The Cat’s Meow: Why Cat Strollers Are a Great Idea

cat paw under gateThere’s a good reason to keep your cats as indoor-only pets: they live at least three times as long. But they are missing out on a big part of what makes that long life worthwhile — getting outside.

That’s where cat strollers come in. They offer a way for indoor-only cats to spend time outside safely. If they’re used as a component of a healthy lifestyle that has lots of exercise, play and attention, cat strollers are, well, the cat’s meow.

It’s Wild Out There

Cat who roam their neighborhoods face dangers all the time. While we usually think of getting lost or hit by cars as the primary threats. But they can also pick up fleas and ticks outside and bring them home.

Worse, your outdoor cat may be injured by other animals, getting into cat fights, wrassling with dogs or being attacked by wildlife, including (depending where you live) coyotes and even birds of prey.

Do Cats Even Like Riding in Strollers?

cats in stroller
Ollie and friends

A stroller doesn’t replace the roaming life by any means. But it offers a safe alternative, allowing your cat to travel with you on walks and runs through the neighborhood. Cat owners whose cats enjoy their stroller outings say their cats will let them know when it’s time for a walk.

Cats are great observers. They like to watch, sometimes very intently, whatever’s got their attention, and can do so for long periods of time. You’ll see them sit or lying under a bush, peering from among the leaves, happy to keep an eye on whatever’s going on, occasionally sniffing the air for something interesting.

Strollers give cats much the same opportunity to observe safely from within a mesh-enclosed space, where they feel secure. Once your cat gets used to being in his stroller, you’ll likely get the same call to action when he wants to go out.

So, Should You Buy Your Cat a Stroller?

Cat strollers aren’t just for taking your cat for a walk. They come in handy for other reasons, one of which is making it easier to travel anywhere with your pet.

Walk to the Vet

Many people who live in large cities choose not to have cars, and for them, taking their cat to the veterinarian can be a problem. Not all taxis or Uber drivers allow pets in their cars; but if the cat owner lives close enough to the vet clinic, they can simply walk with their cat in the stroller to their appointment. It’s better for the environment, too!

Less to Carry for You

Regular cat carriers, which usually have a handle at the top, can be heavy to carry and difficult to manage, especially when you’ve got a number of other items or if you’re in any way disabled.

A stroller with a detachable carrier can be helpful, whether you’re taking your cat to the vet or on a road trip or flying somewhere. There are cat carriers with wheels which can be used for the same purpose, except you wouldn’t want to take your cat for a long walk in them.

So, the right stroller can take the place of a carrier, and make it easier for you to carry other things. In fact, most strollers have storage baskets and pockets that can be really convenient and keep at least one hand free.

Using a Stroller Instead of a Walker

Sometimes it’s the cat owner that benefits greatly from having a cat stroller. If it’s the right height, the stroller can serve as a walking aid for a person who needs that type of assistance. While not a medical device and not meant to substitute for one, they can give the walker some support and balance, much like a grocery cart does.

Usually dog owners are the ones who reap the rewards of taking their pet for a walk. But if a cat likes his stroller and asks to go outside, his owner can benefit. For instance, if the cat owner is elderly and doesn’t usually get out much, a daily walk can make a difference in her own health and even become a social outing where she meets neighbors and other pet walkers and joggers.

Cats Who Refuse Leashes Still Get to Go Out

Of course, the main reason for a cat stroller is to get your cat outside. The major advantage here is that even if your cat is not be leash trained, he can still enjoy time the outdoors. And there are a lot of cats (mine!) who — once they’ve got their leash and harness set on — lie down on the sidewalk and refuse to budge.

That said, there are some neighborhoods that even leash-trained cats probably shouldn’t be walking in due to safety concerns. And that would be very heavily trafficked, busy sidewalks that can’t accommodate a slowly meandering cat. A stroller could be used to navigate that area on the way to a quiet nook or corner park where you could then allow your cat to roam with you on her leash.

