The idea of walking your cat is about as odd as expecting your dog to use the kitty litter box. It’s possible there are a few dogs that have been trained to do this, but most dogs would rather burst inside than even think about going potty in the house. So why is walking you cat such a great idea?
This walking your cat idea apparently was the result of some cat owners finding their cats along the side of the road as roadkill, and in part because there is a growing tendency to lock kitty inside the house and let them look out the window. Research shows that cats will spend about 22 percent of their day looking out the window. Exactly what they are looking at for all that time is anyone’s guess.
It’s true that some cat owners let their cars roam free from time to time, but apparently they don’t have enough sense to look both ways before crossing the street. Like dogs, they seem to think they can outrace the car or truck to their intended goal but fatally fail. It may depend on where you live, but there seems to be more cats that use their ninth life trying to cross the road. So restricting Tabby from going outside is an act of protection, but is walking them really the answer?
This new trend is confusing as it gives a different meaning to a cat walk. Availability of cat leashes has become much easier as there is always a business (Petco) who is willing to capitalize on the latest fad. But for the most part they just don’t look natural on a cat. Perhaps the biggest reason is that most cats are significantly smaller than your average dog. The next thing to evolve will be taking your hamster for a walk on a leash.
Despite this general animus towards cat walking, there are some good reasons to give the idea serious consideration. First, if cats spend about a quarter of the day gazing out the window then it seems obvious they want to be out and about. Keeping them confined to four walls may keep them safe and prolong their lifespan, but their happiness quotient will be lowered. Those times when the cat is chasing shadows in the middle of the night may be the result of cat cabin fever.
Another argument is genetic ancestry. Cats should be free to roam like their evolutionary connections despite being much smaller. However, this is offset by the fact that if you watch a cat that is set free to roam they will find a hiding place under a bush and or a deck – and just lay there watching what goes on around them. This free-to-roam argument seems to be a way for a cat to gain more control of its owner instead improving their psychological health.
As for the actual walk, it’s definitely not the same as walking a dog. In fact, it is just the opposite. Instead of having to wrestle with your dog to keep it from dragging you along the street, the cat walk is more an act of patience. They will stop and meander at their leisure, forcing you to wait on them to decide how long it will take to continue the walk. The sight of someone dragging a cat on a leash is sure to bring out the animal rights activists.
Cats tend to be independent creatures, so the walk may actually help to socialize them in a general public sort of way. Most people know approaching a cat on the street will have them either running away or running for cover. Introducing them to the idea of the existence of other species, including humans, can help promote the cat’s sense of well-being. One question to be asked is whether the cat, being territorial creatures, will mentally extend their territorial boundaries to the path you walk them on.
A final argument used to convince the necessity of a cat walk is cat rights, also known as feline equality. The idea is that dogs get most of the owner’s attention on a daily basis because the dog walk is a natural part of owning the average sized dog. You don’t want them pooping in the house or suffering as they cross their legs, so out you go for the daily constitutional. Morning joggers actually think that having a dog can be a motivation to create the morning jogging ritual, and having your tag run alongside is a natural thing to do. The same cannot be said for the cat walk. Everyone has a set of rights but many people don’t use all those rights. It’s a voluntary exercise cats seem to be not predisposed to, based on the current evidence.
The ultimate question for potential cat walkers is whether their cat wants to go for the walk. It has already been established that cat dragging is out, so other than the cat owner’s desire to feel like a cat advocate the main justification is cat safety. There is no good argument against this position, and people who truly love their cat will want to keep it from harm.
But there is a lack of evidence on what happens when the path of a cat walker crosses the path of the dog walker.