Walking with cats
A cat taught me how to walk with cats, which introduces the huge
difference with walking a dog.
To be psychologically healthy, a dog needs to consider his master as
the alpha dog; the head of the pack. Otherwise, if the dog believes
that he is in charge and needs to make decisions to protect his
human companion, he will get psychotic, because he does not
understand the human world. A dog with a disturbing behavior,
sometimes to the point that you consider to have him put down, may
just need to learn to love to trust and obey a human. A happy dog,
enjoys to live under the protection of his master, seeks to fulfill
his commands and goes wherever he is instructed to go.
Yet the highest rank that you can achieve in the mind of a cat is
that of cat, or companion cat. Walking with a cat is like playing a
cooperative video game with a friend, where you explore, hide, duck
and cross obstacles together.
The cat knows that you are a cat with special gifts and he values
this. But the main reason why he will go out walking with you is
because he enjoys your company. This introduces one training
exercise that you can do, by learning to cope with cats that you
encounter in the streets. Some cats will come to you, say if you sit
on a bank. Other cats need you to kneel and make a polite "meow?"
Yet other cats will decide not to take the risk to approach a
stranger. You must accept this and not try to insist or, far worse,
pursuit the cat. But what you can do is to sit down and start
meditating, or just enjoy the landscape. With your attitude, show to
the cat that you do this because of his presence. If the cat lays
down too, then you have a bond with him, even if he stays at a
distance. The shared meditation will be confirmed if he calmly
squints at you. You may never get an opportunity to caress him. But
he likes you.
Cats talk. They do not build sentences like humans but the
modulation of their meows tells everything. A joyful cat that
tiptoes along you may utter a happy "merawraw!" A sad cat can make a
sorry and descending "maaaw..." A friend was most surprised to hear
me have a conversation with her cat "Maw!" (hello, I'm here!),
"meraw?" (how are you?) "merawraw!" (I'm fine!) "mew?!" (and you?)
"mrrrraw!" (I'm fine too and I love you!). The cat was quite happy
to meet a human that can talk. You do not need to be fluent in cat
talk to go out walking with cats. But at least you need to be aware
that they have feelings and concerns, just like humans.
Cats can learn do's and don'ts. One feral cat was quite violent and
often clawed at people who tried to be kind with him. One day he
clawed me badly in the hand. I shouted in pain and immediately blew
towards him, which is a signal that cats best understand. The next
day when I met him in the street, his head was a little down and he
made a low and lengthy meow to express that he was sorry. He never
clawed at me again and learned to avoid doing that with other
humans. I made lengthy walks with him and a few years later he got
Cats are territorial. This leads to something with feral cats, that
can feel very strange. You can build a relationship with a cat, with
trust and cuddles, then suddenly be considered as a stranger. The
problem being that you encounter the cat in another place. He
learned to recognize you and love you in a given place. In another
place, you're like a different entity. This may make sense because
amongst cats, meeting a given cat on neutral grounds can be OK while
meeting the same cat on his territory can lead to retaliation. I had
to learn to a few feral cats that I am the same loving person
wherever we meet.
Don't overstress your affective duties towards cats. To most cats,
especially feral ones, humans are quite swappable. They do make the
difference between kind humans, dangerous humans and cat humans. But
any loving human will do. A friend who looks after feral or
abandoned cats, told me that she did sometimes build a relationship
with a cat to the point that the cat wanted her and nobody else.
Even if the cat had been well cared about by other people for
months, he will run towards her when she comes to visit and beg to
go back home with her. But for most cats, any kind human will do. Or
Many feral cats are not adoptable. Closing them up in a house or a
big cage is torture. The imposed close presence of other cats or
humans, is torture. Reciprocally, a cat that was abandoned may be in
deep need of a home. You may consider helping him to get adopted,
instead of using him as a funny furry thing that needs the food that
A cat that bites when you caress him may be a dominant cat that
considers that he is in charge of providing the cuddles, not you.
Then just do that: await the cuddles, for example by just extending
your hand for the cat to come and rub. It can also be that you
over-caress the cat, driving him mad. Some cats enjoy prolonged
caresses only on some parts of their bodies, for example the head or
the chin. Learn to observe the cat to get hints. Your presence has
to be an everlasting pleasure for the cat, not a recurring bother.
Never ever attempt to touch the belly of a cat, unless you already
have a long and deeply trusted relationship with him. If a cat seems
to show an intense desire that you touch his belly, this means that
you are allowed to stroke his head. Or his back. Actually, some cats
dislike to be stroked on the head and others only accept to be
stroked on the head.
