Walking Your Cat For The First Time: 10 Mistakes To Avoid
Walking your cat for the first time can be a daunting task. If your cat has never been walked before, the first time you put on a leash and gently nudge them in the right direction, you're likely to find yourself tangling with an upset kitty. It may be tempting to give up right then and there. But like most things, the key is patience and persistence. To help you set yourself up for success from the very beginning and avoid making some common mistakes, we've put together 10 don'ts when taking your cat out for the first time.
- Don't use a collar. While collars are common for dogs, they aren't very safe for cats. A collar can get hung up on things and injure your cat or you as you walk. Not to mention cats have an amazing ability to slip out of collars, no matter how tightly they are buckled or fastened. Instead, try using a harness which will help keep your cat safe when they feel like pouncing on something moving like a squirrel or other small animal.
- Don't expect too much too soon. If you put on a harness with a leash attached and walk into the living room, where your cat is peacefully sleeping on a chair, they're not going to jump up and start walking alongside you. It's best to do this during a time when they're already active and moving around. It will take some time for your cat to become accustomed to being on a leash, so be patient and encourage success when it happens.
- Don't force your cat into a harness if they aren't comfortable with it. If your cat won't stay in the harness, take it off of them and try again at another time when they are more receptive to being walked. Bear in mind not to force the issue or get angry with your kitty because forcing them into wearing the harness won't solve anything and will only make them more fearful of wearing one in the future.
- Don't try to walk your cat on a leash without knowing what you're doing. If you're going to walk your cat on a leash, do it under the supervision of an experienced friend or family member. Learning how to properly walk your cat is simple, but taking the time to learn this new skill will ensure you and your cat have an enjoyable experience from the beginning.
- Don't use treats as bait for your cat when you're trying to walk your cat. If you're using food as a reward for good behavior, you won't get far trying to walk your cat by dangling one in front of them. Instead of using a treat as bait, try using it as an encouragement once you've already started moving forward (versus stopping at every other step).
- Don't wear strong cologne or perfume. Cats tend not to like strong scents, and therefore, if you are wearing something that is overpowering and distracting, they will not be able to concentrate on what they should be doing.
- Don't walk in busy areas where there are lots of people and dogs. These places can be overwhelming for cats and present numerous distractions for them that can cause them to bolt if they get frightened by something off in the distance that catches their interest.
- Don't walk in traffic areas. When you first get started with walks outside, start in an area where there won't be any cars. Over time, you can move closer to the road but never allow your cat to cross it under their own power.
- Don't overwhelm your cat. Take your time and don't expect your cat to walk around the block right away. Start by taking a few steps around the house, then slowly build up from there, increasing distance at a moderate pace as they become comfortable with the idea of walking on a leash. And remember: cats have their own time zones, so it may take them longer to get acclimated than dogs. Give them time to adjust!
- Don't let your cat roam unattended. Cats are naturally curious, and they can be very agile and quick. They can easily climb trees or high fences. If they see a distraction, they may chase after it, or if they see a small animal like a squirrel, they will run off to go play with it. When you first introduce your cat to their outdoor enclosure, don't leave them unattended until you know that they won't go exploring on their own.
And there you have it! 10 mistakes to avoid when walking your cat for the first time. Don’t fret if your cat seems a little uncertain when they first start taking their walks. And don’t be surprised if they never quite take to the cat leash. The majority of cats require several weeks, some up to several months before they get comfortable going out on walks. Just be patient and eventually, your cat will come around and enjoy the experience. After all, cats are natural predators; let them do what comes naturally!