If you’ve never owned a Munchkin Cat before, or even walked a cat then it might seem like a tricky process. Cats are known to be fiercely independent and most roam free. In the UK it is estimated that around 10% of all cats are indoor cats, but in the US it is known to be a bit higher, mainly because it’s encouraged.
I have indoor Munchkin Cats, several in fact. I take them out often, but they live indoors. Now if you’ve never done it before, I can maybe try and guess what you are thinking about when taking a Munchkin Cat for a walk.
Strap them into a foolproof and escape proof harness, pick a route and march along it with a cat trying to go in different directions. To be honest, that can happen, but it happens more with adult cats that are experienced.
I’ve done this a few times, and the results are pretty much the same for all Munchkin kittens or young adults. So the following tips are presented in a way that’s typical of what might happen.
The travel to the place where you want to walk the Munchkin kitten should probably be done in a pet carrier. There are a few requirements I look for when deciding to walk a kitten for the first time. I don’t do it near my house. You may be able to, but i don’t live near a suitable area. You might live near a park or viable walking ground, in which case you may be able to walk there with the kitten. I have to use a car and use a simple pet carrier.
Once there I walk to the area from the car park, so the Munchkin kitten gets directly to the place where I allow it to explore and walk.
So here are the tips;
This is the reason I travel to somewhere. You would probably never get out of your front garden otherwise.
You see, on a first walk a Munchkin kitten will not go very far. At least all the ones I’ve ever taken don’t.
It may run around your dining room like a lunatic but out of its comfort zone, with new smells, sounds and environment it will probably just sit down. Or lie down, more accurately. You may be tempted to tug at the lead, but don’t.
Your first visit out with a Munchkin kitten should be more about letting the kitten acclimatize to the world and its new surroundings. The poor thing is probably worried you will leave it and won’t stray very far at all, even if you let it off the lead.
So mostly you should place the kitten on a flat patch of grass with interesting surroundings and let it do its thing. It may walk slowly, or crouch or be just looking around, wide eyed.
You want a walk, the kitten doesn’t know where it is or what the hell is going on. Let it learn that it will be safe at its own pace.
Some instructions make it sound like you should treat your kitten as if it is going to bolt into the undergrowth, never to be seen again.
That’s not my experience. Munchkins are very friendly towards humans, especially their owners and it will not be pulling strenuously anywhere, It will be walking quite timidly, if it walks at all.
Thus you don’t need a lead that has the strength to hold back a rhino. It must be reasonably robust and the clasp has to be good quality, not tacky rubbish. Most simple cat leads will be fine. Go for good quality and simple is my advice, and a short lead is a plus as well.
I’d advise a harness. A simple harness as well.
You don’t want anything too complicated and ‘escapeproof’ ones are unnecessary as the Munchkin kitten shouldn’t want to go too far.
Again look for good quality and simple. Test the clips and sewing. Make sure it’s in good order.
The types of harness where the front legs go through loops, along with a collar that clasps together so the kitten CANNOT get free are the ones I use.
May be a good idea to test this at home first, rather than trying it out on a bewildered kitten in a car park.
Despite the fact that cats are night animals and all their senses are working together for night time hunting, it probably isn’t the best idea to take one for a walk after the sun goes down.
The reason is you need to see too. It goes without saying that it helps if you can easily see what the kitten is doing and don’t need a torch to get the ‘backlight’ from its eyes in order to find it. It won’t go far, but the daytime is just simpler.
I would go for a harness over a collar everytime. The reason is that a proper and simple harness pretty much guarantees that the kitten will stay on the other end of the lead.
Cat collars are mainly for hanging information around their neck if they get lost, or annoying fleas. They’re not really designed to stop a recalcitrant cat. A cat walking backwards might easily slip a collar, especially if it’s in undergrowth.
A collar may well do fine, especially on your first outing but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I simply don’t trust a collar / lead combination as much.
I personally try to make it at least a couple of hours, not a 20 minute walkabout.
What I am hoping to achieve on the ‘first walk’ is to get the Munchkin kitten to accept the whole ordeal as safe, Everything I am doing is making sure the kitten feels safe and secure while outside.
A good amount of time achieves this.
I have taken a Munchkin out before at 8 months of age, and it can take around an hour for it to settle in. A younger kitten say, around 14 weeks, even after 2 hours will still be slightly worried and not be far from you.
Munchkin Cats after the first walk are never rolling around after the first experience and exploring everywhere, that takes time. I am just hoping to embed in its thinking that the experience was not bad and that any fear it had was unfounded.
I take a small backpack in which I place some food, both wet and dry and some towels that have a familiar smell.
