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In recent days I've been trying to develop a habit in my cat of a morning walk with me.

It is to be noted that letting the cat alone outside to roam independently is not an option. Here there are lots of stray dogs who attack cats. She will be dead within half an hour.

Also I live in a small 1BHK apartment, in a high rise building. So basically it's eat as much as you want with no exercise for my cat. Although she is still 7 months old, I am worried that this lifestyle might lead to cardiac and other problems in my cat.

Also when outside what my cat wants to do is to simply run to the nearest bush and get inside to hide.

So I have to make my cat wear a collar with a leash to make my cat walk.

Now when I am present the dogs don't come nearby but bark from distance and she still gets frightened.

The main problem is with cows. Here are some cows, and when my cat sees one she gets terrified. All her hairs go straight as if to make her look larger than she already is. And she simply refuses to move any further. I have to then pick up my cat and carry her away from the cow.

Now, on returning, my cat seems to get extremely upset with me. She won't play, won't meow and just sits in a corner.

Now what is an option for me?

Clearly the morning walk isn't working out well. And my apartment is too small for the cat to play. I am worried she may develop heart diseases if this lifestyle of hers continues.

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    So, er, find somewhere to walk that avoids cows. Or exercise her by playing with her in your apartment, for example with a feather-on-a-stick toy. – David Richerby Sep 3 '17 at 13:02
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    Cats exercise by playing... get a laser pointer. – barbecue Sep 4 '17 at 3:23
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    Why exactly does it have to be 'eat as much as you want'? You can regulate how much food she gets. If she is not outside, she cannot hunt, so actually, it is 'eat as much as you give her'. You can even make getting at the food an exercise for her with appropriate toys. Make your home more cat-friendly, don't care about walking her if it scares her into a heart attack. That"s what you wanted to avoid in the first place. – skymningen Sep 4 '17 at 8:06
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    If possible get another cat; then they will exercise each other by playing:) – Ajasja Sep 4 '17 at 13:12
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    You mention a collar. Because you have the cat on a leash, I must assume the collar is not a breakaway collar. I might suggest that if you want to continue walking your cat you get a harness instead. It is more comfortable for the cat, and there is less risk of harm to the cat from strangulation. I might also suggest replacing the current collar with a breakaway collar for home use. If the cat ever successfully escaped, a standard collar could cause the cat to become trapped or injured. – wwarriner Sep 5 '17 at 15:06

11 Answers 11

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I think it is best to stop the walks; cats have a very good memory, so you will have to change the way she gets her exercise. Since she has a very good memory, she will remember that there are cows on that route and will have a bad association with those walks.

If you continues to take the walks you might end up in a bad circle for both you and the cat, and this will be very hard to change later.

You say there is too little space where you are living, but cats don't need a lot of floor space, and it is often possible to use the vertical space, the walls and some of the furniture.

Putting up some shelves and maybe combining this with the furniture to make an area for the cat to climb-jump and rest. Cats in general like to have an elevated place where they can rest and view their territory, even if she is small.

I am not saying you should let the cat destroy your furniture; I am just saying there are possibilities one just have to find them.

If it is impossible or too hard to change the place where you are living you might have to change where you take the walk and hope this makes it easier for the cat.

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Putting a cat on a leash and walking it around isn't species-appropriate. You can and should do that with a dog, but cats usually hate that. They value their autonomy.

The idea "My cat will feel safe when I am around" is wrong. Cats don't think that way. While they are social animals, they aren't herd animals like domesticated wolves dogs or humans who have a "strength in numbers" survival strategy. Cats don't protect each other, unless it's a mother protecting its kittens. For adult cats, it's an everyone-for-themselves world. Their survival strategy is to hunt anything that's weaker, hide from anything that's stronger and intimidate anything where it's unclear. Your cat will not feel more protected when you are around because it doesn't expect you to protect it. If anything, you make it more anxious because the leash limits its fight and flight abilities.

Also when outside what my cat wants to do is to simply run to the nearest bush and get inside to hide.

That's normal cat behavior. When you put a cat in a new environment, it will first look for a safe hiding spot. It will start to explore on its own when it has deemed the environment to be safe. You can't force that by forcing your cat out of its hiding spot. That just induces stress. Even in familiar environments, cats will often have hiding spots. That's because they are ambush predators. If you can't see it, the delicious mice can't see it either.

