Cats who'll take a walk with you

Toffee has been going out on a leash since she was a kitten - she's now a year old.

Toffee has been going out on a leash since she was a kitten - she's now a year old.

The other night I walked with the dogs later than usual – at dusk, at our usual park. As we made our way back to our car, a small Golden Retriever I'd never seen before shambled into view, ahead of a strolling man and – I rubbed my eyes – a cat.

The man explained to us that he and his dog always walked just before dark, to allow the family cats to come along, without the risk of encountering a scary dog.

Cats, plural, the man said. Normally, two cats would tag along with dad and dog.

This night, there was only one cat. It sat still on the path, watching us and our dogs move away. When we were 50 metres distant, the cat resumed its walk, pattering after the man and the dog.

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Moosh Moosh lost his tail after a mishap. He didn't cope well with being inside while recovering, so his mum, Tash, ...

Moosh Moosh lost his tail after a mishap. He didn't cope well with being inside while recovering, so his mum, Tash, bought him a harness. 'He loves it,' she says. 'Every evening we go for a short stroll to keep him active and exercised while he's healing. As soon as I put the harness on him he can't get out the door fast enough!'

There are cats who like to go for walks – I knew that, because many people had told me and shown me pictures. But I'd never met one in the act. You don't expect to meet a cat in, you know, a dog-walking area.

Some people say it's good to take your cat for walks. Cats love the smells and excitements of the outdoors, after all. But there are cautions, drawn from some of the many online articles about taking cats for a walk.

The first caution is, a cat is not a dog. A cat might want to stop and sniff everything. A cat needs to feel safe. A cat won't want to walk where dogs are around. A cat will need training.

Maine Coon Rangi (left) was started on leash training from an early age, as he was heading toward an arm-straining 8-10 ...

Maine Coon Rangi (left) was started on leash training from an early age, as he was heading toward an arm-straining 8-10 kilogram adult weight. Meanwhile, Rupert readies for a walk.

And not every cat will want to – either go for walks, or submit to the safe harness that's a must (not just a collar).

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A cat behaviourist I follow has written a good practical guide for those who want to try leash-training their cat. Preparation and care are key – it's not a good idea to just take your cat out on a harness and expect things to go well.

Another writer makes an important point – never drag your cat.

Oscar (left photo) leads her canine friends; Dinah explores the beach.

Oscar (left photo) leads her canine friends; Dinah explores the beach.

I asked readers for their experiences and insights regarding cats that like – or have been trained – to go for walks.

There are cats such as Alison's Rastus who used to join in for just part of Alison's evening run. Holly's cat Pagan would come along for walks but when feeling lazy would wait and join in as the humans passed the house.

Reader Margaret says she used to walk her dog in Auckland – often with feline company. "My lovely black and white long-haired cat Cassie used to come too, but not with us! Just behind us, darting from tree to tree, post to post, around the block. She was a little bit nervous but still came, every time, and it was wonderful."

Sockies and Ruby rock their coloured harnesses.

Sockies and Ruby rock their coloured harnesses.

Anna tells of how her grandfather's cat, Garfield, used to come to the family holiday house. "When my grandfather walked down to the village in the morning to get the newspaper, Garfield would walk the 500 metres to the main road with him, then sit and wait patiently for his return before walking back home with him. No harness necessary, he would walk at heel like a well-trained dog."

Marilyn used to walk her family of three cats in a local park – until one scary day.

"A couple of dogs saw us and thought all their birthdays had come at once," says Marilyn. "I stood between cats and dogs and gave the dogs my finest growling. They were too bewildered to think about chasing!

Sophie (left) strides out; Minnie stops for shade.

Sophie (left) strides out; Minnie stops for shade.

"That simply stopped us walking in daylight and we took to night-time walking … We had no leashes - just delight!"

Other cats have been leash-trained since kittenhood and are fine with the gear needed.

Scroll down for more walk-loving cats and their stories.

Here's Toffee again, walking in the great INdoors, also known as a pet shop.

Here's Toffee again, walking in the great INdoors, also known as a pet shop.

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Hektor the Burmese has loved the leash since he was a kitten. Now he purrs whenever it's put on him.

Hektor the Burmese has loved the leash since he was a kitten. Now he purrs whenever it's put on him.

Rupert again, sunning himself on the deck without being able to jump off.

Rupert again, sunning himself on the deck without being able to jump off.

Geezer consents to the harness, but he's clearly not too pleased. His family is moving near to a beach so he's being ...

Geezer consents to the harness, but he's clearly not too pleased. His family is moving near to a beach so he's being leash-trained to help prevent him from getting lost.

SallyCat is an indoor kitty, but does go for walks in the backyard.

SallyCat is an indoor kitty, but does go for walks in the backyard.

Cocoa gets to do a little low tree climbing in his harness. Just like a dog, he comes running when he hears the harness ...

Cocoa gets to do a little low tree climbing in his harness. Just like a dog, he comes running when he hears the harness being picked up.

Derby the British Shorthair had leash training from an early age. Now 5, he still walks nicely on the lead when required.

Derby the British Shorthair had leash training from an early age. Now 5, he still walks nicely on the lead when required.

Leashed walks turned out to be a good way for deaf Ginger (left photo) to stay cool in summer and get to know the ...

Leashed walks turned out to be a good way for deaf Ginger (left photo) to stay cool in summer and get to know the neighbourhood. Max (right photo) joins the daily walk.

Rastus loves an evening walk, or to accompany a run. But he often needs a breather.

Rastus loves an evening walk, or to accompany a run. But he often needs a breather.

Twiggy the cat (left photo) insists on accompanying Ruby the dog on her daily walk. And finally, look closely: this is ...

Twiggy the cat (left photo) insists on accompanying Ruby the dog on her daily walk. And finally, look closely: this is the precise moment when two willful Maine Coons, Lord Viking and Princess Wandacakes, ended their experiment on a joint leash.

 - Stuff

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