COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. -- “If you don’t have a dog to walk, walking with your cat is the next best thing,” said self-proclaimed cat whisperer Mary Ellen at her home in Cottage Grove on Friday.
For Nymbus, Ellen’s Persian cat, going for a daily walk is as much a need as it is a sight to see.
“The trick is, you walk wherever the cat wants to walk,” said Ellen in her kitchen as she put the special cat harness on Nymbus.
She said cats don’t like to do anything that’s not their idea.
“This is a cat, not a dog,” she added. “It’s not trying to please you.”
But motives aside, Ellen said what’s good for a dog is also good for a cat—going outside and getting healthy exercise.
“And inside cats love it because they get to go outside and smell things and see things,” said Ellen.
On Thursday, a New York Times web story about the benefits of walking your cat was the most clicked on story of the day.
And in Eugene, Petsmart trainer Brittany Saiz said it’s more common than you might think.
"We usually see cats on leashes in here about a couple of times a week,” said Saiz in front of the cat leash and harness section at Petsmart on Thursday. “Sometimes people will just bring them in and have them on their shoulder, but generally they're going to be walking around—seeing other dogs and other cats. It's definitely becoming more common than it used to be."
And Saiz said if you’re planning on taking your cat for a walk, remember to get a harness made specifically to fit a cat’s neck, which is shaped different than a canine’s.
“They’re a lot safer than regular collars,” said Saiz, now holding one of the small harnesses. “They’re not going to choke your cat. They’re not going to hurt them. And they can’t get out of them.”
And Saiz said she agrees with Ellen about the benefits of walking a cat.
“It’s good for them for socialization,” she said while putting the cat harness on one of the cats in the adoption center. “It helps them with the stimulation, and they can pick up on things—meet other animals. It’s healthy.”
Ellen’s four Persians are internationally known for their extra ordinary abilities—riding around in a stroller and even swimming in the backyard pool—appearing in various publications such as In Touch magazine.
But Ellen said anyone can teach their cat how to walk on a leash.
“It’s easier than most people will give cats credit for,” said Ellen. “Actually, it’s training the people more than it’s training the cats.”
First, Ellen said to get your cat used to the harness and leash indoors.
Then, she said to let the cat lead you around the house until it becomes comfortable enough to go outside.
And finally, she said to open the door and explore—remembering to let the cat lead you.
“If it gets scared, just come back inside,” said Ellen. “And it takes practice.”
Ellen said while she taught her cats how to swim in the pool, they really don’t like to get wet. So for your cat’s first walk, she said to pick a dry day.