The New York Times recently published an article — essentially a guide on how to train a cat to walk on a leash — that quickly shot up to the top of the newspaper’s most-emailed list. The writer, Stephanie Clifford, working with TV cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy, talks about how her cat can now go on walks to the park in Brooklyn.
I’m afraid that because of this article, thousands of people who live in cities will think it’s perfectly harmless to take their own cat to the park. Why am I afraid? Because it’s potentially dangerous, for several reasons.
For starters, city parks are filled with dogs, some of which are running off-leash, many of which consider cats prey. Pet owners who don’t have a clue how to handle a cat that suddenly bolts are setting themselves up for the risk of a deadly situation.
As Clifford herself cautions in her article (and as Pets Adviser has warned before), urban areas are chock-full of dangers for pets. In your apartment, you have relative control over your cat’s environment. But out on the street, danger lurks at every corner. Besides the obvious danger of the cat suddenly running away at the sound of a loud noise, there are toxins, like antifreeze spills.
Some cats simply aren’t suited for walks outdoors on a leash. I know my kitty, Hillary — smart enough to be trained to sit — is far too much of a scaredy-cat to ever do this. But some pet owners, reading Clifford’s article and hoping for the best, may not size their cat up correctly, forcing the cat into a dangerous situation. Please realize that it took Clifford half a year to finally get her kitty to tolerate walks outside. Do you have that kind of patience?
Standard pet collars (as opposed to harnesses suitable for felines) can be particularly risky, as cats can slip right out of them. Always, always use a harness with cats if you attempt a walk. Plus, some folks might yank at the leash as they would with a dog, but cats’ necks and bodies are more delicate.
In short, this whole story makes me nervous. Your cat is not a dog, who will happily gallop beside you on blocks-long city walks. So, unless you’re in a rural area away from highway traffic, away from dogs, away from other obvious and non-obvious dangers — please don’t walk your cat on a leash! No matter what the nation’s leading newspaper says is the hip new thing to do.
- Kitten Care: Letting cats outside?
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Antifreeze poisoning
- Best Cat Art: Will your cat walk on a leash?