Is it possible to take a cat for a walk?
March 13, 2004 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to take cats for a walk ?

really , i'm interested , if you put a lead on a cat , would it actually go for one ?
I've heard of this being done before by some eccentric types and i wondered how it is possible , cats are very singular and dont like being told what to do .
and i know some people may find this a frivolous question but you havent seen how cool i'll look walking around town with a cat on the end of a leash , have you ?
posted by sgt.serenity to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, you can with some cats, though most will make your life sheer hell for doing so (and rightly so). Also, this is quite googlable.
posted by fvw at 7:51 PM on March 13, 2004

Well, these folks are in business so it looks like the answer is "yes."
posted by anathema at 7:55 PM on March 13, 2004

You can train them and fit them with a special walking jacket, but, judging by the photographs, I'd say you have a 99% chance of being ripped to shreds. Also, the jackets don't favour the feline and we all know how cats hate being made to look ridiculous.

Due to a typo, I found a far more radical pursuit, if all you wish is to impress: leashes for rats. Also, there was the great poet Baudelaire who liked walking a lobster, on a bright red ribbon leash, down Montmartre street. He also dyed his hair green. I suggest, Sarge, since yours is red now, that you dye the other half green, the better to support Portugal in Euro 2004. :)

posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:57 PM on March 13, 2004

posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:58 PM on March 13, 2004

Response by poster: 'leash' is an american term and i have yet to see a computer program wielding a poop scoop in a public park.
Portugal have my full support migs .
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:03 PM on March 13, 2004

You can put a leash on a cat, but you can't really take a cat for a walk.

Unless you want to do a LOT of jerking. Cats and sidewalks really do not mix.
posted by interrobang at 8:37 PM on March 13, 2004

It is possible, I have known people who were able to train their cats to go for a walk. However, they started training them from a really early age. If you do decide to try, make sure that you get a break away collar or a harness. If you get one with a standard buckle, and your cat decides to investigate something up a tree while you are tightly hanging on to the leash . . . well, lets just say that it might be the last walk your cat will take.
posted by necessitas at 8:57 PM on March 13, 2004

Cats tend to adapt to new stimuli slowly. If you put a cat on a leash, and take it outside, the cat will likely become very upset. The cat first needs to get used to the harness; then used the the harness & the leash; then used to you holding the leash attached to the harness; then used to all of that, but outdoors: this is not a short process. Our experience was that it wasn't worth guiding the cats through the training period. Your results may vary.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:19 PM on March 13, 2004

It depends on the cat. I once encountered a cat who would casually follow her owner around the block/neighborhood. And the cat wasn't even wearing a leash/harness.

Most cats though despise harnesses and will crouch to the ground when they have one on. It's as if gravity suddenly has a greater pull on them.

If you want to take your cat for a walk, just use a harness and see how it goes. While the cat may be quite curious at the new surroundings and might enjoy the experience, he probably will not "walk" with you in a dog kind of way.
posted by gluechunk at 9:19 PM on March 13, 2004

A woman in my apartment complex has her cat walking along with her on a leash and harness. He trots along like a little dog, but I have no idea how she's done it. But she is proof that it is possible.

I have a leash and harness for one of my cats (his sister freaks out at the sight of the harness, so I stopped bothering trying to take her out), and he is very happy to chill out on the grass on sunny days. He does't really walk though, rather I carry him to his playspot and sit down while he sniffs and rolls around. I was really hoping he would walk around like our neighbor cat, but despite the fact that they look the same, he shows no interest in being led around on a leash.

Most cats though despise harnesses and will crouch to the ground when they have one on. It's as if gravity suddenly has a greater pull on them.

Both of my cats have done that immediately after having the harness put on, but Smacky at least gets used to it after a few minutes and seems pretty content with it. The girl, Zilla, however, seems to believe that once the harness is on that the only way she can walk is backwards. This is why I've stopped trying with her.

