PETS: Cat’s Meowndering

Hitch ‘em up and move ‘em out. If mr. Whiskers is spreading out, time for some time in the great outdoors — on a leash

Any cat owner worth their scratching post has heard a million times over that keeping a cat inside is dramatically safer than letting them roam the streets.

Those cat owners also know that if a cat is confined to the four walls of your abode, it’s pretty easy for them to quickly pack a few extra pounds onto that nine-lived frame.

And when kitty starts looking more Heathcliff than Felix, the options for shedding the extra inches are pretty, well, slim.

Black and brown striped British cat in park with owner

Yes you can and should walk your cat, vet experts say.

You’re not gonna send the indoor cat outside to run off their Friskies. And a species already averse to a bathtub probably won’t happily climb atop a treadmill for you either.

So what about clipping a leash to your kitty and taking them for a stroll?

Believe it or not, it’s actually not a bad idea. Once you get passed the initial awkwardness — and yes, cat walkers, you look pretty weird walking Mr. Whiskers down the block regardless of how perfectly normal you think you are — experts say walking a cat on a leash can be great for them. The key, they say, is taking a few precautions and expecting up front that a walk in the park might not work for your particular gato.

“I think it would take a special cat to do that,” says Dr. Matt Demey, the owner of Seven Hills Veterinary Hospital in Aurora and a longtime local vet.

Demey says that, like with anything involving a cat, you can’t really expect them to act like their fellow uber-popular four-legged friend, dogs. Cats, as anyone with a box of litter in their home can attest, are more strong willed than their canine friends, and often a lot more stubborn. So while just jingling that leash in front of Fido will make him bolt for the door and wag his tail, don’t expect Christmas-morning excitement levels from the cat. And steel yourself for the chance that your cat would rather curl up on the couch than wander into the great unknown.

“Unless they want to go on a walk, they are not going to go on a walk,” Demey says.

The key to making sure your cat stays safe — and doesn’t dart away to become coyote food during their walk — is to use a harness that the cat can’t escape from. A simple collar won’t cut it, Demey says, because if the cat wants to, they’ll slide their head free and take off. “Cats have a really uncanny ability of backing out of a collar,” he says.

So make sure you try the harness inside a few times to make sure not just that the cat can’t escape from it, but that they aren’t terrified of the device or the leash you affix to it. Simply taking the harness and leash from the package, strapping them to the kitty and hitting the sidewalk is a very, very bad idea.

“Pretty soon you won’t have a cat,” Demey says.

There are numerous cat-harnesses in pet supply stores and online. At www.kittyholster.com, inventors extol the virtues of getting Precious outside on the end of the lead.

Even if you have that super-snug, escape-proof kitty harness on them, Demey says there are still some concerns you have to grapple with. Chief among those is your cat’s potential to go all recent-arrival to Colorado and fall in love with the outdoors. That’s not to say kitty will buy a Subaru and a closet-full of Patagonia, just that they may long for the outside in a way that should raise your alert levels. That could mean you have to keep an eye on that indoor cat more than before because they might be eye-balling any open door, hoping for a way back into that sweet Colorado sunshine.