Cats who'll take a walk with you
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.
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.
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).
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.
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."
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!
"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.
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