I've heard that some cat breeds are supposedly better leash-walkers than others. I believe Abyssinians are supposed to be good at it.
posted by catfood at 9:23 PM on March 13, 2004

My (really detailed) experience: I was moving from one state to another that was going to involve a two day drive with eight cats and two dogs in two vehicles. Two main reasons why I needed to train the cats on a lead were so they could take "potty breaks" during the trip and they were going to become indoor/backyard-under-supervision-only cats at the new house.

The cats ranged in breed and age. For each one, I purchased a correctly sized harness and short (~four feet) leash. About six months prior to the move, I started putting the harnesses on each cat right before I fed them (inside). I left them on for a short time at first and then lengthened the time each week. For the first couple of months, I never attached the leash and just got them used to the harness. Most accepted theirs, but with all the same reactions already mentioned above. A bystander would have thought I had plunged the harnesses in acid just before putting them on, judging by the cats' behavior at first.

At any rate, a couple of months in, I started letting them outside in the backyard with the harnesses. Again, no leash. After they got used to that, then the leashes went on and they just accepted them. The next bit of time was taking the leash and then moving them where you wanted them to go. They tended to want to just roll around in the grass or whatnot. So, I brought out the food trick again, and began putting their food on plates in the house while they were outside, and then leading them from outside to the food inside so they would have an incentive to follow me. I did that about a month until they learned I wasn't going to lead them into danger and they were fine.

During the move, I stopped at public rest stops and made sure I was away from big crowds and walked the cats no problem.

Out of eight cats, I only had one who (to this day) freaks out with the harness and leash. The rest have no problems and have been completely trained. They never go outside without them now.
posted by cyniczny at 9:49 PM on March 13, 2004

Tried it. It was more like taking the cat for a drag.

Now she's an indoor kitty.
posted by answergrape at 9:55 PM on March 13, 2004

Oops...hit it too fast.

I meant to add that if you approach it as "allowing your cat to explore with limits" that might go better.

"Walks" are apparently too linear for many cats.
posted by answergrape at 9:56 PM on March 13, 2004

It depends on the cat. I once encountered a cat who would casually follow her owner around the block/neighborhood. And the cat wasn't even wearing a leash/harness.

I've seen this too. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
posted by juv3nal at 10:04 PM on March 13, 2004

"Smacky" - I am stealing that name if I get another cat.

I've seen catwalkers too. So I guess it must be possible. No one walking lobsters in the area, though at uni a guy used to take his turtle for walks (no leash needed for that pet).

It does sound like the kind of thing that needs to start at kitten age, unless you don't really want skin on your ankles ever again.

If you succeed, we expect pix!
posted by Salmonberry at 10:09 PM on March 13, 2004

My wife and I had a cat once upon a time. It was a foundling kitten. It learned to go for walks. It particularly liked walking in the cemetary: nice and quiet, lots of grass and trees. Though it never really did get the hang of trees...
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 PM on March 13, 2004

It depends on the cat. I once encountered a cat who would casually follow her owner around the block/neighborhood. And the cat wasn't even wearing a leash/harness.

I've seen this too. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

It is not the safest thing ever. Add the sudden appearance of a loose and large enough dog--gee, that never happens in an urban situation!--and you can watch a cat, on or off a leash, get killed before your every eyes.
posted by y2karl at 11:21 PM on March 13, 2004

