Walking the Cat

by Danny Zawacki

Recently, Ellie and I have tried to get out of the apartment as much as possible because the weather has been nicer and we both have cabin fever from the longer Winter than usual in recent years. We try to walk for a bit before dinner when possible, just to stretch the legs. On the weekends, we search for geocaches. Any excuse to move is a good excuse. Marley, however, we neglected and is why we decided to start walking the cat.

Now, I’ve heard about different ways to train your cats to make them a little more user-friendly and easier to take care of (read: less poop scooping and furniture destruction). In college, I knew a  girl who was working to potty train her cats because the effort needed to train them would pay off in the long run. I really see what she meant. Poop scooping is hardly fun and it’s a never-ending process. Other things I’ve read about include covering things in tinfoil so the cats will leave them alone. Apparently, cats do not like tinfoil. Rightly so? You can spray them with water bottles if they do something you want to train out of them (though a number of the articles on this topic said you should make sure the cat associates the water with doing the offending act and doesn’t associate it with the person spraying, any ideas on how to do this?). But of all the things I’ve read about thus far, the least common one is walking the cat.

How often do you think, I wish I had a cat to take for walks? How much more often do you substitute cat for dog? What would you do if you saw a full-grown man or woman walking a cat on a leash? Would you assume they’re doing it for the benefit of the cat? Or would you think they were crazy and trying to draw some attention to them and their beloved feline? Until recently, I thought the latter.

Back in college, I bought a leash and a harness for Marley so I could take her for walks. It didn’t work out. She would wrap the leash around me and end up on my shoulder. Walking the cat turned into becoming the cat’s chariot. Also, she didn’t like running into dogs and sometimes it was too hot for her to be out. I did it all wrong.

My problem was that I thought once I put the harness and leash on her, she’d be ready for a walk just like a dog. She hated the harness and I thrust her into a whole new world. What I failed to do was consider how Marley reacts to new places. Every time I move, she ends up under the bed for a couple of days before she decides to come out and investigate. Pulling her into walks where there was so much new to her and nowhere to hide but my shoulder was the wrong way to get her to walk.

Walking the cat on a leash

Walking the cat on a leash

So, in an effort to retry what I failed at in college and to include Marley in mine and Ellie’s outdoor activities, we decided to start walking the cat. This past Sunday, we strapped her into the harness and let her adjust. I gave her some treats to get her more comfortable. Then we scooped her up and took her out to the patch of grass behind my building. Naturally, she had a bushy tail and didn’t really want to be out there but we persisted and eventually got her moving around comfortably.

So we didn’t stress her out, we brought her in and gave her some treats as a reward. We’ll do this a couple more times before trying to get her to the corner of the block. Eventually, I’ll walk her just like I’d walk a dog. People will stare and assume I’m a crazy cat guy who has no friends, but the jokes on them because it’s true and I own it.