By Laura Atwood
For Senior Voice 

Treat your housecat to the outdoors


June 1, 2018

Sue Mayo photo

Linus, adopted from Anchorage Animal Care and Control, enjoys leash walks, stroller walks and a catio.

"Honey, did you walk the cat?" What? Walk the cat? Yes, you heard that right. Cats have spent too much time lying around inside, bored and under-stimulated while dogs are treated to walks, play dates and time in the yard.

But it safe to let your cat outside? And what about birds and other wildlife they may kill? There are many safe ways to get your cat outside while also keeping birds and wildlife safe from them (remember, cats are small but fierce predators).

Let's start with catios. Catios are an enclosed outdoor space for your cat, just like a patio is for people. Cats can sit outside, soak up the sun, sniff the air, watch the birds, all from within a safe enclosure. Catios are definitely a trend so images and plans can be easily found online.

Here are a few points to consider before constructing a catio:

- Do you want the catio to be accessible from a door or window of your home or something free-standing in your yard (think about how you will get your cat safely from your home to his/her catio)?

- Is the catio just for your cat to spend time in or do you want it to be people-friendly also (budget allowing, of course)?

- If you don't own your home, do you have permission from the landlord?

Read more about catios here:

Can you really take a cat on a walk? Yes, if you approach it correctly. First your cat has to be comfortable wearing a harness. We recommend getting them used to the harness inside your home first. Put the harness on and then do something fun – play with your cat or give him his favorite food, so the association with the harness will be positive. Over time, add the leash and then introduce your cat to the outside in small increments. Also, before heading out with your cat, it's good to know the dogs in your neighborhood, especially if they are often running loose. If so, it might be best to confine your cat's adventures to your yard and other dog-free zones.

Adventure Cats has great information on training a cat to walk on a leash:

Here are two more ideas for you: pet strollers and backpacks designed for carrying pets. As with a harness and leash, cats can be accustomed to riding in a stroller or being carried in a backpack. The advantage to either of these is that your cat is safely confined but can still experience the outdoors.

So don't buy into that old idea that cats just want to lie around. They want to experience the world just as much as dogs do. These ideas will not only get your cat outside safely, they also get you outside, enjoying fresh air and exercise with your feline companion. And, let's face it, as we age, experiencing the world in the meditative fashion and pace of a cat might be more enjoyable than trying to keep up with those loveable but fast-moving canines.

Laura Atwood is a public relations coordinator for Anchorage Animal Care and Control.


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