I’m not an expert on psychology but this I believe has an ‘anchoring effect’. It reminds the kitten of safety and security.
The food is there, mainly to just reinforce the mindset that the kitten is being cared for. To alleviate any fears it may have.
On a first walk I am constantly picking up the kitten as I would at home and stroking them.
Remember, you know what is happening. Your kitten doesn’t. It needs to know that it isn’t being left alone somewhere very strange. Chances are good, that you are somewhere it’s never been before.
Sometimes I just sit down on a park bench with the kitten on my lap. This is especially true the younger the kitten. It’s a good time to give them a bit of food as well, if they are hungry.
Younger kittens are more prone to needing to be reassured on a first walk.
This one may surprise you if you’ve never taken a kitten on a walk before, but it happens a lot. In fact, I can’t remember a Munchkin kitten that hasn’t done this. A very young kitten may not stray far, but a slightly older one, at some point will try and seek shelter.
I think this is instinctive. It’s in an unknown place and is trying to assess the dangers. While it is deciding a Munchkin Cat will look around for a place to hide.
Reed bushes, hedges, tree roots, beside stones and even wedged between wheelie bins and flower pots. Anywhere where there is shelter from attack by the air really.
If you think that’s a bit of overkill from your Munchkin, watch this;
Owls can take away rabbits, so a small cat might not be a problem. It’s a cat instinct for a reason.
This is one of the main reasons I advise you to let the Munchkin Cat walk you initially as you might be fighting its base impulses. I like to think that’s not wise, especially as you are trying to build up trust.
If you place them on flat ground they will try to seek shelter at some point. They are in an unfamiliar place so you should walk with them, keeping a loose lead and let them take refuge for a few minutes,
This is why I also advise going in the day, as a cat in a hedgerow is difficult to spot sometimes. It’s also something to think about when picking an initial location, as very open flat ground might overly stress your Munchkin if it can’t find shelter.
On its first walk, a Munchkin kitten will have all its senses on high alert. There’s too many things for it to think about, so why not try and eliminate some scary incidences for them.
Cyclists, runners, dog parks, scooters, skateboarders, cars and too many people create a bewildering array of potential dangers which might overly stress the kitten.
Far better to take them somewhere where there is relative peace. Tricky to find I know, but there’s normally a quiet corner somewhere around.
I take them to a quiet corner of a park by a few local lakes, on flat patches of grass with plenty of cover.
If you let it, your Munchkin kitten, especially if it’s young, say around 16 weeks, will probably stay and want to do one thing.
It may immediately run to a reed bush and stay in there. It may sit at your feet until you pick it up, and then stay there. It may sidle up to a big stone and just stay there.
If it feels you near it may just refuse to do anything.
I try not to let that happen, and tend to do a ‘round robin’ of activity.
If after 5-10 minutes of them sitting curled up next to me, I will walk out to a flat patch of ground and put the kitten down, and move away slightly. At some point it will try and seek shelter, and move into some flower beds. I will then quite happily leave it there for a 5-10 minutes again.
Then remove them and place them next to some other shelter, say a hedge. After a while the kitten or young adult Munchkin will get a bit more relaxed as it steadily realises it is more safe than it first worried about.
An 8 month old Munchkin Cat on its first walk, may well venture out and do a bit of exploring, it’s not unknown for younger kittens to not do that.
My advice is to go along with what the cat feels it wants to do, with a little bit of prodding every now and again.
My experience is that once the Munchkin kitten reaches the car, it relaxes enormously. It’s almost like it’s back to safety again. It will probably try to sleep. Not unknown.
If all has gone well, and you have made the first journey out more of an experience than a walk then that’s just fine.
Don’t give up, your cat may have just sat there and done nothing, and it seems a waste of time. But it hasn’t been’ It’s started learning that the experience wasn’t as bad as it thought. The next time will be easier.
Eventually the cat will build up confidence to do more exploring or walk alongside you, but you need to go at the pace your Munchkin Cat learns. It’s considering more things than you are, mainly assimilating unknown threats.
The first time out, you probably don’t need anywhere sparse and large. A patch of ground 25m by 25m might be quite suitable. As long as it contains some shelter and no obvious dangers then that’s fine.
Until you feel confidence growing in your Munchkin I tend to keep going back to the same place. Familiarity helps breed confidence, and that’s a good objective.
The proviso to this article is that I have Munchkin kittens or very young adults. If you have an older cat, i’d be more tempted to test the harness and lead. Make DOUBLY sure that no escape is possible.
An older Munchkin Cat naturally has more confidence and may do more exploring right out of the car. Not always, but definitely possible.