Taking cats for stroller rides

Cats at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary enjoy stroller rides, which provide great enrichment, entertainment and mental stimulation.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Here at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, caregivers are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to enrich the lives of the animals. Aside from getting plenty of human interaction, and social interaction with other cats if possible, the residents of Cat World have an array of opportunities to expand their horizons.

For example, many of the cats are taken out for walks with both caregivers and volunteers. Bob, famous for being the first cat to leash walk in Cat World, can power walk the Sanctuary. He stops into the various buildings in Cat World as if he is trick-or-treating, and will walk for over an hour if he's in the mood. These walks aren't purely for enjoyment; exercise can help alleviate pain and manage serious medical conditions.

Stroller rides for cats

Group of cats in strollers with volunteers at Best Friends Animal SanctuaryBut this doesn't mean that the cats who don't take so well to walking on a harness and leash, or those who are unable to do so because of their medical conditions, are stuck inside. Aside from hanging out in their cattery, a number of cats now have a very popular new option for enjoying the outdoors: stroller rides.

The trend started when Dr. Frank McMillan, director of well-being studies at Best Friends, got one stroller. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so the Cat World team added strollers to our Sanctuary wish list. Now, thanks to the generous donations of Best Friends supporters, strollers are in heavy use at Cat Headquarters and in several other buildings, including Sinjin's, Benton's House and Quincy House. But these are no ordinary strollers; they are the high-clearance kind that can stand up to rugged mountain roads.

Special-needs cats in strollers

Cat meowing in a stroller at Best Friends Animal SanctuaryAnd the volunteers love these outings as much as the cats do. It's a great way to get engaged, interact with the cats, and even get a little exercise. As for the cats, they get to enjoy a whole new view of the outdoors. They can even go out at times of the day when they would normally need to stay inside; for example in the afternoons when the sand is too hot for their feet.

There are some pretty well-known stroller cats in Cat World: Princess Blue, one of the best walkers, likes to get off her feet sometimes and go for a little ride; Duke, a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia, is a bit too wobbly to go for walks, so this is the best way for him to enjoy the outdoors; Tinsley, a pretty black and white cat who was born without one of her back legs, is extremely curious about what is going by, and likes the rides so much that she doesn't want to get out of the stroller when they are over; and Slidell, a gray tabby girl whose birth defects left her incontinent and weak in the hind end, sits up perfectly straight like a meerkat while she is rolling along.

Enrichment for cats

And then there are the cats for whom stroller rides provide the crucial entertainment and mental stimulation to keep their energy levels and/or behavioral issues in check. They help Goodwin, who came to Best Friends as a 10-week-old kitten, combat boredom. And Raed, a rescue from Lebanon, has a high energy level but has calmed down considerably since his caregivers and volunteers have been doing enrichment activities, including stroller outings, with him.

Fresh air, mental stimulation, and strolls through beautiful Angel Canyon - for the cats at Cat World, and some of our Sanctuary volunteers, it doesn't get much better than that.

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Photos by Best Friends staff