There is taking cats for walks, and then there is dragging cats along with a leash. My cats take walks with me, but we don't use a leash. I tried it once, and the acid analogy was right on. After a full minute of spasming on the ground, she went directly under a bush, wrapped the leash around a branch and started to choke and thrash (drama queen). I freaked out, took it off, and she didn't talk to me for days. So, ok, no leash. I intended for her to not go out then, but she started to worm her way out the door when I took the dog out, she just didn't think it was fair being left behind. Maybe I should say then, she walks me. My other cat likes to come too, but is not so bossy about it.
I can get away with sans leash because I live in a calm apartment complex and I can avoid streets. I also do it late at night (like about now) because dogs and other cats and most people are abed and not spooking them. But we're not going out tonight because racoons are afoot. They stay within about 20 ft from me, go across patios and explore plants, and generally like to be within line of sight. We have a standard little 40 apartment loop. I walk very slow and cluck at them every once in awhile and try not to stand too long outside people's windows since it freaks people out. They can see me loitering but not the tail sticking out of the bushes I'm trying to encourage to move a little faster. I find it very calm and peaceful; I think my thoughts and they pretend they're vicious night creatures. I would never walk them in a strange area though, nor would I walk them somewhere where there's no place for the cat to walk safely (in it's perspective, where they can hide at whim). So no alleys or bushless sidewalks.
So, it can be done. Cats like the camraderie of walkies, but it's more for exploration for them, not exercise. And you definitely have to go at their pace. The neighbors look at you funny though...
posted by dness2 at 11:25 PM on March 13, 2004

Cats and dogs are different. Surprise! I had a cat that would go for walks with me. She was the best cat that ever lived, and took very good care of me. Her name was Toots.

From my observations, I believe the domestic cat does not have the same stamina as a dog. If you watch a cat, they do not go at a steady pace from point a to point b. They slink from bush to tree to under-car, often pausing to watch the area before coming out from under cover. Sneaking is clearly part of the act.

However when I went for walks with my cat, I learned that she could not keep up with me, even when she wanted (which was most of the time, we were very bonded). And I'm not talking long distance, I mean after a couple blocks. Her tongue would start hanging out all red. (this cat was in excellent shape due to her play activity). She would, with great complaint, end up coming to be carried for awhile (no cat wants to be seen being carried).

I am fairly convinced that part of this behavior of walking with me was due to the extraordinary bond we had, due to living alone together her first year, with me unemployed in a jobless home town. This is a cat that INSISTED I evacuate my apartment with her (years later), after an earthquake. She was not satisfied to go out without me. This is a cat that, when my partner died, learned not to allow me to spend any time sitting on the edge of my bed doing nothing (she would sneak up and tickle-bite me in the ribs).
posted by Goofyy at 11:57 PM on March 13, 2004

For most cats, this is probably the only way you'll ever be able to take them for a walk.

I used a harness as a sort of sedative for my cats when I was in college - the crouchy behaivor already described was a good way to get them to behave whenever I took the 4 hr drive to or from school.

IMO, the safest way to enjoy the outdoors with kitty is from inside a screened-in porch.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:13 AM on March 14, 2004

The little old lady who lives opposite me walks her two, twice a day, unleashed. They never wander more than 10 - 15 feet from her during the approx. 1/4 mile walk around the block. However the oldest, Barnaby, has a regular, (every 4 weeks or so), 2 days of madness. He'll disappear then magically re-appear 36 - 48 hours later, just when the whole neighbourhood has given up on him again. I assume it takes him a month or so to save up for the kitty hookers-and-beer.
posted by punilux at 2:27 AM on March 14, 2004

I had a roommate with a leash trained rabbit,
and I would have thought they would be too timid
as well, but it just hops along like nothing is out
of the ordinary. You just have to pace yourself differently
than for a dog, probably the same for cats too.
posted by milovoo at 8:49 AM on March 14, 2004

My parents have two cats (out of three) that will sometimes accompany them on walks on a trail behind their house; one of them once walked a couple miles with them. (The cats go in and out of the house as they please, so this is utterly spontaneous behavior on their part.)
posted by mattpfeff at 10:43 AM on March 14, 2004

Walking your cat is easy. Pick up the cat in your arms, and walk.
posted by kindall at 1:51 PM on March 15, 2004

I have two cats. Oliver gets really excited when I pull out his harness/lead (break-away harness/4 foot lead) for a walk. Of course, it's him walking me - I just let him wander and follow him around. Abigail (Oliver's sister) likes to go outside as well, but she's fairly timid and would rather stay in one place.
posted by deborah at 2:46 PM on March 15, 2004

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