Should You Take the Cat for a Walk?

Should You Take the Cat for a Walk?

There are now an estimated 10.8 million pet cats living in the UK with felines occupying 1 in 4 UK households. This makes cats Britain’s most popular pet! It’s a growing trend that more and more cat owners are opting to keep their pet cats indoors and this number is expected to continue increasing. The main reason being protection, with owners concerned about  the threat of injury from traffic, other animals and even other people.  However, many owners who chose an indoor lifestyle for their cat often question whether they are meeting their exercise needs.

 

Should cats be allowed outside?

 

Our cat friends have very instinctive behaviours that largely involve hunting, foraging and most importantly marking out territory. Letting your cat have access to the outside world will ensure that many of these emotional needs are met as well as the physical benefits of running, climbing and exploring new places.

Having said this, cats can be perfectly healthy and happy whether they live indoors or outdoors, as long as you pay close attention to meeting their full range of physical and psychological needs.  If these needs are being met then you don’t necessarily need to give them outside access.

 

Would indoor cats appreciate being taken for a walk?

 

In short the answer is not necessarily. . The reason being that many cats don’t appreciate being led on a lead or harness and the whole process can be stressful.  However, if you have a super chilled cat, or you’ve got them used to walkies from being a kitten then it could be something you are able to enjoy together. 

 

It’s important you understand and acknowledge your cat’s personality and why, for some, it is probably not likely to succeed. Not all cats are curious to find out what lies beyond the front door, and there are many cats who have timid and shy personalities and would probably therefore not take to the idea of walkies.

 

Older and sick cats are also unlikely to want to venture far from home and may find a harness heavy and uncomfortable.

 

Where do you start?

 

Ideally you would start getting your cat used to a harness and lead from a kitten. It is generally much harder to get an older cat used to the idea of wearing a harness without causing some stress. A cat that is distressed will potentially:

 

  • Run and hide
  • Freeze and refuse to move
  • Will show physical signs of distress and try to remove the harness themselves

 

If your cat is showing signs of distress and agitation after several separate attempts of having the harness on, this probably won’t work for your kitty.

Now, if your cat is relaxed and comfortable in their harness it is important to start slow. Begin with short walks in the garden or just outside the front door to get your cat used to the sudden rush of outside sights and smells.

 

It is also important to NEVER attempt to walk your cat in just a collar and a lead. Cats are natural climbers and there is a high risk of injury if you don’t use a harness.

 

I would also avoid areas with dogs!

What’s the Verdict?

 

You don’t need to take your cat for a walk and not all cats would enjoy the experience. However, if they are happy and relaxed in a harness and lead then why not!

 

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon
Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.