Want to Take Your Cat on a Walk? How I Do It
I never expected my cat, Trixie, to buddy up to my dogs. To be honest, I was more focused on teaching her to love my husband. But somewhere over the last few years, she’s adopted my two dogs — Rudi, a Lab mix, and Hollie, a hound mix — as her BFFs. And it is adorable.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s not all purrs and snuggles all the time, although she does bathe Rudi’s face on a semi-regular basis. Trixie and Hollie, my more excitable (and much louder) dog, are still working on exactly how to play together, but they seem to have figured out that some gentle batting (on Trixie’s part) with some play bows (by Hollie) can be a lot of fun.
It’s clear that Trixie truly enjoys the company of her canine siblings — possibly more than she enjoys my company. She follows them out onto our lanai, strolling around the enclosed pool cage as the dogs make their rounds in the backyard. And once the dogs come back in, she’s hot on their heels as they head into the kitchen for treats. Whenever I leash up the dogs for a walk, she trots over, seemingly hopeful that she could join us. And she’s always waiting right at the door to greet us when we return. All she seems to want is to go on a walk with her family.
So I started thinking about how I could make that happen.
Working Toward a WalkThe problem was that I knew from previous training sessions that Trixie was a bit fearful of anything above her. She loves a good petting session, but only if she’s up on one of her perches or a table. The ground — even if I’m down there with her — doesn’t feel as safe or secure to her. Because of this, I had a feeling that walking her on a leash outside the house would be a no-go.
However, that didn’t mean an outdoor adventure with her pack wasn’t an option. I decided to try a front carrier, which is kind of like a backwards backpack. I was hopeful that a front carrier would let me keep an eye on her and make sure she remained comfortable and calm during our outing. I knew I wanted an open carrier so that she could really look around, but it was important that it otherwise be enclosed (i.e., no feet dangling out) and that it offered a way to secure her by clipping onto a collar or harness. I opted for the Outward Hound PoochPouch.
Then, all I had to do was train Trixie to hop in and enjoy the ride.
I’ll be honest: It remains a work in progress. We’re not exactly going on long walks around the neighborhood as a big, happy family (at least, not yet). But with patience, we have reached a point where I can settle Trixie into the carrier and walk around the yard with her and the dogs for a few minutes. Here’s how we got there.
Step by Step1. Let her get used to the pouch. While Trixie has never been one to hide when I bring her regular carrier out, she’s also not exactly in love with it. The first step was just to make sure that the presence of the new pouch carrier didn’t freak her out. I made a point to leave it sitting out near some of her favorite spots. I sprinkled some catnip in it. I wore it while sitting on the couch, allowing her to investigate in a safe way. She’d come up and sniff it, maybe rub on it, but I didn’t pressure her to get in. I put some of her favorite treats inside it, but that wasn’t enough to entice her to crawl in. That wasn’t a surprise, though, based on our previous experiences with her and carriers. She’s really not a den cat. She doesn’t even like boxes!
2. Introduce her to the idea of getting into the pouch. We always feed Trixie on top of her cat tree, and while she normally just jumps right up there, she’s not averse to us carrying her over to it on occasion, because, hey, food! So, I started wearing the pouch while carrying her over to her food. I didn’t put her in the pouch, but I allowed her back feet to rest on it while I supported her body weight, just so she could feel that it was secure and that I was still there for her. So far, so good.
3. Next came the big test: Encourage her to actually get into the pouch. The previous steps went smoothly as can be, but this… this was a little more trying. I began by placing her back feet in the pouch on our usual walk over to her food bowl. It didn’t exactly thrill her, but she didn’t try to escape. The first time I walked out onto the screened-in lanai with her partway in the pouch, though, she was clearly less thrilled — her body language indicated stress, and she made movements to get out — so I quickly obliged. A few more tries — always with more catnip sprinkled in before, and always with rewards like treats or special wet food provided after — and she began to get used to the idea. Then, it was time to take the whole show outside.
4. Venture outdoors with Trixie in the pouch. With her harness secured to the safety attachment in the pouch, I made my move from the lanai to the yard. Trixie initially seemed a bit surprised to find herself in the great outdoors, but mostly she appeared interested in what the dogs were up to. We’ve only extended our outdoor adventures to a couple of minutes at a time — the moment Trixie seems startled or at all uncomfortable, I head right back in and set her free.
It’s not a walk, but it’s a start! And I remain hopeful that it’ll lead to us being able to take a safe, secure (and short) little walk with all of our four-legged friends this summer.
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