Here are some cows, and when my cat sees one she gets terrified. All her hairs go straight as if to make her look larger than she already is. And she simply refuses to move any further.

That doesn't sound like fear. When a cat is afraid, it will run away and hide somewhere. Does the cat face the cows, head down and back up? Does it hiss? That's intimidation behavior. The cat wants to demonstrate to the cows that it isn't afraid of them and that it will stand its ground.

Intimidating cows might not make much sense to you, but remember that your cat is inexperienced with the outside world and unfamiliar with its own strength. It might not realize that cows are stronger than it but still rather harmless.

So what's the solution? As the other answers said. Cats can live a perfectly happy and healthy life if kept indoor all the time. You just need to provide a cat-appropriate environment with lots of things to play with, climb on and hide in and you need to control its calorie intake so it doesn't become overweight. If you think that being outside is a more appropriate lifestyle for your cat, let it go outside by itself and let it explore the outside world on its own pace. It's a dangerous place out there and it might get hurt and killed, but there is nothing you can do about that if you want your cat to enjoy it.

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  • Cows are most definitely not "rather harmless" in general - it depends on the breed of cows. Milk cows are often much more aggressive than beef cows. I've watched a group of three cows kill a medium sized dog in about 5 minutes flat - not a pretty sight watching a half-dead dog being tossed around like a rag doll on the cows' horns. They can (and sometimes do) trample humans to death, let alone dogs. Cats are nocturnal - the time they should be outside getting exercise (and catching any rodents that cross their path) is all night long (and in any weather!), not going for a walk on a lead! – alephzero Sep 3 '17 at 17:58
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    @alephzero that is not true about the outdoor cats. Please see my answer and the link – user6796 Sep 3 '17 at 19:12
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    Just as a related point of interest, I have had five cats out of ten who liked going for off-leash walks with me, and would range farther than (I am pretty sure) they would go on their own, while walking with me. – Dronz Sep 4 '17 at 3:54
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    "Putting a cat on a leash and walking it around isn't species-appropriate." Ehm... citation needed? My cat -loves- walking around on a leash with me. Every now and then he'll start meowing and if I ask him if he wants to go for a walk, he runs over to the front door and patiently waits for my to put his leash on. Have taken him to the forest and he loved climbing in the trees. It's not quite like walking a dog because they're not super into the walking part, but he definitely had fun. (Just be careful with other animals, my cat freaked out when he saw some horses.) – Theik Sep 4 '17 at 7:20
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    @Theik Citation needed? No. Not at all. Not for something so self evident. – closetnoc Sep 5 '17 at 1:08
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According to my vet, whom I trust utterly, it's absolutely fine for cats to live inside all the time.

First up: make sure you feed them an appropriate amount. Read the packaging, get advice from your vet or vet nurse. There are lots of foods out there and you are probably going to be better off with one designed for indoor and/pr neutered cats(which will be lower calorie). A cat should not be getting all the food they can eat.

Second: create an environment where your cat can get exercise. Laser pointer, feather on a stick, ping pong ball - any kind of toy which gets them running around. Your cat will have their own preferences (mine likes yellow toys, especially ones the right size for carrying around with her). I've also got a "Cat TV" - a perspex box which sticks on the outside of the window and gets filled with bird seed. My day is punctuated by the thud of paws on glass. She loves it.

Third: make sure your cat has places they feel safe - a set of (very secure) shelves or a piece of accessible furniture where they can get a bit of height. My cat is scared of horses, so when a horse goes past the house she zooms upstairs to hiss at them from the upstairs windowsill.

Fourth: If the walking isn't working out, then don't worry about it. Your cat may be a bit young - mine's 4 and we have a nice 20 minute perambulation of the garden each morning. The key part is it's led by her. She tells me/drapes herself across my keyboard when she's ready, then I show her the harness and she'll come to the door and stand still while I put it on. If she doesn't do that, we don't go out. Is your cat telling you they enjoy the experience? If not, it may not be right for them.

