We can’t say we’ve ever seen anyone taking their cat out for a walk, but if you know of anyone who does, they’re part of a growing trend in the UK which sees cat people exercising their furry companions in the most unexpected ways.
Cat training company Supakit have found that people in Hampshire, London, Essex and Sussex are most into buying harnesses to walk their cats, but don’t you dare snigger if you’re a Northerner; Yorkshire and Lancashire aren’t very far behind.
Most cat owners are likely to be a little sceptical about cat-walking, especially if yours are of the many that purposefully destroy or lose their collars. But as hesitant as your kitty may be about being taken for a walk, according to Supakit co-founder Leili Farzaneh they will soon reap the benefits - particularly if they are indoor cats.
“We often do a disservice to cats, thinking of them as solitary creatures that take care of themselves but if we have a cat as a domestic pet, then we have a responsibility to meet their needs”, she explains. “Cats need stimulation just as much as dogs, boredom can be terrible for them, especially if they are house cats. Training of all types is a great way of offering mental stimulation to your cat. Combining that with harness training allows you to open up new sensory experiences outdoors for your cat too.”
You’re unlikely to be dragging your furry friend out for long distance walks like dogs; cat-walking can be as simple as taking them around the garden or exploring the street outside your house. The best time to begin harness training (that is, introducing your cat to a harness gently, with minimum distress for both parties and ensuring your feline does not slip the harness), is kitten-age, naturally. But older cats are not beyond being introduced to new experiences. According to Leili, five minutes a day of harness training can really change your old grumpy cat’s perspective.
Apart from anything else, getting out for exercise daily will be extremely beneficial to your cat’s health, and allow them to live much longer. Experienced vet Dr Alex Avery points out that exercise is crucial to combatting feline obesity.
“Obesity is one of the biggest health issues with cats. Over 60% of cats worldwide are said to be overweight, which can lead to arthritis, diabetes and other health issues which have an impact on the physical health and wellbeing of a cat”, he explains. “Many cat owners can be guilty of showing their love for their pet through food; it is an old wives’ tale that cats only eat what they need, they can certainly overeat.”
Obviously, if you want to go for walkies with your cat, you need to ensure they are microchipped with up to date vaccinations and flea and worm treatments, and that there’s a safe place for your cat to explore. Be mindful of any existing health conditions, and don’t push them too much beyond what’s comfortable for them. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to go walk that kitty!
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