Who said walks were restricted to dogs? Even if the sight of a cat on a leash is not very common, many of our feline friends enjoy accompanying their owners for a stroll outside, where they can actively engage all their senses. From the sound of the birds to the texture of the trees, the outside world is full of wonders!
There are many benefits to walking your cat outside:
- It’s a fun way for both of you to exercise.
- It allows your cat to develop its physical skills.
- It reinforces your bond.
- It stimulates your cat’s senses beyond what is possible inside.
- It lets your cat unleash its instincts.
- It helps both of you relieve stress.
- It’s safer than letting your cat roam freely.
However convincing these arguments may be, there are a few steps you may want to follow to get your cat used to walking on a leash. You shouldn’t simply come home one day with a harness, strap it on your cat, drag it outside and expect things to go smoothly.
Unless your goal is to create a funny video of an uncooperative cat being dragged on the ground, rushing things will only make the experience unpleasant for you and your furry companion. Here are a few tips that will help.
How to walk your cat outside
Tip #1: Start as early as possible
Like with many habits, it’s easier to teach a cat how to walk outdoors at a younger age. Your cat might still be nervous initially, but if you follow the next tips, it should quickly fall in love with this activity.
If your cat is older, don’t give up on the idea: it’s never too late to take it outside. All you need is a little more patience. The key is to take things slowly and to use positive reinforcement.
Tip #2: Get your cat used to its harness before going outside
The first time you put a harness on your cat, chances are that your cat will try to wiggle itself free. Who can blame it?
If you take your cat outside before it’s used to wearing a harness, it probably won’t have a positive experience. It will feel uncomfortable, which will only increase its stress level. It will then associate the outdoors with discomfort.
To prevent this, let your cat get used to wearing the harness indoors at first. In this familiar environment, your cat will be more at ease as there won’t be new stress factors such as unfamiliar sights and sounds.
Before putting the harness on the cat, leave it laying around (near a feeding or sleeping spot, for example). This way, your cat will become familiar with it and won’t see it as a foreign object. Then, the first few times you put the harness on your cat, use treats for positive reinforcement.
Tip #3: Go to a quiet place where there are no other people or animals
If you go to a crowded place, your cat will likely feel scared and overstimulated. This will make the situation unpleasant, but also dangerous, as your cat might try to run away. You’re better off going to a quiet place such as an empty park or even a cemetery.
If you see dogs or groups of people, walk in the opposite direction. Avoid interactions as much as possible.
Tip #4: Go out on warm and sunny days
The outside world is stressful enough as it is: you don’t want to add bad weather into the mix! Though Bengal cats are known for loving water, they don’t necessarily like to walk in the rain. Cold is also a big no-no.
Tip #5: Start small
Getting your cat used to walking on a leash is all about small steps. Start by walking a few feet and gradually increase the length of the walks. You’ll soon be taking long strolls!
Tip #6: Follow the same path every time
It doesn’t take much for cats to feel anxious. These creatures of habit feel more secure when they know their environment.
That’s why we recommend following the same path every time you take your cat outside, at least until it’s well accustomed to walks. By visiting the same areas over and over without incident, your cat will gradually gain in confidence. At some point, it might even start leading the way.
Tip #7: Give treats along the way
Giving your cat a few treats during the walk is a great way to create positive associations in its mind.
Tip #8: Don’t rush things
It might take a while before your cat is comfortable wearing a harness or walking more than a few dozen feet before it wants to turn back. The last thing you should do is force it to stay outside. Doing so would be cruel and could significantly hinder any future progress.
Instead, let your cat decide when it’s time to go home. It will only make progress when it feels at ease.
Exercising is essential for cats, and this is especially true for Bengals. Taking your cat out for walks is one of the best ways to satisfy this vital need. And let’s not forget the other benefits: for instance, walks will solidify your bond with your pet, stimulate its senses, and develop its physical abilities.
Teaching your cat to walk on a leash is not that difficult: you just have to make sure you don’t rush things and spook it. If you let it get used to the harness indoors (ideally at a young age), start with short walks on sunny days, and follow the same path in a quiet area, you’ll have a good chance of succeeding.