Kittens, Injured or Older Cats

Sometimes the cat is unable to walk due to injury, age or some chronic condition. In any of those cases, a stroller would be ideal to give your pet time in the fresh air without pain or risking re-injury.

Starting very young is smart whatever behavior or activity you want from your cat. Getting your kitten used to going for walks in the stroller is more easily accomplished than with an older cat. Do have the harness and leash attached to your kitten at all times, just in case, and look for a stroller with a tether.

How to Get Your Cat to Like Her Pet Stroller

You’ll use many of the same techniques to get your cat to like her pet stroller as you did to get her to like her cat carrier. You’ll need time and patience, and a place in the house where the stroller can sit which is accessible to your cat.

Make sure the stroller cover and mesh is open to allow your cat to jump inside to sniff around and hopefully curl up and take a nap. Lock the wheels to keep the stroller from moving when she leaps inside. If she’s a bit skittish, spray with Feliway, a synthetic pheromone, and sprinkle catnip to attract her. Once she does spend time in the stroller, move it slowly around the house with her in it.

The next step is to zip the mesh closed around her, walk her around the house for a minute or two, and then open it up again.

Once she’s comfortable in the stroller (when it’s zipped and moving), it’s time to take her outside. The yard is fine for your first foray: see how she reacts being outside. Sit next to her on your patio and let her get used to being outdoors in the stroller. Then take her back into the house.

The next trip can be just a bit longer, a few minutes on smooth, quiet sidewalks in your neighborhood. This part of the walk may have to be pre-planned; if you’ve got a dog next door who loves to lunge and bark at people walking past his gate, then go the other way. Until she completely identifies the stroller as her safe haven, don’t take any chances of having your cat scared or stressed on your outing.

Plenty of Things to Think About Before You Buy

There are things you’ll want to consider before you buy a cat stroller. While you can buy cheaper models, the durable ones with larger wheels that are good for all terrains, run at least a couple hundred dollars. So, the first thing to think about is how you intend to use the stroller.

What Kind of Stroller Do You Need?

Walking slowly along smoothly paved walkways in good weather once a week does not put the same kind of strain on the stroller as jogging several miles a day on rougher paths and trails.

In the first instance, a four-wheel cat stroller with plastic wheels is not very expensive and should do fine. Check the average price for that type of stroller on Amazon. Someone who is jogging or hiking, however, would probably want a three-wheel stroller with 12-inch air or foam tires that can handle uneven grass and gravel surfaces. Those models will be more expensive (see current prices here).

Cats don’t usually pose a problem for weight or size restrictions, but if you’re planning to put two large cats in one stroller, do check those numbers. And if you intend to use the stroller while running errands, make sure the basket underneath the carrier is large enough to hold your purchases.

Can You Handle It?

You’ll have to handle the stroller — whether that’s going up and down stairs to your front door or putting it into the trunk of your car, you’ll be folding and carrying the thing. Make sure the weight of the larger models isn’t too much for you to haul around.

Like any stroller, cat strollers collapse for storage and transport. You’ll want to read reviews, and see what other cat owners say about how easy their stroller is to fold up and put away. The bigger strollers will obviously take up more room than the umbrella types, but they have advantages of larger wheels, so use comes back into play here.

Remember to check the height of the handle. Usually, the problem is that they’re not high enough, and you end up hunched over. One cat owner, however, who was a little on the short side, had the opposite problem: he found the handle on his stroller too high for comfort.

Can Your Cat Escape from the Stroller?

Look for zippers that lock and mesh that is made from durable material that doesn’t give or fray easily. While it’s not a good idea to use the stroller until your cat seems to be happy in it, there’s always the chance that she can get started or spooked while you’re outside, and she could try to claw her way out. That’s another reason to keep her harness attached to the built-in tether and to also have a leash on her at all times.

Image of Ollie, the Aussie cross-eyed Tonk, and friends used by permission and with thanks!

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