Like curious children exploring their world, new cat adopters never cease to delight pet adoption counselors with their unusual questions! Even after 15 years of pet adoption counseling, I can still be surprised with what they ask. Last week a new cat adopter who’d had dogs before but not cats, asked, “Do I need to take Fluffy out for daily walks? You know, to go to the bathroom?” I explained that no, Fluffy did not need daily walks! To experienced cat folks, that probably sounds silly, but it was an honest question. The potential adopter thought that the newspaper and towels lining the cats’ cages was there for the same reason you’d put newspaper down on the floor for a puppy — that was where the cat would go to the bathroom. The metal pans filled with litter in the cats’ cages? With so many cats sleeping in them, he thought they were cat beds!
Pet cats are pretty amazing in how they almost always instinctually will go to the bathroom in a litter filled tray, pan, box, or even – as I’ve seen at some shelters with very restricted budgets and cleaning facilities – on a scoop of cat litter poured onto a newspaper. Cats have an instinct to want to dig with their paws before they go, and then to cover up where they go after. Humans who have tamed cats and taken them into their homes as pets have turned this instinct into their advantage by creating the litter box – the perfect place for a cat to fulfill those instincts.
As for daily walks outside for exercise? Not safe, say our experts — not even on a harness and leash. It may be popular due to a TV show and cute photos on social media, but risks of harm including escape, attacks, and illness far outweigh the benefits even if you have a confident cat you can train to walk on a leash. You can read more in our Train your cat to walk on a leash? article.