At least once per day, Popoki the cat is strapped into a harness and coaxed via leash into the back yard for a walk. And at least twice per day, Sinead the Boston terrier steps into the very same harness for a walk in the neighborhood. In theory, these two animals are doing the same activity. But in reality, cats on a walk are a lot different than dogs on a walk.
Here are three major differences.
1. Cats are not purpose oriented.When my dogs go for walks, they walk with a purpose. They typically have some sort of destination in mind, and they walk at a very fast clip until we reach that destination. Cats like Popoki are very different.
Popoki uses her leash time to really experience the world around her. She lifts her head to inhale scents on the breeze. She dips her chin to sip water off blades of grass. She opens her eyes wide to watch birds flitting across the sky. She doesn't have a place she wants to go, but she does have a set of experiences she seems to want to cram in.
2. Resting is important to cats.Popoki likes to take a slow pace on her walk, and often, she finds a good vantage point that she'd like to explore in detail. She does her best explorations while sitting or lying down. So she takes her walks in bite-sized chunks, punctuated by many opportunities to sit and rest.
I would imagine that a very athletic little kitten wouldn't need this much time to rest. But, cats do like to observe the world in detail (where many dogs are content to let the details blur together). Resting is vital in order to obtain all of that information.
3. Pressuring a slowpoke cat doesn't work.When my dogs are lollygaggers, I can get them moving with a cookie or a command. That kind of coaxing simply will not work on Popoki. She does things at her own pace, on her own time. If I try to make her hurry up and do things at my pace, she'll simply stop doing anything at all.
When I am walking Popoki, I have to let her have at least some control. That's the only way she'll enjoy the little game we're playing. And if she's not enjoying her time, she simply won't participate.
Walking your cat helps you, too
And, walking with your cat helps you to bond. You're literally tied together by a cord, seeing the same things at the same time. I always feel a sense of wonderful closeness with Popoki on our walks. And that's something I really appreciate.
If you've never walked with a cat on a leash, I have some tips that can help you to get started. Do you already use a leash? I'd love to hear about it. Drop me a note in the comments!