Pip and Ed wandering in their backyard. KARIN SPICER

Don’t forget the cat on ‘Walking the Dog Day’

No one knows how or why this day was created, but Feb. 22 is National Walking the Dog Day. I do know it is a favorite activity of most dogs and their owners.

My husband, Ed, and our Lab, Teddy, are daily walkers. They average about three miles along the same route through our neighborhood and the neighborhood next door. Only rain or heavy snow postpones these journeys.

The exercise is good for both, but there are other benefits. Teddy gets to practice his instinctual hunting skills. Ed works out business problems.

If nothing else, National Walking the Dog Day is a time to remind dog owners of the benefits of walking their beloved canines.

I’d like to change it up, though, and add another animal to the day. My day would be Walking the Dog and Cat Day.

Many cats enjoy the outdoors and walking is good exercise for felines, too. The trick is training your cat to walk on the leash.

When we first adopted Pip, our 11-month-old kitten, we kept him inside our screened porch when we went outside.

That didn’t last too long. He would jump up on the ledge of a screened window and seemingly cry, “What about me? I want to go out, too.” Sometimes he would let out a loud squawk, as if to say, “No fair! You’re out and Teddy’s out. I want out, too.”

It’s hard to enjoy your dinner surrounded by nature with a kitten letting you know how you have wronged him.

So, we got a harness and leash. At first, Pip struggled mightily when Ed tried to fasten the harness around his tummy. It was amazing to see the kitten’s determination to do it his own way.

Unfortunately for Pip, Ed wasn’t going to let the sumo wrestler wiggle his way out of the harness. Once the harness was secure, Pip was ready to go. He walked out of the porch with an air of authority.

The first thing Ed learned about walking Pip was that the kitten determined the path they took. As vetstreet.com puts it, “Walking a cat is really about accompanying a cat while he wanders around.”

Ed and Pip stick to the backyard, where the trees and plants are plentiful, providing them multiple places to explore.

Many people take their cats on walks throughout their neighborhoods. By confining Pip to the backyard, he and Ed avoid accidental meetings with dogs and other cats.

Pip is now so comfortable with the harness that when Ed calls his name, he flies to the screened porch. He jumps on a wicker end table waiting for Ed to get the harness. If the kitten thinks Ed is taking too long, he starts squawking.

When Ed places the harness in front of Pip, the kitten ducks his head and walks into it. He no longer struggles when Ed secures the harness and attaches the leash.

Outside, Pip winds around the backyard. His favorite places to explore change daily.

The only time Pip gets frustrated on these walks is when Teddy starts zooming around the yard. His zig-zagging disrupts the kitten’s meandering.

Pip is never happy when Ed scoops him up to bring back inside.

But there will be other opportunities because at our house now, it’s not just about walking the dog. It’s about walking the pets.

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Karin Spicer, a magazine writer, has been entertaining families for more than 20 years. She lives in Bellbrook with her family and two furry animals all who provide inspiration for her work. She can be reached at spicerkarin@gmail.com.

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