers Conference in Arizona last year and all of them were contained—most in pet strollers and almost all of them wore harnesses and leashes. Some even walked the red carpet the night of our banquet to show off their evening clothes.
Yes, cats can be leash-trained. Well, that is some cats. We tried it with one kitten when he was about 10-weeks old and boy did he rebel. No matter the style of harness we put on him, he could flip right out of it. I believe there are better-made harnesses available today.
The main reason for “walk your pet month” is to raise awareness as to the importance of exercise for animals—it won’t hurt you, the owner any, either. Can’t walk? Ride your dog, iguana, pig, or pony around the block using your bicycle or your electric scooter.
Does your cat have access to the out of doors? Ours do not. So taking them out for a walk might be a good idea. However, then we’d be exposing our cats to fleas, and potential danger (loose dogs, for example). And would they start darting out the door every chance they got? Currently, they’re contented to stay inside–no worries about them sneaking out (like my fictional character, Rags, does).
I walk every day. If I had a dog, he or she would be walking with me. But I’ve chosen to keep my cats indoors and provide them with climbing apparatus and other simulation in hopes that they are getting enough exercise. Obviously, I’m torn when it comes to taking a cat for a walk outside. How do you feel about it?