Walking Your Cat This Winter?

Discover how to read the signs when taking your cat for a walk.

Taking your cat out can be fun but challenging

Pet travel experts PBS Pet Travel looked at how the rising trend of cat walking can be a fun yet challenging part of cat ownership. Depending on where you live, you may not be able to let your cat roam free in the same way other people can. Instead, you have to consider taking your cats for a walk. With declining greenspaces and increases in the number of houses being built, for many, cat walking is the only viable option for getting your feline friend outside in some fresh air.

Taking your cat for a walk

Cats are natural predators and will take any opportunity to hunt down some prey. When walking a cat, they may suddenly spot something and go from being stationary or strolling, to accelerating faster than a Ferrari. This is why the way they are attached to a leash is important.
Never attach a leash directly to the collar. With them being so agile, and prone to rapid acceleration, they could cause themselves severe damage. Instead, use a harness. With added control and stability, the risk of strangulation or injury is removed or at least, reduced. Try the harness indoors first though to get them adjusted to using it. Do not force it though. An unhappy cat outdoors could very quickly become an unhappy cat indoors and then ruin what was once the perfect pet-owner relationship.
Take a cat carrier with you. It may not be the most practical thing to do but retreating into a cat carrier may be the easiest way for your cat to feel safe and secure should an uncomfortable situation for it arise. This is a much better option than just picking it up. Picking a scared cat up could see it turn its fear into aggression and use it against you instead.
Stay close to home. If you are in a built-up area, somewhere new, or your cat is inexperienced in walking outside a walk close to home will benefit both you and the cat. Over time, its confidence will develop and you can start to explore areas further afield.
Avoid retractable leashes. These may be popular with dogs but the rapid acceleration from a cat could see a risk presented to both you and the cat. If scared it could race off into the distance, putting yourself, your cat and other animals potentially at risk.
With it being cold you will almost certainly need to consider a fleece jacket and a snood for your cat. In addition, if the areas you are walking them are icy watch how it has been treated! The chemicals used to break down ice and snow can be harmful, especially if your cat chooses to lick its paws when it gets back home.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze!

Cats have an incredible sense of smell and are attracted to certain scents. Others may scare them though, especially those of another cat. You will obviously want to calm it down but trying to intervene could see the agitation turned to aggression and you ending up scratched, the cat ending up stressed and the walk ending before it’s really got started.
Occasionally a cat is the prey for other animals when you are on a walk. In this instance, it’s a case of fight, flight, or freeze. None of which you want to have happen.
If the cat goes to fight, it can put itself, you, and the other animal at risk. If it chooses flight, its speedy getaway could cause injury to itself and you. When it chooses to freeze, not only does it put itself at risk of attack but its reluctance to move means that it can turn from frozen still to an aggressive agile animal that turns its aggression on you.

Signs to spot

If your cat shows any of the following when out on a walk then it is not comfortable with its surroundings. You may need to change where you walk it, or stop the walks for a while:
  • Puffed tail
  • Ears back or down to the side
  • Locking eyes onto animals or other objects
  • Trying to run away
  • Dilated or slit-like pupils
  • Enhanced posture
  • Lots of meowing
  • Darting eyes and head
If these things happen, consider more indoor training or utilising your garden if you have one.
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