From the cliffs of Étretat to the Auvergne forests via the beach at Trouville, Mamour, my cat, accompanies me in most of my rural breaks… He was the one who asked for it, so I set up a precise and safe routine. Hop, I share it with you.
For six years, I have been living my most beautiful love affair with Mamour, an incredibly stubborn Bengal cat weighing seven kilos. My furry beast has always had an adventurous temperament, an immense need to expend his energy and also to conquer the world! Unfortunately, I can only offer him a modest apartment lifeso in the face of his increasingly insistent pleas to put the truffle out, I ended up giving in to the whims of my marvel with regular leash expeditions outdoors. One watchword: safety!
Be careful, not all cats are made for walking on a leash. Before embarking on this experiment, you must take into account the character of your feline. If he has a fearful temperament, a walk outside could turn into a disaster. But if, on the contrary, like Mamour, he is curious, daring – unfortunately sometimes reckless – new horizons can open up to him. Sylvia Masson, Doctor of Veterinarians specializing in domestic animal behavior medicinereminds that it should be done only if the cat asks for it and not to force it to take walks that it does not want:
“As a cat behavioral veterinarian, people often bring me cats with behavioral problems asking me if they would be better if they went outside… Well, no. It is not because the cat does not have access to the outside that people are bad masters. There is a way that the cat is already fulfilled despite the fact that it does not go out. And conversely, cats that have access to the outside at home, are not necessarily all well. »
The equipment to walk your cat-adventurer safely
Since he was three months old, I have accustomed my hyperactive feline to wear a harness, and walk beside me. Mamour expressed no reluctance, far too happy to try this new experience. But all cats are unique… And some have a horror of wearing a harness. A single technique? Try it gradually and observe the reactions of your hairball.
Harness + light leash = the safe combo
To walk your cat on a leash, it is better to favor a harness because the attachment of the leash is at the level of the shoulder blades and makes it much more comfortable and safe to wear. Definitely banish the collar: it can slip over your pet’s head, get stuck on a branch and strangle your cat. If you have a bad encounter and your feline gets scared, you risk seeing it scamper off, terribly helpless in the face of its escape.
You will find many harnesses suitable for all sizes on the market. If your cat is particularly large, you can choose equipment intended for small dogs. Regarding the leash, a thin and light one will facilitate the movements of your pet and will suffice at first. But if during the walks you feel that you can opt for a retractable leashbe aware that you will need to fully master its operation in order to block it and shorten it quickly in case of danger.
Well, finding the perfect size for your cat’s harness can be a bit difficult… But the websites specify the measurements corresponding to the sizes: take your tape measure, and measure your cat’s rib cage. I offer you a small selection of harnesses, which I have tried on Mamour, and which I find relatively safe. However, this represents a certain budget because the harnesses stretch, wear out quickly and it is better to change them regularly.
Find good cat harnesses, on Amazon, from €14.99
How to get your cat used to the harness and leash?
First step before the walk: accustom your cat to the harness and leash gradually and in its usual environment. You can start by having your cat wear the harness for a few minutes every day at home. Above all, “it is essential that you associate the harness with a positive action”, recommends the doctor in veterinarian. Offer him treats or play with him, for example. You can also try to put it on just before his meal, because while eating he will gradually forget his super equipment.
When your cat has adapted to wearing the harness, you can then add the leash. Start by walking your feline around your home, letting it go as it pleases. And above all, reward him if he stays calm. Over the days, little by little, and at the pace of your animal, you can impose your own directions without jerking on the leash. And for each task its reward: give it treats after each session. If your cat accepts it, these moments of training will quickly become great entertainment for your pet, who will never stop asking for more. (And for you too !)
To come back to Mamour, the harness has really become a symbol of play for him: as soon as he feels that we are going out, he waits impatiently for me to put it on him. Also, when the fine weather is there and the gentleman wants to get some fresh air, he does not hesitate on his own to open the drawer of my chest of drawers and drag me his equipment as best he can… Between cat and harness, love stories do exist!
A carrying bag for your cat during your walks
During a walk with your cat, even in isolated and quiet places, you are not immune to having a bad encounter. You may come across congeners of your feline, which outside its comfort zone and its usual smells, can be won over by nervousness and anxiety. I found the best tip: always take the Mamour carrying bag with me. The doctor in veterinarian and behaviorist also advocates this technique for optimal safety:
“It’s a very good idea to have a backpack, so that you can take your cat to safety at all times if he is scared. It is an ideal fallback solution. »
As a wandering cat, my feline really likes porthole bags and I can assure you that I too have won over this means of transporting it. It is much more practical and less bulky than a classic transport case. I present to you a small selection of the best bags, which will transform your cat into a mini cosmonaut. Be careful, read the comments carefully before investing in a bag, some cheap products, copied from big brands would trigger allergic problems for some cats.
Find cat backpacks on Amazon from €32.29
Essential vaccines for your pet to go outside
The safety of your animal also depends on its health: there are several vaccines to get him at the vet, as well as an anti-parasitic treatment before he puts the truffle out, as Sylvia Masson points out:
“Even if he doesn’t come out, you have to do vaccinate your cat against typhus and coryza. When the cat goes out, it is advisable to do the leucosis because as soon as there is possible contact with another cat, this serious virus can be contracted. If you keep him on a leash and there is no direct contact with another cat, you are in theory not obliged to vaccinate your cat against leucosis. But I would do it anyway, because he can be in contact indirectly where other cats have wandered. »
What about the rabies vaccine? Currently, it is no longer compulsory in France to have your animal vaccinated against rabies if it does not leave metropolitan France. However, the veterinarian advises to do it:
“Honestly, I think it’s always good to vaccinate your pet against rabies. Because there too, he can be in contact with an infected animal, and remember that rabies can be transmitted by all mammals. »
If you plan to travel with your pet outside France (in Europe or even in Corsica), you will be obliged to have your companion vaccinated against this deadly disease. Also, you will have to go to your veterinarian to get a passport for your animal. To obtain it, your cat must also be identified by an electronic chip or by a tattoo. And watch out! it takes a few weeks (21 days for a cat) for the vaccine to be effective.
The golden rules for a zero-risk ride
Once your cat is used to the leash, the harness, and vaccinated, you can finally dive into the deep end. Be careful, for the first walk outside of your cat, do not think too big. Choose a quiet, uncrowded location. Before walking your cat, give him time to observe and sniff his new environment.
If your hairball stays still and refuses to move forward, that’s okay! Sit by his side and caress him tenderly to reassure him. Above all, do not force him to do anything, do not pull on the leash, this will stress him even more, and the walk could turn into a nightmare. At the beginning, plan outings that do not go beyond fifteen minutes and try to go, the first times, always to the same place.
Listen to your pet:When he gains confidence, he’ll let you know and start venturing a bit further on his own. Above all, congratulate him with caresses! Gradually, you can increase the duration of your walks… Mamour, six years after his first experiences in nature, can now spend whole days wandering in the forest, or even along the beach with me. Of course, he asks for breaks to rest – damn it! – at times, and he is delighted to take a nap in his backpack for a few minutes, before setting off again to explore…
However, if your pet panics, becomes agitated, struggles, it means that it does not yet feel ready for this new experience. Take him in your arms, pet him and above all talk to him to reassure him. You can try the experience again another day… And if after several tries, you don’t notice any progress, it’s because the great outdoors are not his cup of tea! So what ? Couch cats, as they say, have understood everything in life: you’re never as comfortable as at home!…
Find my Mamour, on his own Instagram account @mamoursking: his specialty? Nonsense at will!
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Featured Image: © Mamour X Marie Chéreau