It’s not uncommon to see children walking dogs, but how often do you see them with a cat on the end of a leash? Maybe never, for some of you. Some indoor cats don’t enjoy spending time outside, so they might not even consider the prospect of wearing a harness and exploring the great outdoors. Of my three cats, two shun the harness and leash and one wears it happily and can’t wait for walks in the front yard.
Once a cat is trained to walk with a properly fitting harness and leash, should your child have permission to take her on a jaunt outside the confines of the house? As with anything relating to kids and cats, there are several points adults should consider before making a decision.
In my opinion, young children shouldn’t be allowed to walk a kitty on a leash, even when accompanied by an adult. Cats can easily startle, and if the child doesn’t have a strong hold on the leash, the cat could easily race away and hide. The child should be old enough to manage possible situations that could happen on the walk. What if a dog walks by and barks? What if a loud truck passes nearby? What if a group of small children rush the cat, wanting to pet her? It’s up to the adult to seriously think about the age, maturity level, and demeanor of the child, and accompany him on the first few walks. Additionally, kids should be knowledgeable in reading cats’ body language, and if the kitty seems stressed, it may be time to go back inside.
Something else to consider is the relationship between the child and the cat. Do they spend a lot of time together? Does the cat readily approach the child? Do they play well together? There needs to be a level of trust on the part of the cat when a child takes her outdoors. The cat should never be pulled by the leash. The walker needs to follow the cat’s lead. If the cat needs to move to another area, she should be picked up and moved.
The best walks are short ones, with the child and cat remaining close to the house. By being close to home, they can quickly make it back inside should the cat become stressed. A long walk with a freaked-out cat isn’t a great idea for the child or the cat. Plus, when the walk is nearby, the adult can keep an eye on the situation and intervene if necessary. We walk Saffy only in our front yard. There’s grass, some trees, rocks, and dirt — perfect for a cat! She loves time outside with my son. Sometimes she sits at the front door and meows, asking for a walk!
Here are a few quick tips for training your cat to wear a harness:
Do you walk your cat with a harness and leash? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Read more on Catster about taking your cat for a walk: