Q. Our 8-month-old, spayed, indoor cat enjoys going outside for walks. We started out by carrying her around when we went outside for short walks. We always make sure she wears a leash and harness, just in case she leaps out of our arms.
She quickly took to the idea of walking with us and now follows along on the sidewalk, much like a dog. She has been going out with us two to three times a week and she loves it. However, we’re concerned about potential health risks. We apply a prescription flea preventive on her monthly, but we still wonder if the walks are a good idea, and if there is anything else we can do to protect her. One of our main concerns is the protection of her paws. She has white paws and they tend to get dirty very easily. We can’t bear the thought of her licking those little paws after a trek through the outdoors, so we’ve been gently washing them off after each excursion. We’ve seen paw boots for small dogs, and wondered if these could work for our cat.
Are we doing anything we shouldn’t be, regarding the walks?
A. I commend you on your dedication! This is a great way for you and your cat to get exercise and will provide variety in her life as well. As long as you faithfully use the flea and tick preventive to protect her from getting fleas and heartworm exposure, and maintain current vaccinations, you are not putting her at risk for other diseases. Veterinarians worry most about cats allowed to roam freely and interact with other cats.
Diseases such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunosuppressive virus (FIV) are only transmitted by cat-to-cat interactions. Several parasites and other diseases are transmitted to cats from prey, either mice or birds. Continue having her wear the harness and leash to help prevent an encounter with cars and other street vehicles.
I’ve had clients that have tried using booties on their cat’s paws for various reasons, but they were generally unsuccessful because cats simply resent this foreign material and spend most of their time rolling around, biting at their feet and trying to kick the booties off. I have found that cleaning their feet with hypoallergenic, unscented baby wipes is most effective. Keep up the good work!