Should You Take Your Maine Coon Cat Walking?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • #Adventurecat is a growing trend where cats accompany their humans outside walking, hiking, biking, and more. 
  • Maine Coons are a popular #adventurecat breed, and parents of indoor-only Maine Coons may wonder if they ought to harness train their cat, too. 
  • Pros: Going outside is natural and innate, the activity strengthens the human-cat bond, and it’s great exercise/enrichment for kitty. 
  • Cons: Stress of harness training, the many outside dangers, and of course, losing your cat.
  • Harness training can be a long, hard process and cats may never successfully wear one, much less go outside.
  • Cats are individual, and only your Maine Coon knows if they are a potential adventure cat. They may be perfectly happy indoors, or the big adventure cat influencer.

Seen any owners taking their Maine Coon cat walking outside recently? I think we’ve all seen it a lot recently, and particularly on social media and Youtube.

It’s done under the impression of letting your cat live their most fulfilling and happy life, and that’s noble. And well, if you look at the Maine Coon cats themselves, they seem really into it, wide-eyed and eyes darting around, taking it all in!

So is taking your Maine Coon cat walking on a leash and harness outside an essential part of living their best life? Or is it just weird?

Let’s talk about that today.


Looking for a Maine Coon Harness?

Before we begin, just a quick note for those looking for a harness for your Maine Coon. Check out my post of the best escape proof cat harnesses!

Harnesses are not breed-specific, so read that post for practical tips and guidelines on harness training, and of course my Maine Coon cat harness recommendations.


The Adventure Cat Movement

Search for “walking your cat” or “walking cat on leash” and you’ll find thousands and thousands of videos and posts, accompanied by hashtags like…

#walkingcat #adventurecat #walkingcats #walkingcatsonleashes #outsidecats

For example, Instagram has more than 400,000 posts with #adventurecat!

Indicating a huge number of former indoor-only house cats have been trained to take a harness and leash and accompany their owners outdoors.

And on Youtube, you find cat meow-del Maine Coons outside living it up, exploring, engaging their senses walking on a leash or harness.

Or this this lucky Maine Coon, on a full-on hiking adventure.

In some instances, owners take their Maine Coon on bike rides, kayaking, camping, the list goes on!

It used to be that you’d get looks from people if you walked your cat outside.

Nowadays, people look on with admiration more than peculiarity. It’s not weird anymore having your cat in a harness and leash.

And if you took pictures and posted it online with #adventurecat…

Adoring fans will “like” and “share”, with comments like “I wish I could do that with my cat,” or “If I did that, I would be in the hospital!”

Those comments echo the general sentiment that walking your cat is a good thing, a homecoming return to the wild.

Pet companies also have responded to this demand with enthusiasm, releasing cat walking harness and leash products for every demographic and situation.


Pros of Walking Your Cat

Photo via Creativepool

Let’s first examine the positive aspects of taking your Maine Coon cat walking.

It’s Natural and Innate

Walking your Maine Coon cat on a leash and harness just suits the wild nature of large Maine Coons and other big cats!

(Ahem! My Maine Coon wants you to know, in contrast to walking dogs, it’s the cat that walk the humans… and not the other way around!)

After all, this rugged cat breed comes from the harsh winters of New England and Northern Europe.

And had ancestors who were carnivorous kings and queens of their domain.

Surely, must have a deep, innate part of them that longs for the wilderness right?

(Well, before we turned those savage wildcats into lazy housecats)

In our apartments, we should already have necessities like toys, catnip, a scratching post, and cat tree.

These items and our play sessions are supposed to simulate the outside….

But it does not compare to actually being outside with its sights, smells, the grass between their paws, and other animals!

Some people say it’s even cruel to keep a cat indoors, away from their true nature. If you own a more independent indoor-outdoor cat, you know how excited they are to run outside after a meal, perhaps to their outdoor house.

Animal-Human Bond

cat dads

Walking your cat is good because wonderful way to strengthen the human-animal bond.

A daily walk can be something to look forward to from both parties, especially if ritualized and routine, something cats like.

