Cat Equipment for walks

If you take your cat for walks, there are certain items of equipment you will need. So I offer following the advice based on my experience.

Cat harness

Nowadays you can get cat harnesses at most larger pet stores. But they are not always good ones and if you do not choose carefully you may end up buying several!

There will be times when you need to be able to lift your a by the harness. For instance, a dog is approaching. Or in traffic. Or maybe the cat is a bit too adventurous with a cliff.

Many (perhaps most) harnesses have the lead attachment part way between the neck and body straps. If you apply force to these, to lift your cat, they put pressure on the cat's throat - and the cat ends up coughing. So choose one where the cat is lifted by the body. The neck strap is there solely to keep the harness in position.

Most modern harnesses have plastic click-together buckles so are easy to put on. You don't want to be fiddling with old-fashioned buckles!

Our local vet sells harnesses by Lupine. These are expensive but are very well made, have the attachment point at the correct place and also have a lifetime guarantee. They also come without a lead - but the leads with harnesses are nearly useless anyway!

Older Trixie harnesses had the attachment point wrong, but Trixie have changed the design of the harnesses. Cheaper than the Lupine ones but don't have the same guarantee, so are not quite so well made but nevertheless good.


Retractable lead

The 'free' leads that come with many harnesses are essentially useless (far too short). You need a retractable lead for a cat. Trixie do an 8 metre Flexi retractable leads which is very good. Flexi leads are lightweight and free running so are very suitable for a cat. Some other makes require a lot more pull so are really not suitable. Shame Trixi don't do a Flexi longer than 8 metres - it would be good when training a cat.


Clicker

When on a walk, your cat will on occasion go off into the bushes to investigate. So you call them, and they look around, unable to locate the direction your voice is coming from. Cat eyesight is not good, except at short range (for hunting mice in the undergrowth) so they won't be able to identify you by sight (though waving at them can help as they detect movement well). Their hearing is very acute - but it evolved for hearing mice in the grass, so though acute its directional ability is short range and high frequency so is not well adapted to locate a human voice. Here a clicker can be a great help as the click is a high frequency noise which the cat can properly spacially locate. A clicker can therefore be of great assistance when calling your cat. It is a very cheap device, so well worth acquiring.


Carrier

You will find yourself at some stage needing a pet carrier. There is a bewildering multitude of different types, so what do you choose? Some of my experiences as to what you may need a carrier for may help...

I can think of 5 times when you may think you will need to carry your cat. I'll discuss each:

  1. Carrying to the car
  2. In the car
  3. When your cat wants to be carried
  4. When your cat is frightened
  5. When you need to restrain your cat

Carrying to the car

Certainly this can be useful, especially when the cat if being trained, or if the cat shows inclination to get out of the car, or if you are loading lots of other stuff. But if this was all you needed the carrier for - use a cardboard box. Our cats quite enjoy being in cardboard boxes and are quite happy to be in those carriers you get your Christmas turkey in!

In the car

All of the cats I have known have been quite relaxed in the car (once they have got used to it) and tend to simply relax in a car trip. Misty (our Siamese) was a slight exception: she got so excited at the thought of a walk that she continuously cried - the equivalent of a child's 'are we there yet?' When the walk was done, she would relax!

Cats in my experience don't need much restraint in a car - unless they are exploring it, when there is a danger of them getting under the driver's feet!

Two cats in a carrierHowever, we do use a carrier in the car: it's quite large so will take both cats. Reason is - Xanna (the Bengal) tended to get car-sick with excitement, so we keep her in here until she has thrown up. After that, she's not sick again even on a fortnights holiday. So the carrier is lined with newspaper.

This carrier also has a flat top which is quite strong enough for a car, so as well as giving them their own space inside, they also have a vantage point on top.

When your cat wants to be carried

In my experience, cats on walks do not want to be carried - unless it's too wet under foot or is raining. Even then, their tolerance for water is very breed dependant. Xanna, our Bengal, will get extremely wet without problem: she has several times been in ponds and swims well. But she has a very thick and waterproof under coat, so hardly notices the water. Misty (our Siamese) on the other hand has a very thin coat which absorbs water, so she simply cannot take getting wet. Nevertheless, she really would rather not be carried for long.

You can also get a kangaroo-style front carrier pouch. Clearly an ideal thing when your cat wants to be carried. I have not investigated these (so would welcome feedback from readers whom have) as I cannot see that they are good in the other situations where a carrier is useful.

But Misty (as have other cats we've had) does want to be picked up from time to time for short periods. It would be easy to think this was just for reassurance. But I am sure she has learnt that the view from a human's arms is far better than at ground level, so it's by no means entirely for reassurance!

When your cat is frightened

Cats are more introverted than dogs and there are plenty of times your cat may want to hide from something it finds threatening. Most pet carriers are ideal in this respect. The cat is enclosed, so feels safe, yet has a partial view through the ventilation grille. Your cat will find such a carrier a great comfort.

When you need to restrain your cat

You're in town, in traffic, a dog is approaching, you're in a restaurant or pub. You're on a bus or in a train. Or you're in a place where dogs aren't allowed - very often they will accept a cat if it's in a carrier. There are plenty of times where a carrier may make all the difference when you are out with your cat.


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