The Dos & Don'ts of Meeting Dogs & New People While Walking Your Cat
As a cat parent, you know that outdoor activities are healthy for your feline friend, but there's so much to think about as dogs may be present in the park, or there are other people around. Here’s how to stay safe while enjoying the great outdoors with your cat.
Dos and Don’ts when your cat meets dogs
Dogs in the park may appear cute, but they're not your cat's best friends. Some dogs see cats as prey and will chase them. In this guide, we'll cover the dos and don'ts if your feline friend meets a four-legged furry friend.
- Do keep calm and act confident. If you sense that your cat is becoming frightened because of a dog, keep your cool before doing anything else. Your calmness will help reassure your cat that everything is OK.
- Do let your cat hide away if they want to. Your cat knows best how to react to a situation and will try to find hiding places or head for home if possible.
- Do distract your cat with treats or a toy. It can help calm your cat down and your cat will be less likely to notice the dog.
- Do keep your cat in a harness or carrier. If you keep your cat safely on a leash, you should be able to walk away from the situation. Keep your cat in their carrier if they’re small or shy, or if they have trouble walking on their leash.
- Do walk away from the dog. Off-leash dogs can be unpredictable, and even the best-trained dogs can be less likely to follow directions if they’re excited. Move away from the dog slowly and quietly. Don't make any sudden moves that might startle your cat.
- Don't allow your cat to approach an unfamiliar dog. Dogs have different temperaments, and some are more likely to attack cats than others. Even if the dog is friendly, allowing your cat to approach can be a dangerous mistake since many dogs will instinctively chase a running cat (even if they don't intend to hurt the cat).
- Don't let your cat sniff the dog's face. Your kitty might be friendly and run up to a stranger's dog and nuzzle their face, but this is never a good idea. Dogs tend to find it very invasive and uncomfortable. Letting your cat sniff the air around a strange dog is okay as long as they don't get too close.
- Don't stare at the dog. Staring is interpreted as a threat. If you're walking your cat, you should avoid a dog on the sidewalk or position yourself between them.
- Don't run. Running is understood as a prey response - it will encourage the dog to chase.
- Don't allow your cat to stare at or hiss at a dog. You don't want your cat to feel like prey. The dog learns that the cat is a threat by picking up on body language, so it's best for the cat to ignore the dog.
Dos and Don’ts when your cat meets people
What do you do if someone comes up to you and your cat? Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Do say hello. Let your cat approach people on their own terms. Remember, your cat can be shy and sometimes doesn’t like being approached by strangers. But once your kitty has had enough time to assess the situation, they might be happy to approach new people. This will help your kitty feel more confident on walks and make them less afraid of unfamiliar faces. If they don't, that’s okay too.
- Do allow your cat some space at first. When you arrive at the park, let your cat wander around for a few minutes before letting any strangers approach them or pet them. This will give them time to calm down and get used to their new environment while also giving strangers time to warm up to their presence.
- Do keep an eye on your cat's body language. When introducing your cat to someone else, watch their body language carefully. If they feel uncomfortable, they may have their ears back and their whiskers pointing sideways instead of forward. They might also crouch down low or tuck their tail between their legs. If you notice this behavior, keep a close eye on them and be ready to remove them from the situation if things get worse.
- Don't force your cat onto anyone. If your cat is hiding or seems nervous, let them be. They may just need more time and space to warm up to their surroundings—and that’s okay! Pushing them into unfamiliar situations could cause them stress and make them even more afraid of people than before. Some cats simply don’t enjoy socializing with people they don’t know, so respect their boundaries and encourage them to take things slow if they need to.
- Don't let children touch your cat. Try to keep your cat away from children as they can be unpredictable and might hurt themselves when playing with your cat. Children often don’t understand how fragile cats can be, so if they do get scratched by one it won’t end well for anyone involved!
- Don’t let your cat off-leash. The leash can help you stop your kitty from going up to people who seem frightened by cats. It's better for everyone: for you and for other people who may not like cats.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is be patient and go at your cat's pace. If your cat is feeling overwhelmed or threatened by a situation, they’ll let you know. If they’re enjoying themselves and comfortable, you’ll likely see good signs like relaxed ears and tails. Always remember to allow the socialization process to come naturally and have fun!