By letting your Maine Coon lead the way, they can be roam around, living their best lives in a way they never have before…

All the while guided by your hands. What a perfect wholesome feeling. Maine Coons are not aloof and cool, and they understand how impactful this is.

Afterwards, giving them a super delicious snack, meal, and some fresh water will make them associate the walk with positive things.

At night time, Fluffy will be content, happily drained, and ready to sleep through the night in their cat bed.

Exercise

Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night by your Maine Coon running back and forth, climbing up their furniture, just going crazy?

It’s as if they are possessed and it’s insane. This is the result of a restless cat that has too much pent up energy.

Grumpy Bored Maine Coon

All cats are naturally nocturnal… which is the best time for hunting mice or other prey.

Of course this does not bode well for us humans, as we are “diurnal” or active in the day and sleeping at night.

Chelle, my girl gets the “cat crazies” as they’re called around midnight. She’ll zoom back and forth in the house, in a real excitable state.

If time permits, this is the best time to play with her. But most of the time, I am in bed at this point.

The best way to prevent the night time cat crazies is simply ensure your Maine Coon has enough exercise. Rigorous play sessions is one way to accomplish this.

Walking your cat with a harness is another. Whether the park or street, these are places they can explore and run, jump and climb, sniff and lay on.

Social Media

On social media, it’s definitely okay to walk your indoor cat.

Plain and simple here, you’re gonna get the likes, views, and follows, as long as you put out that content (photos, videos, written), you social media guru!

When the attention comes your way, who knows what can happen? Things like…

  • Brand deals
  • Popularity
  • Sponsored posts
  • Free products
  • Larger network – human and furry
  • The ability to help and influence more people

And so much more can happen, when you grow an audience. It starts with content, and taking your Maine Coon cat for a walk is how it might begin.


Cons of Walking Your Cat

Let’s switch gears and talk about the cons of taking your Maine Coon cat walking on leash and harness.

It’s Stressful

The stress may manifest in many ways. First is with the required leash and harness.

To an indoor cat, a harness and leash (along with carriers) can be epic in bad feelings.

An adult Maine Coon cat’s first reaction to being put in a harness all of a sudden is probably going to result in some scratches and pain.

My Maine Coon can’t even tolerate a collar, handkerchief, or those cute clip- on flowers to her fur from her groomers.

A cat unencumbered or used to not wearing anything won’t take kindly to the harness wrapping around her, trapping her body.

Secondly, the physical environment of the walk is also littered with unpredictable surprises and elements. Such as:

  • excessive people
  • high energy dogs
  • loud noises
  • friendly fleas, ticks, worms, and parasites

Now the above could possibly be pros for some Maine Coons, but in general, cats like routine and predictability. They’re still cats!

Cats are Individuals

Your Maine Coon cat is an individual with a distinct personality.

Owners and others often say Maine Coons are (among other things) social, gentle, playful, and loves water.

For every Maine Coon like that, you can for sure find a cat that is asocial, temperamental, uninterested, and hates water like the plague!

Maine Coons may have common behaviors and tendencies across the breed. But understand each cat has their own interests, inclination, and ultimately, mind.

This Maine Coon is in his natural environment

This is a long way of saying not all Maine Coons desire the outside, like a lioness missing their kingdom.

Of course, certain Maine Coons are unflappable, well-socialized, and thrive on this kind of stimulus, like in the case of therapy cats.

Some would have no use for it, content to be indoor house cats only, not even be bothered by its silliness! Taking them outside would freak them out and damage their relationship with you.

Health

If you ask an owner that walks their cat with a harness what the best part of it is, they will look at you and say “The outside, of course. Like, the entire thing.”

If you ask them what the worst part is, they would likely tell you the same thing.

The outside is beautiful and always will be, but dang does it harbor external parasites and fleas and worms and ticks!

These critters could hop a ride on your Maine Coon’s luxurious fur and go home with you guys. Make sure all the flea and worm medication is up to date!

