Cats who have an indoors-only lifestyle are definitely much safer than outdoor cats, as they are not exposed to predators, traffic and other outside dangers. But they definitely lose out on experiencing the stimulating sights and sounds of nature. Consequently, taking them out in a pet stroller truly broadens their horizons and gives them an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while remaining safe and secure.
If you have ever watched a cat who is allowed outside, you will notice that when they are not sleeping in the sun, they usually spend hours crouching quietly under a bush enjoying their surroundings. You can replicate this experience from the safe mesh-enclosed confines of a pet stroller while you sit alongside on a bench and read.
When my calico, California, celebrated her 17th birthday, I bought her a Jeep Wrangler stroller, made under license by PetGear Inc. Standard "petmobile" features included front shock absorbers and rear safety brakes, and it afforded a great view 360-degree view from its bug-proof interior. It also had a parent tray for water bottles or a coffee cup, and pockets for cell phones, keys, and other paraphernalia.
Here’s a short video I made starring Cali and her stroller:
When we lived in Cape Town, South Africa, Cali and my other cats were allowed outside in our garden during the day. It was quite safe and secure. But all that had to stop when we moved to California because we live on a canyon favored by coyotes, bobcats, and some very large birds! She really missed going outside and a stroller seemed like the answer to letting her once again experience fresh air along with the sights and smells of nature.
Family members were skeptical, pointing out that Cali sang very loudly in her standard carrier when we made trips to the vet. Interestingly, once secured inside the stroller, when we started to roll, she never made a peep! Instead, she would quickly get comfortable facing forward and gaze all around her, very aware of the birds sitting on bushes and the odd rabbit that ran across our path.
I don’t think I am being anthropomorphic when I say she really enjoyed being outdoors, even though she wasn’t able to prowl around. In fact, every afternoon around 5 p.m., she would come down and sit next to her stroller and yell for me to hurry up so we could get going.
Sitting in one place enjoying the surroundings is one thing, but if you are in fact going to go for actual walks, it’s a good idea to scout out your neighborhood in advance so that you can pick routes that aren’t filled with noisy traffic or possibly dogs with bad manners!
We had a regular walking route, which I established after scouting it out several times to ensure other pets in the area were friendly. I also took into account the ease with which I could negotiate the concrete pathways, the roadways and stroller maneuverability when we went "off-roading" onto certain lawned areas.
And of course the seasonal changes brought different things into focus for her. She loved watching the leaves blowing around in the fall months. Spring brought out a lot of bees flitting on flowering bushes and that was an endless source of fascination for her. In summer we’d go out later so that she could watch the rabbits grazing in the neighborhood. Back in Cape Town she loved the cold misty weather and didn’t mind getting her fur dampened. Even though it doesn’t rain much in southern California, our stroller walks became all-weather events, too.
We used to stop and talk to people, who were of course curious to see a cat going out and about. She and I did a lot of feline PR together, introducing her to people who had never met a cat before.
"It makes a lot of sense," says Jane Brunt, DVM, executive director of the CATalyst Council, an organization whose mission it is to change society’s image of cats as aloof and not needing human contact or care. "Because cats, unlike dogs, are essentially homebodies, unless you know someone who has cats and visit them in their environment, the chances of meeting and getting to know at least one feline is otherwise slim.
"Often people claim they hate or are scared of cats. And the only reason they express this is because they’ve never experienced any personal interaction and are unsure how to approach for a proper feline introduction."
Cali even demonstrated that not all cats hate dogs by allowing neighborhood hounds to sniff her stroller, knowing that she was safe and secure.
A pet stroller can also double up as a walking aid for someone who needs some kind of walking assistance. They are sturdy to lean on and the handles offer an ergonomically designed grip.
On the other end of the spectrum, some the newer stroller models are designed for joggers and runners, with a streamlined three-wheeled design and large wheels that absorb the bumps in the road. There is definitely a model to suit all human needs.
By far the makers of the largest selection of strollers is PetGear Inc. Its latest, called Happy Trails, gets four paws approval for cats in particular because the strollers have special clips that lock into place, as opposed to zippers, to secure the mesh pet enclosure. This is definitely an improved safety measure because some cats are adept at prying open zippers!
Apart from different shapes, strollers also come in different sizes and some are even big enough to contain two cats. They also collapse flat for easy storage, or, if the need arises, you can take it with you if you’re traveling somewhere.
There’s an additional benefit for getting your cat a stroller, too — it will give you a good excuse to get out and get some exercise! All round it’s a win-win.
About the author: Sandy Robins is an award-winning multimedia pet lifestyle expert and author and spokesperson. She is the 2013 recipient of the Outstanding Journalism and Contribution to the Pet Industry award, presented by the American Pet products Association. Her third cat book, The Original Cat Bible, will be on bookshelves spring 2014. She lives in southern California with her family and fur kids cats Fudge and Ziggy, and has been voted "favorite auntie" by every dog on the block. Follow her on Facebook.
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