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  • I am quite weak at heart. Whenever my cat begs for food I end up giving it to her. She always eats throughout the day. I just can't keep her begging. – Sonevol Sep 4 '17 at 12:09
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    @Sonevol That is bad practice. It begs because you have reinforced when it begs it gets food. Having a pet is not all sunshine and lollypops and giving the animal what it wants, sometimes you need to act in the cats best interest even if the cat doesn't know that it is in its best interest - this includes maintaining a calory intake of the cat equal to its daily outgoing - no matter how much it meows at you. – Trotski94 Sep 4 '17 at 14:24
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    @Sonevol While it's not guaranteed to stop the begging completely, getting the cat used to an automated food dispenser is a good way of removing yourself from the equation. – rwfeather Sep 5 '17 at 22:42
  • You should certainly buy some toys. A feather thing on the end of a string is excellent for exercising a cat, as is a laser pointer (if they go for it - neither of mine do). – Greenstone Walker Sep 6 '17 at 2:19
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The cow would look like a giant. If you want to continue walking her over the long run then don't stop. Keep taking her while she is used to it, it will only be harder if you stop, but for a few minutes. If you take her for a few minutes, so she cannot run into anything that will frighten her. See how she reacts, then you can gradually increase the time.

An Outdoor Cat… /... Can still go outside! Start him young with a cat harness and lead – you can take him for walks (just in the back yard if it’s too embarrassing to walk a cat!) /...

Perhaps, if you see a cow, pick her up, before it gets too close. You can also try desensitizing her to the cows, by gradually taking her closer to them while you're holding her.

On the other hand, this may be too stressful for her. There's predators lurking and cows she's fearful of. She won't come to any harm being indoors. In fact indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats.

In Australia:

An Outdoor Cat… /... He has a significantly reduced life expectancy. Cats allowed outdoors have an average life expectancy of 5 years! (Indoor cats can live for 15-20 years) This is due to the higher risk of injury, death, illness, fights, etc.

If you do decide to keep her exclusively indoors, then watching her diet and being creative about exercise will assist her health.

You can also create an indoor cat playground and get her to chase toys on string for exercise.

An Outdoor Cat… /... Less chance of obesity – indoor cats are more prone to weight problems as they don’t get the same level of exercise (though this can be combated with a cat food formatted for indoor only cats .../...)

Also it is ok to walk the cat on a harness:

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  • I must admit I do question the figures. We used to have a cat that was about 17 years old and she went inside and outside as she pleased (and another who did the same, though she only lived to 9 because she was frail due to mistreatment before we had her). But that was in Britain, I suspect it would be a different story in Australia (or indeed India). – Pharap Sep 4 '17 at 4:15
  • @Pharap yep in Australia it's different - and there's also the issues that the cats decimate our wildlife (to a point of endangered)- so it's not ok here to let cats roam about freely. Neither is it in India - they get killed by stray dogs. – user6796 Sep 4 '17 at 4:56
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First of all, I applaud your desire to help your cat get some exercise and stay healthy.

Instead of being exciting, all of the sounds, sights, and smells of the outdoors seem to create an overwhelming experience that leaves her withdrawn - this doesn't sound like a positive pattern. In order to make the outdoors less overwhelming for your kitty, you might want to look into a safe, cozy backpack from which she can watch the outdoors.

This is like allowing your cat to take the house with her.

It won't give her any exercise at first, but it will allow her to get acquainted with the outdoors and the feeling of sharing a morning walk with you. Eventually, you may find that you can take her out of the backpack and walk with her. Don't be too concerned about following a specific path - cats like to explore. Let her guide you.

Also, if you choose to continue walking your cat, please switch to a harness rather than a collar!

Cats have very delicate tracheas that can collapse under the pressure of a collar. A harness allows you to more evenly distribute the pressure across your cat's body. Besides this, most harnesses are more difficult for your cat to wriggle out of - something that will come in handy if your cat becomes nervous enough to run somewhere other than into a bush.

For the time being, my advice is to maximize the indoor environment and watch her diet.

Can you fit a cat tree in your apartment? Because a cat tree is typically tall and narrow, it won't take up much space, while offering a lot of play and stimulation opportunities. Even a tall scratching post would give her a nice place to climb, scratch, and play while accommodating your limited square footage.

Does your cat react to catnip? A little bit of this herb could help her feel more frisky, leading to some indoor activity.

Make sure that she's not grazing on dry food throughout the day - this could lead to obesity and the health issues that you're concerned about. Diet shouldn't be a problem if you can portion her meals out yourself.