A cat is not a baby, a teddy bear or a sack of potatoes. Look at how
people behave in the street. Women enjoy to clump together. Lovers
press intensely against each other. But you won't see one person
loading another one on a shoulder like a big lump of meat. If that
would ever happen, the victim would complain. Should the offender
persist, he could get a court order to seek help from a
psychologist, to get to understand that you don't show your
affection to people by handling them like a baby, a teddy bear or a
sack of potatoes, especially if the people do explicitly complain
and even if they don't shout out in pain. A typical house cat craves
for the security and warmth of his owner's lap or belly. You don't
have to force him on your body. And lots of cat owners will always
wait a ten more minutes to get up, till the cat ends his nap. The
cat needs you to feel good too and there will be no doubt about
this. There are circumstances were a little potatoing may be good.
Some cats don't dislike that. One of the cats of a friend tends to
depress and won't come spontaneously on me. But she does accept that
I potato her for a few seconds, always holding her in a respectful
position, to install her on my belly. I will then be able to make
her feel wonderful for a few tens of minutes. One key condition for
this is that I will never try to hold her back if she does not want
to install on my belly. When I visit, my friend considers it as a
feast for his cats. The cat of another friend will scream, jump and
claw the door, it that closed door stands between him and me. I
don't need to restrain cats to get about as much cat affection as I
need. I wouldn't get any cat affection if I tried to restrain them.
Some cat owners confuse cat affection with tired out submission to
Never hurt a cat on purpose. Never inflict him pain to show your
disapproval. He only needs a clear signal to understand that
something annoys you. For example if he tends to try to sharpen his
claws on your trousers, just put your hands on his paws and say
"no!" You may have to tell him again once or twice but he will
learn. And learn that you are a cat that he can deal with.
House cats won't respect a person just because that person feeds
them. Even feral cats, often pay no attention to food. In order to
be considered as a friend by a house cat, a far better approach,
besides joint meditation, is to play with him. Use a laser pointer,
or a little piece of cloth latched at the end of a thin wooden rod.
The laser dot or the piece of cloth must become a little mouse that
walks along and suddenly gets very frightened by the cat and flees
away. A cat always knows who is playing with him; who is
puppeteering the mouse. I you manage to drive the cat crazy and
panting chasing the mouse, he will be your friend forever.
Once a cat trusts you, you can try to walk with him. The first
trials will probably not go further than a few meters. Just go on
trying, one trying a day.
There are rules:
- "You wait for me and I wait for you." Again, a cat is not a
dog that you pull on a leash. If the cat decides to enter and
scan an abandoned house for five or ten minutes, just wait
outside till he gets back. It's not his fault if you're too
large to enter through the crack in the door.
- Crossroads are negotiated. Most often a cat accepts the
direction I choose. But sometimes he makes a decision and I will
- Whenever there is a possible danger, which manifests itself by
a lot of noise like people shouting or a car driving, the cat
will hide, for example inside a bush or under a car. You have to
wait till the "danger" is over. Conversely, you must choose
paths along which the cat has places to hide if needed. It is
sometimes frustrating that the cat will not use you as a
protection. Just remember that to him you are another cat, that
needs to hide too. I did manage to get a cat to use me as a
hideout and protection, by kneeling or by letting my coat hang
low, in order to get the shape of a chair or a bush. I the cat
chooses to run back towards a hideout far away, just follow him
and wait till he chooses to come out again. He may not want to
risk the same path again that day so maybe better change
direction or walk back home with him.
- Walking implies halting. A cat just loves to hang around at a
given place and watch the people. Choose a safe place with a lot
- If the cat is in doubt, then go a few meters ahead, check if
everything is fine and if so tell him that he can take the risk
- Walking time is not cuddling time. Caresses are great to shape
up the team before going out into the wild. But once there, it's
about focus and security.
People get amazed when they see somebody walking with a cat. Explain
to them that you are "walking with the cat" and not "walking the
cat" like you would walk a dog.
A cat and I once had to endure the hate of people atop a building,
throwing trash towards the cat. We just retreated, the cat trying to
run from bush to bush for protection while following me. The next
day he came again to my door and made a little meow to ask to go out
The biggest pack of cats I walked with is three. But I only made
lengthy walks with one of the three. The second one never went more
than a few streets far with me. The third one only followed the pack
because he was madly in love with the second one.
Eric Brasseur - October
19 2014 till July 5 2015