Yes, you should walk your cat

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Opinion - BY DAVID GRIMM David Grimm is an ed­i­tor at Sci­ence and the au­thor of “Cit­i­zen Ca­nine: Our Evolv­ing Re­la­tion­ship With Cats and Dogs.”

About 13 years ago, my fi­ancée and I started to go for walks in our neigh­bor­hood. When we’d step out of the house, cars of­ten lin­gered at the in­ter­sec­tion out front a bit longer than they should have. Peo­ple would stop us to ask ques­tions. And the pa­trons of a restau­rant across the street would oc­ca­sion­ally run out­side and shout, “It’s you – we’ve heard about you!”

Per­haps this wasn’t so sur­pris­ing. We were walk­ing our cats, af­ter all. On leashes.

We weren’t try­ing to start a move­ment. And we weren’t the only peo­ple in the coun­try who had the crazy idea to buy a small dog har­ness, strap it onto a non­plussed fe­line, and pray that the tens of mil­lions of years of evo­lu­tion that sep­a­rate dogs and cats would sud­denly evap­o­rate. We just wanted our two kit­tens – Jasper and Jezebel – to ex­pe­ri­ence more of the world than our cramped 800-square-foot apart­ment in the heart of Bal­ti­more. We also wanted to keep them from run­ning out into traf­fic.

In the past two decades, there has been a grow­ing move­ment to con­fine our fe­line friends in­doors. Vet­eri­nar­i­ans ar­gue that this sig­nif­i­cantly ex­tends their life spans, pro­tect­ing them from dis­ease, cars and preda­tors. Wildlife ad­vo­cates con­tend that out­door cats are a blight on ecosys­tems, killing count­less birds and small mam­mals ev­ery year.

Yet cats be­long to a proud race of sa­vanna kings and no­madic car­ni­vores. Their an­ces­tors slunk out of the deserts of the Near East 10,000 years ago to hunt mice in our early vil­lages, and they have been free to roam our back­yard jun­gles since. They have not evolved to slumber in our liv­ing rooms.

Peo­ple be­gan to keep dogs as in­door pets in large num­bers in the late 1800s, thanks to the in- ven­tion of flea and tick sham­poos. And yet, cats re­mained out­side. Even the ad­vent of Kitty Litter in 1947 could not con­tain them com­pletely; tom­cats still prowled al­leys at night, in search of a mate – or a fight. To­day’s in­door cat is a tiger robbed of his do­min­ion, a Lamborghini left idling in the garage.

So how do we honor cats, while pro­tect­ing them from the world – and the world from them?

The so­lu­tion lies in what we’ve al­ready done with dogs for decades: We need to start walk­ing our cats. I’m not say­ing that you should put your cat on a leash like we did. They don’t like you telling them where to go. But we should let our cats out­side for 30 to 60 min­utes a day to rove yards, stroll side­walks and dis­ap­pear into shrub­bery.

And we should be there to watch them. We should whis­tle or clap our hands when they be­gin stalk­ing a bird. And we should have a bag of treats ready when it’s time to call them back in­doors.

We don’t let our dogs wan­der un­su­per­vised or de­stroy what­ever they want. We should ex­er­cise the same re­spon­si­bil­ity with our cats.

I’m not go­ing to lie to you. Walk­ing a cat is not easy. You’re go­ing to spend a lot of time just stand­ing there while they chat­ter at squir­rels. You’re go­ing to lose track of them when they dou­ble back on you un­der a bush. You’re go­ing to get some ques­tions from your neigh­bors, con­cerned that per­haps you might have fi­nally lost it.

You may not get any car­dio, but you’ll most likely make some new friends. And with each day, you’ll see your cat come alive in amaz­ing ways, bolt­ing, scal­ing, leap­ing and be­com­ing one with the wild world around him.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.