I have a blog with more information about this.

Wishing you all the best!

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  • Hi, welcome to the site. Do you have an affiliation with the www.wildernesscat.com? – user6796 Sep 11 '17 at 2:21
  • Thanks for the welcome to the site, Yvette. I am definitely affiliated with Wildernesscat - I'm a regular writer on the site. Why do you ask? – WildernessCatLady Sep 11 '17 at 4:10
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    You need to disclose your affiliation, to conform to the ToS. It's important not to over promote your site or link it without a disclosure that it's your site. You can link your site in your profile, otherwise I'd steer clear of linking it in your posts too often. The sites detect these types of things, as we have problems with spammers. Please read this link pets.stackexchange.com/help/promotion. Hope to see you more often on here :) – user6796 Sep 11 '17 at 4:13
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    Additionally, private affiliate links are not allowed on this site. I edited the affiliate link out of your answer. For more information, please see this meta post: pets.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2182/… (Meta is where members of this site can talk about how the site is managed) – Zaralynda Sep 11 '17 at 19:16
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  1. This is an unpopular opinion, but that doesn't make it any less true: You shouldn't have gotten a cat if you can't provide a suitable living area.

Because you already have the cat, and as a life long cat owner myself, I understand you don't want to give her up, we'll have to make do with what we have.

Cats in general don't like being walked, and you cat clearly doesn't like it. Forcing the cat to walk is only going to result in the cat not trusting or liking you, as you are already seeing. Cats have very good memories when it comes to remembering those who wronged them, and once broken, the relationship with a cat is nigh impossible to fix.

If you cannot move to a better suitable area, you'll have to entertain your cat indoors. Get a cat tree, get some toys (balls, fake mice on strings etc) and actively play with the cat indoors. That way, she gets her exercise, and she'll start to associate you with fun times, rather than with those gruesome walks. That way, the exercise can actually improve your relationship with your cat, rather than ruin it.

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I don't have experience in walking cats on a leash. I would say, if it doesn't work well for both of you, stop doing it. Cats can live a nice life inside as well. However, getting a young and active cat for a small apartment is not ideal.

As for how to make your cat happy anyways and keep her weight under control, here are my experiences and thoughts:

Many cats have a good feel for how much they should eat. My two cats get as much wet food as they want and are not overweighted. The male cat does eat more before winter but reduces his weight on his own when spring comes along which seems perfectly fine. Of course that only works if they don't get lots of treats.

Your cat needs some activities to unleash it's energy. Get feather toys, try ropes, straws, balls, ... find out what your cat likes to play with and get her some exercise in the apartment. If you have enough space to walk in your apartment, there should be enough space for your cat to play as well.

Use the vertical space with cat trees, walkways, integrating your furniture ... there are many ideas you can find online.

Get a second cat. Sure, a small apartment and two cats? Again, not ideal, however, it is already not great for one cat, a suiting partner (similar age and activity level, same sex / playing habits) should provide your cat with a social partner it can interact with and observe and improve her apartment life considerably. Cats are social animals, they like to play, groom each other, ... . It is important though to provide hiding and sleeping places for each cat, so that they can avoid each other if they want some time alone.

You can also provide an elevated place from which your cat can observe what is going on in the world outside through a window.

On the long term, you moving to a bigger apartment would be best.

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A cat is fine living indoors only. However, it will need to be stimulated in other ways, such as by using laser pens and puzzle feeders. A harness walk is a brilliant way of giving new exercises and bonding, and can become a fun thing as they get used to it from a young age. For those asking for citations, I studied animal management at university so that is my source

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Buy a semi-open transportation bag for cats. It's safe and feeling secure for them. They can explore the surroundings, and hide whenever they want (keep it open when the cat wants to hide quickly).

I had a wonderful chocolate cat, but she was always scared of the street dangers. Having a bag like I described above solved the problem completely.

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Get a very long (20+ ft.) retractable leash for your cat, along with a secure harness and instead of walking find a quiet place with trees and someplace you can sit. Try not to let the cat get too far up in the tree.

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You can give your cat exercise inside. Go on Amazon and buy Da Bird. It is a 10 dollar cat toy with feathers attached to a string. Wave it around and your cat will chase it.

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