A cat named Sercy investigates the world beyond the window. (Photo illustration by Claire Carter/Carolina News and Reporter)
Katherine Coynor’s cat Mason cries by the backdoor each afternoon.
Not for a bird or squirrel, but because he knows it’s time for his daily walk.
“I live in a very small house, and (walking) gives him a way to get his energy out,” said Coynor, who lives in Camden.
Cat walking might seem unorthodox. But it’s not uncommon, and owners do it as a way to bond with their cats, said Cat Clinic veterinarian Mary Carter.
Taking a feline friend out in the world on a leash or inside a backpack allows them to experience the world in a safe way, Carter said.
“Some cats really want to roam,” Carter said. “Sometimes you can have that bonding with them – kind of like the same thing as bonding with a dog.”
Coynor started walking Mason to let him explore, as he seemed unhappy with a life stuck inside.
“He suffers from pretty bad cabin fever,” Coyner said. “He would just be miserable, and I tried (walking) to give him another outlet. And he loved it.”
For some cats, putting on the harness and walking is thrilling. But for others, it’s a scary event.
Columbia resident and cat owner Grace Elliott said she once attempted to walk her two cats, Ollie and Doofus.
“Doofus was terrified,” Elliott said. “He would get on the ground and crawl and wouldn’t stand up all the way.”
Ollie did the same thing.
Would she do it again?
“Probably for, like, comedy,” she said.
Carter said the most important task when starting to walk a cat is making sure they are familiar and comfortable with the harness.
Start with a collar they’re OK with, Carter said. Then, put treats around an open harness on the ground.
“Then, kind of work your way up to just putting it on their legs, and then (work) your way up to clipping” the harness on, she said.
Careful exposure to all the factors your cat will experience on a walk, such as the sound of passing cars, is key to making your cat safe and happy on their stroll.
Carter said owners who want to walk their cat should be sure all vaccinations are up to date, the same as you would for a dog.
Feather and laser toys don’t compare to the experience some cats get on a walk.
Mason gets to see the world now through more than just a window on his walks.
“He just wants to run and sniff and see and do things he can’t do inside,” Coynor said. “Don’t knock it ’til you try it!”