Just a few short years ago, I NEVER thought I would be one of those crazy people taking a walk with their cat on a leash. Until one day…I suddenly was. All of my life, my cats had done so well living inside, never setting a single paw outside of the house after moving in. When I first got Burger, it was hours after he was diagnosed with FIV. The couple taking care of him had tried many times to convince him to be an indoor cat, but he would always escape – even going as far as breaking through windows to get out. With the other stray cats in their neighborhood, it wasn’t fair to let him roam outside, potentially exposing countless other cats to his disease.
Lucky for me (and for Bug!), after moving in with me, Burger was suddenly content living as an indoor cat. However, there were times when I would take Oreo out for a walk that Burger would try to sneak out with us. I couldn’t help but feel a little bad, but the thought of letting him join us outside never crossed my mind. I couldn’t take the risk of him running off and getting hit by a car, eaten by a bigger animal, or simply just getting lost.
The first time Burger got really sick after throwing his blood clot, he wasn’t very active at all – all he wanted to do was lay in the window. I mentioned to a friend that I wondered if he would want to go outside for small amounts of time, just to lay in the sun with his dog. That friend mentioned that she had a leash and harness from when she used to let her cats go out with her, and she gave it to me to try out. Burger adjusted to being out on a leash almost immediately, he was soooo happy to be outside!
I don’t know what it was about being outside, but Burger started recovering pretty quickly after that first time outside with me. I still didn’t think he’d have very much longer with me, so seeing him perk up so much after his outings, I started taking him out just about daily, we’d lay in the sun after work until the sun would set. To this day, whenever he isn’t feeling good, I take him outside for a walk on the beach with me, and it provides an immediate boost to his spirits – and to his health!
I did have one scare with him, back when I was living at my parents’ house. A super loud car went by and terrified Burger. He wriggled right out of his harness and took off in (luckily) the opposite direction. He tried to jump through a fence to get away from the sound but got stuck in the fence instead. Trying to get him out of a fence in the dark at 3 am was definitely an adventure! After that, I realized that after his weight loss, I needed to find Burger a harness that fit! I wound up going with this one after seeing the good reviews it got on Amazon. Thus far, he hasn’t been able to escape from it. A lot of the time at my current house, I’ll shut the gates on the fence and let him walk around the yard without a leash on – he stays right by me until he finds the perfect patch of sun to lay on. I would never try that when he’s out walking the beach with me, though – too many things could go wrong, so he is always in a harness for those trips.
Part of the reason that I think Burger did so good when he first started going on walks with me is that initially, I would only take him outside when I was taking Oreo out. Oreo was his best friend and his protector, I think it helped him feel safe and confident. He would observe as Oreo rolled around in the dirt and the grass, and then mimic him by doing the same thing himself. When Buddy moved in with me, most of Burgers walks were with him – Buddy moved more slow-paced, which helped Burger meander and explore more things, watch the birds flying overhead, and smell all of the new scents. Buddy always let Burger dictate the direction they would walk, and the pace at which they would do it.
It may seem silly, but I really do think that a huge reason Burger keeps fighting off all of his health issues is because of the outdoor time I give him. He gets to soak up the sights and smells, and I think that it really helps to enrich his life. What do you guys think?