Then there’s the problem of flora and fauna. Cats smell everything, and potentially taste things too. See a list of the ASPCA toxic plant list.

For former indoor cats used to a predictable, closed environment, the great outdoors has a lot of unexpected variables.

A quiet park is a smart place for a walk, but a busy street could be traumatizing…

Cars, trucks, other pets approaching in greeting, dirty sidewalks, loud noises.

And what do cats do when face with the unexpected? Well, most run!

Are you gripping the leash tightly? Maybe. Or maybe not. Not like you have too much experience here…

Then the worst thing happens.

Losing Your Cat on the Leash

Photo via I Can Haz Cheezburger

This is a possibility to be aware of!

In preparation though, ensure your Maine Coon is microchipped, has a collar with identification, and your contact info.

According to Adventurecats, the proper response is to remain calm.

As Maine Coons are 99% indoor cats, they’re likely hiding somewhere nearby. They lack the run-far away instincts of an outdoor cat.

So what you should do is call their name gently to coax them to come back.

Other strategies include waiting til after dark and waiting for them to emerge under the cover of darkness.

Or placing food and treats in a humane cat trap – a box that closes when the animal steps on a trap plate.

But my favorite tactic mentioned is to call the local fire department to get your cat down from a tree – just like in old timey cartoons 😀

Anyway, I am just making light of a serious situation.

Always grip the leash tight and ensure the harness is properly secured on your Maine Coon before carrying them outside!


Walking Your Cat on a Leash – Try It!

At this point, you must think I am ardently against taking your Maine Coon walking outside on a harness and leash.

My tone in this post is obvious right?

  • Maine Coons are pampered indoor cats with no connection to the outside now.
  • Though the Maine Coon’s history and looks point to being a wild breed, comfortable in the elements…
  • Now they are more at home on a photo shoot than they are engaging their senses at a park.

Except – that’s not how I feel at all. I approve of cat walking with a leash.

We cannot deny the magic of the outdoors for certain Maine Coons who have the right disposition for it.

If your Maine Coon is always looking outside or exploring the balcony and getting into nooks and crannies of your house…

Or if they tend to slip into the slightest door cracks and even wait by the front door to run outside.

You might have a good candidate for training to walk on a leash.


Training Your Cat to Walk with a Harness

The best time to train a Maine Coon to accept a harness is while young, hands down.

That being said, older cats can be trained to be comfortable on a harness as well, assuming they have the personality for it…

And don’t have other issues like age, or health.

Maine Coons are commonly known for being intelligent and easy to train so you have that on your side.

But realize some Maine Coons just are not into this… don’t force them to anything for your social media!

First, introduce the harness. Lay it out in the open and let the Maine Coon be curious about it. Let them sniff it and paw at it.

Each time there is a step forward with acclimation, give your cat a treat.

When they are comfortable with the harness and its presence. Slip it on them.

There might be hissing and blood drawn. Each time there is progress, give them a treat. It’s important they associate positivity with their Maine Coon cat harness.

In time, they’ll be wearing it full-on. Now attach the leash to it and practice walking indoors. Remember, the cat walks you.

Let your Maine Coon lead, you just decide a general direction. The path is up to them.

You’re Walking Your Indoor Cat!

Not like this…

After practicing and securing the harness, the moment of truth arrives when you take them outside.

Suddenly, you’re walking your Maine Coon outside on a leash and harness! The world rejoices and Fluffy is happier than ever.

Remember to always monitor their reaction to the outdoors and any interaction they have.

Continue to monitor their behavior even after you get home, paying close attention to meal time and litter box behavior.

Changes there indicate a stressor of some sort, so just because your Maine Coon seems to be into, maybe that’s not really how they feel.

However, for all the training, some cats will cease to function here. They cannot be walked. And that’s fine.


In Closing

Taking your Maine Coon cat walking on a leash or harness is the result of a long process, but it is something that every owner should at least consider trying.

There are numerous cons, but if your Maine Coon has the right personality, interest, and disposition…

Walking on a leash can be one of the best parts of your cats day with you!

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