Cat saftey during walking?

WolfenLynx

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Hello, it's been a long time since i've been on these forums, I started posting when I got my kitten Jasmine (I actually changed her name from the American spelling to the traditional spelling, unlike the original post) she's a year old now, and soon it'll be a year since we adopted her.

Anyway, I've been taking my cat for walks ever since I got her. She's fully leash trained. However I've run into some problems.

1. Overheating: She is a shorthair. I recently got her a thinner harness so she can stay cool, and her backpack is partially mesh. She still over-heats though!
We then tried to use a fan, to which she tried to attack. This was my fault for not introducing her to the fan before walking- however i'd rather have her scared than in a state of sever heat exhaustion or something. Temperature outside is around 73F / 80F at most. She pants and her ears turn red.

2. Stress/Meowing: She always tries to wriggle away from me and meows in the car as if we're going to the vet, which we're not. I never take her to the vet in her backpack. It worries me. Along walks she does the same until she is let out into a wooded trail, then she will do her thing. I notice though, that she scratches every single branch or log she can come across, and I hope the scratching is just enrichment and not her being stressed. She also has a hard time deciding where to "use the litterbox" outside.

I honestly think I don't walk her enough, she only goes every once in a while because we get busy. However this walk- despite getting exhausted (panting, red ears) and going full freak out mode over the fan we were using to cool her off (I feel super bad for stressing her), she actually made one improvement: getting used to people! someone walked right by her, and she remained calm and didn't try to flee.

Normal walks go like this: We drive to the park, with our dog. We walk around wooded areas away from other dogs. (She will try to hide or run in open spaces unfortunately) I walk her while my parents walk the dog. I let her out for a little while, and if she doesn't follow my parents enough we will let her go in the backpack. Then I think she gets way too hot (even while she's outside of the backpack)

Should I let her go at her own pace? We aren't out for long- and I heard a lot of people's cat's seem to do fine walking with the handler's pace.
 

emilyeli

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I have fostered quite a few cats and have been taking one of my cats out on walks for about a year now, although there’s a big break during the winter when I don’t take him outside because the snow is taller than he is. My other cat is not really into walking but he’ll sit in the backyard with me.

With the overheating, I generally don’t take my cats outside if it’s over 78ish and if I do it’s for less than 10 minutes and I try to keep them out of the sun. Cats don’t have thirst drives the way dogs do and won’t always drink to cool down or if they’re thirsty so I prefer to keep them from getting dehydrated in the first place by keeping them inside if it’s hot out. Panting in cats is not normal behaviour and - if it is indeed because of the heat - is a sign of hyperthermia. Personally I’d keep in her inside if she pants in hot or warm weather. If she’s also panting when it’s cool outside it may also be a sign of stress or excitement, but again... it’s pretty uncommon in cats and places stress on their respiratory tract so should be avoided. Between the three cats I’ve had in my life and 5 fosters I’ve only seen a cat pant once. She probably won’t forget all of the training you’ve done if you take long breaks in between walks so I wouldn’t worry about her not getting out enough if you decide to leave her at home when it’s hot. I took a 4-5 month break on walking my cat during the winter and he did totally fine when I started taking him out again in the spring.

I don’t think I’d be too worried about her being stressed in the car... I’ve never met a cat who liked car rides, even the ones who were on their first trip to the vet so couldn’t possibly make that association. I don’t have to drive my cat to our walks because our backyard gate opens up into a wooded area that I walk him in so I can’t say from experience whether that’ll eventually go away. How long is the drive? Maybe take her on shorter ones without stopping anywhere and give her treats when she gets back home to acclimate her. The other behaviours it’s kind of hard to say without actually seeing her do it but if she’s not showing other signs of stress while she does this and she likes going outside then it’s probably fine. And since cats need to conceal their waste to avoid attracting predators she’s probably just trying to find a good hiding spot.

Lastly... cats walk you, you don’t walk cats. Some cats might actually walk but I wouldn’t count on it. They’re not dogs or pack animals and they don’t see you as a leader. Independence and a sense of control is important to cats, trying to control where she goes is just going to annoy her or stress her out. Obviously you’ve gotta direct your cat every so often for their own safety but I just usually pick mine up and turn him around instead of tugging on the leash. The leash is just so that they can’t run away from you. Walking cats also isn’t really about walking, it’s more just about letting them see and smell the sights. I just follow mine while he wanders around and does what he wants, which means we usually don’t move very far but that’s okay since that’s not really the point anyway. Sometimes this means he’ll sit and sniff the same thing for like ten minutes and I just wait around until he’s done.

If you have a backyard or even just a balcony maybe try taking her out in there (still on a leash at least for a while so she doesn’t bolt) and see if she acts differently than she does when you’re on a walk. That might help you determine whether some of her behaviours, like the panting and scratching, are stress behaviours or not. Like I said at the beginning, one of my cats hates walks and prefers to just chill in the backyard. Usually he just hangs out on one of the chairs and looks around. I don’t put him on a leash in the backyard cause he doesn’t try to chase things (the other cat does go on a leash if he’s in the backyard because he’ll try to hop the fence if he spots a bird or a squirrel). Some cats just don’t have the personality for it and since they don’t need to go on walks there are other ways to provide enrichment for them.
 

