Please Don’t Walk Your Cat on a Leash!

A new article by the New York Times describes how to train a cat to walk on a leash. If you live in a city, do NOT try this.

Is it safe to walk your cat on a leash in the city? Probably not worth it.
Is it safe to walk your cat on a leash in the city? Probably not worth it.

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 Petful 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.

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Photo: Khomille/Flickr

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Dave Baker, founder and publisher of Petful, is a journalist and editor who has worked at The New York Times and The Nation magazine. He was also part of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize–winning team at The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Petful is now based. A longtime advocate for pet food safety, Dave has been passionately tracking pet food recalls for the past 10-plus years, and more than 30,000 pet parents are subscribed to his recall alerts — which often arrive faster than even the recall alerts put out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dave holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Clemson University, where he studied journalism and was editor in chief of The Tiger, a student newspaper twice awarded Best in Show during his years there by the Associated Collegiate Press. A passionate animal lover, Dave has cared for a number of dogs, cats and other small pets over the years. Learn more about Dave and the rest of the Petful team here: Meet the Team.

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