One of the joys of a leash-trained cat is being able to take it places that it would otherwise never go: vacations, walks through the neighborhood, strolls through the park, and wilderness walks. But all places aren’t created equal. Areas frequented by dog walkers may not be appropriate. We have a large dog, so our cats aren’t afraid of dogs, but even the most cat-friendly dog may react unpredictably, so be prepared to pick up your cat and carry it past unfamiliar dogs, especially ones that aren’t on leash.
When you’re training your cat to walk on leash it’s important that you vary the location so that your cat doesn’t become a one-location walker. That doesn’t mean your cat will not favor one location over another, because it most likely will, but the eventual goal is to make your cat feel safe wherever you take it. For most cats, that’s a bit of wishful thinking. New places need to be assessed. When going to a location for the first time, find a place to sit with your cat and let it sniff around and observe the goings on before taking off on your stroll. This gives your cat time to assess the situation the level of perceived danger.
I’ve taken my cat to a number of places in the Bay Area that have proven, time and time again, to provide a stimulating and relatively safe environment for cat walking. I’d like to share a few of our favorites.
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
1660 Park Ave., San Jose, open sunup to sunset.
OK, I confess, this is my absolute favorite place to walk my cat. It’s one of my cat’s favorite places, too. It’s a bit of a car trip, but my cat doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, she enjoys the ride. We visit on weekdays, right after the museum closes. The grounds surrounding the museum, the planetarium, the research library, etc., are stunning. Massive trees and well-manicured shrubs and plants surround you. Water fountains purl. Ancient Egyptian sculptures and art pieces will transport you back to a time when things were simpler and cats were revered as gods. What’s not to like about that?
Whether walking through the Peace Garden and checking out the massive koi pond or traversing the spirals of the labyrinth, you’ll both encounter something to see around every corner. There’s also a number of places to sit and meditate.
California Nursery Historical Park
36550 Niles Blvd., Fremont, open 7 a.m. to 30 minutes past sunset.
This is the location of the very first nursery in Northern California and dates back to 1865. It’s now the location of a community garden space, a rose garden, and lots of open space. While much of the area is a bit rough around the edges, on one side, there is a large rose garden, a small museum, and a number of manicured spaces. One area in particular, a circular garden full of plants and stones and tree stumps, is home to a number of lizards. I can’t express how much joy spotting a lizard and taking off after it is for my cat. She rarely catches them, but that doesn’t stop her from enjoying the hunt. The plantings, stones, and tree stumps make it easy for the lizards to escape; a definite win-win situation. I suspect the lizards are the real reason for my cat’s love affair with the park, but there are about six distinct areas to explore.
Hayward Japanese Gardens
22373 N. Third St., Hayward, open daily 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
As you enter the gardens, you can’t miss the “No Dogs Allowed” signs. When I looked it up online, I saw conflicting information, but it’s pretty clear that this is a dog-free zone. If you have a cat that’s afraid of dogs, put this place near the top of your list. Unfortunately, it’s not open very late, so I’ve taken my cat at lunch time. The grounds are gorgeous and peaceful. You can’t help but feel the stress away as you walk the well-manicured grounds. There’s a large koi pond, and you can walk right up to the edge if you’d like. With better hours, I’d rate this even higher. If you can go on a weekday, you’ll be blessed with a quiet and calming experience.
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
open daily 5 a.m.-midnight.
OK, this one is a little difficult, as there are so many places to walk in the park and each has its own charm. On a warm weekday evening, it’s fun to take a walk near the museums and the bandshell. I lived for quite some time at Fulton and 19th Avenue, so we’d enter the park at 20th and walk the trails that bordered Fulton Street or walk deeper into the park and walk through the disc golf course and down a tree-lined path around the soccer field. Be aware that despite housing a dog park and other areas where dogs are allowed to be off leash, other parts of the park require dogs to be leashed, but the leash law is violated regularly. I have been ambushed by dogs on more than one occasion, so extreme caution should be taken. Stick to the well-traveled paths for the best and safest experience.
These are just a few of the places I’ve walked my cats. If you have a favorite spot, drop me a line. I’m always looking for more places to explore with my cats.
Clifford Brooks works as a documentation manager in the enterprise software security sector. In his spare time, he writes horror fiction, cat books, and blog posts. His most recent book, The Zen of Cat Walking, provides thorough information on teaching your cat to walk on leash. You can follow him on his cat walking adventures and share in the joy of cat ownership at CliffordBrooks.com.
Are you a San Francisco Bay area cat behaviorist, cat consultant, or cat expert who would like to contribute to this column, Kitty Corner? Send email to Editor@BayWoof.com.
Main article photo by: Photos by Clifford Brooks