Sylvia Jones

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I started out with a leash in the backyard but now both of mine will stay in the yard without one They only go out when I am sitting there watching They love to chase lizards and watch squirrels. Sometimes they run around or roll in the grass They love it! But going on a walk never happened even with a leash Think of it more like recess for kids Let them just play or lay there and watch the sites I live in Florida so it gets hot. I noticed panting and brought out a bowel of water Not interested and both of mine love water So now as soon as I see any panting we go inside
 
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WolfenLynx

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Thank you so much for your response! I had a feeling it was best to just let her go at her own pace, like you said- cats are not pack animals. I'm glad to hear I don't have to worry about walking her regularly, because I think I'm just going to take her out every once in a while now, on cool days and not for every long. This means no more walks with the dog! Because although I'll be happy to wait and watch her sniff things for 10 minutes- my dog wont. Health comes first though, her panting scared me so I'm gonna make sure it doesn't happen anymore even if it means I can't go as often.

Our car rides aren't long at all and we don't make any stops, so the meowing won't really be a problem or deal breaker, but I can try giving treats afterwards like you suggested. If it doesn't work it doesn't work ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My cat is totally happy (and often insists) on going out to my backyard. She's very easy to watch out there so I'll focus a bit more on that. She's actually nearly escaped us so I might invest in a catio when I'm older, cause she loves to try and sneak out the door.

Thanks again for the reassurance and help! I'm trying to put all my focus on keeping her happy and healthy- so adjustments will be made.

I have fostered quite a few cats and have been taking one of my cats out on walks for about a year now, although there’s a big break during the winter when I don’t take him outside because the snow is taller than he is. My other cat is not really into walking but he’ll sit in the backyard with me.

With the overheating, I generally don’t take my cats outside if it’s over 78ish and if I do it’s for less than 10 minutes and I try to keep them out of the sun. Cats don’t have thirst drives the way dogs do and won’t always drink to cool down or if they’re thirsty so I prefer to keep them from getting dehydrated in the first place by keeping them inside if it’s hot out. Panting in cats is not normal behaviour and - if it is indeed because of the heat - is a sign of hyperthermia. Personally I’d keep in her inside if she pants in hot or warm weather. If she’s also panting when it’s cool outside it may also be a sign of stress or excitement, but again... it’s pretty uncommon in cats and places stress on their respiratory tract so should be avoided. Between the three cats I’ve had in my life and 5 fosters I’ve only seen a cat pant once. She probably won’t forget all of the training you’ve done if you take long breaks in between walks so I wouldn’t worry about her not getting out enough if you decide to leave her at home when it’s hot. I took a 4-5 month break on walking my cat during the winter and he did totally fine when I started taking him out again in the spring.

I don’t think I’d be too worried about her being stressed in the car... I’ve never met a cat who liked car rides, even the ones who were on their first trip to the vet so couldn’t possibly make that association. I don’t have to drive my cat to our walks because our backyard gate opens up into a wooded area that I walk him in so I can’t say from experience whether that’ll eventually go away. How long is the drive? Maybe take her on shorter ones without stopping anywhere and give her treats when she gets back home to acclimate her. The other behaviours it’s kind of hard to say without actually seeing her do it but if she’s not showing other signs of stress while she does this and she likes going outside then it’s probably fine. And since cats need to conceal their waste to avoid attracting predators she’s probably just trying to find a good hiding spot.

Lastly... cats walk you, you don’t walk cats. Some cats might actually walk but I wouldn’t count on it. They’re not dogs or pack animals and they don’t see you as a leader. Independence and a sense of control is important to cats, trying to control where she goes is just going to annoy her or stress her out. Obviously you’ve gotta direct your cat every so often for their own safety but I just usually pick mine up and turn him around instead of tugging on the leash. The leash is just so that they can’t run away from you. Walking cats also isn’t really about walking, it’s more just about letting them see and smell the sights. I just follow mine while he wanders around and does what he wants, which means we usually don’t move very far but that’s okay since that’s not really the point anyway. Sometimes this means he’ll sit and sniff the same thing for like ten minutes and I just wait around until he’s done.

If you have a backyard or even just a balcony maybe try taking her out in there (still on a leash at least for a while so she doesn’t bolt) and see if she acts differently than she does when you’re on a walk. That might help you determine whether some of her behaviours, like the panting and scratching, are stress behaviours or not. Like I said at the beginning, one of my cats hates walks and prefers to just chill in the backyard. Usually he just hangs out on one of the chairs and looks around. I don’t put him on a leash in the backyard cause he doesn’t try to chase things (the other cat does go on a leash if he’s in the backyard because he’ll try to hop the fence if he spots a bird or a squirrel). Some cats just don’t have the personality for it and since they don’t need to go on walks there are other ways to provide enrichment for them.
 
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