When is putting a cat on a leash acceptable?

Is the answer, never? I know a lot of people don’t like cats on a leash like a dog. I can understand that. Some of my esteemed colleagues on PoC don’t like them. Perhaps all of you don’t like them. I have to gently disagree on this occasion (rare).

Please give this video time to load! Sorry. It does work but a bit slowly. The video above shows an example of when a cat leash attached to a harness is appropriate. This is a public place and a glamorous cat. One has to modify one’s aspirations of letting a cat roam free under these circumstances.

The cat leash on a harness (as opposed to a collar) allows a person to provide outside enjoyment to a cat where the cat could not normally be allowed out because she is too valuable or simply because there are too many dangers. It is just a question of practicalities.

You could argue that any cat should be trained from a very young age to accept a harness. Then you could attach a leash to the harness and get used to taking a cat outside in the garden or even on the pavement on a leash, if the area is quiet. I remember seeing a cat on a leash in Paris, France in the 1970s. The person must have been very adventurous. Many people looked at her and her cat. I also remember an American lady visitor to the flats where I live walking her Siamese cat around the garden on a leash. She had brought her cat with her from America because she was staying for a long time. She was very successful at it and her cat was comfortable with it.

Early acclimatisation to a harness and leash would allow a cat some safe outside experiences under close supervision. The problem with cats on leashes is that cats don’t really cooperate. Initially, it requires a lot of effort from the cat’s human caretaker. Not many people have the time or the will to engage in that sort of effort.

The key is starting young, making it much easier. Think of the benefits. The millions of full-time indoor cats could smell the outside safely. There would be no reason for not letting your cat outside unless you are paranoid about something I have not foreseen. Isn’t it time to think of alternatives to full-time indoor living under increased urbanization and hazards from road traffic?

It might remove some of the argument for declawing a cat. People who declaw say their cats are full-time indoor cats and don’t need claws. That is obviously incorrect because claws do much more than defend a cat. A cat on a leash outside could justifiably require claws to defend herself.

I am just thinking aloud. I don’t see the big obstacles to placing a cat on a leash but as I say, you have to train a cat to accept the whole experience while young when a cat is much more accepting of a harness and a leash.

Conclusion: the reason why cats on leashes are rare has little to do with the cat. It is because people don’t want to be bothered. I can sympathise but it is not a good reason. Or is it to do with preconceptions about treating cats as cats and not as dogs? Cats on leashes are a big compromise. They are far from the ideal. However, we have to compromise and the need to compromise becomes ever more pressing with increases urbanisation. Another important point is that cat haters would be prevented from complaining and hurting outside cats. In some states in Australia they have a curfew on cats going out at certain times. Wouldn’t a cat on a leash get around that curfew?

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When is putting a cat on a leash acceptable? — 43 Comments

  1. I agree with you Michael that there is a time and place for it. It is a result of other compromises and if done right is a benefit to the cat. Once you enter the world of not being able to let your cats out for safety reasons then any way to get them out is worth considering.

    • I am pleased you are in agreement 😉 I was a bit fearful. I feel the idea of cat leash “training” or getting used to it, is underexplored.

      The indoor/outdoor debate would be almost redundant if more people took their cats out on a leash.

      The big problem is ensuring your cat walks with you. This is about training and people often don’t like the idea of training cats.

  2. We always started out with our cats on some type of leash– we used to just make a harness out of yarn. Once the cat was used to us and used to outside and we were sure the cat would not get lost or run away we never used a harness again. I was the same with Monty, though I actually bought him a leash and harness. Once I knew he would not run away or get lost, I stopped using it. He accepted it immediately and used to purr when I put it on him. But once I discontinued using it it became difficult to convince him to wear it again. I insist on it if he wants to be out in front of the house though, because of the proximity to the road. He usually just prefers his fenced back yard. He could climb over the fence and leave, but he doesn’t. I still supervise him out there. Most people, I agree, just don’t want to be bothered with supervising a cat outside. They either confine the cat to indoors or just let him roam, which is irresponsible behavior in urban areas or in municipalities where allowing a cat to roam is against the law. It depends on where you live, but even were it not illegal here to let Monty roam I would not do it.

  3. Although cat leashing isn’t seen too much, it is the law here.
    Any free roaming cat is subject to being snatched by animal control and taken to the kill shelter.

    • So a person has to have a cat on a leash if their cat is outside? I didn’t know that law was in place in Florida. Can you point me to the legislation? I would be interested.

        • Keep in mind that this is the county I live in. We can pull up the ordinances of others like Lake, Orange, Volusia, Dade, etc., but I’ll bet they rwead thwe same!

        • Dee, just so you know, the reason why your comment was held for moderation is because there were links in it. The anti-spam filter picks them up and classifies them as spam. There is lots of spam on the internet. Ten times the number of real comments are spam!

      • West Allis has a cat leash law, but I have always interpreted that to mean the cat is not roaming. If he’s on your property I don’t really see the need for a leash, especially in a fenced yard. I think so long as your cat isn’t pooping in the neighbor’s garden no one is going to bother you about whether there is a leash involved or not. It’s not quite the same as a dog leash law where there is a fear a dog might bite someone. I think our fenced yard does that.

        A few months ago a police officer was standing talking with me on my driveway because I reported it when somebody siphoned gas out of our vehicles and he saw Monty walking around in his enclosure. The officer saw the fence– a fence a cat could obviously get over if he was determined– and he saw Monty sniffing around on the back porch and patio, but the officer never said a word about my needing a leash for Monty. At least he didn’t shoot him. Just kidding. West Allis has a very fine police force. I don’t think we have any dog shootings by officers here at all. Milwaukee is another story, I am sure.

  4. I’ve written before on how I have used harnesses for some adult cats for a specific purpose. With patience and understanding of the motivational drives of the cat it is possible to get a cat to walk, explore, jump, run and play on a harness without any tugging, pulling or overt and blunt training techniques. It has to be slow, it has to be cautious, it has to be kind. If it means the difference between a cat getting some outside time, and never experiencing fresh air, then I don’t see a problem with it. I have used it to socialise cats, keep an elderly cat active and safe outdoors and to teach a stray that his garden is the safest and best place to stay (apart from inside the house on the bed that is) 🙂

    No I have never confused cats with dogs and I’ve been lucky never to personally witness a cat on a harness being treated like a dog.

    Our dream of cats having total freedom, is I think going to diminish in achievability in the future. In the UK our society is becoming more and more dangerous for cats to roam free. I think large outdoor runs will become more common.

    Twenty years ago, all of my cats were allowed 24hr access to the outdoors. Over the years with increasing dangers, that has been gradually nibbled away to them being allowed out only when I am here and there is now a curfew of 9pm (a bit earlier in winter) I am always up early, so their crepuscular tendencies can be accommodated. There have been too many poisonings, shootings, disappearances for me to allow my darlings out 24/7 now.

    Every year some cats in the village end up dying a ghastly death due to anti-freeze poisoning. No one has been able to establish if this was deliberate or accidental.

    Some of my neighbours dislike cats, but I have installed a couple of large sandboxes in the garden and have several clean litter trays inside to minimise complaints of cats eliminating in gardens where they are not welcome.

    I guess I am lucky in that we don’t have compulsory leashing laws here. Though of course, any cat is vulnerable to a cat hater, in any country 🙁

    • I think along your lines. I believe we have to start thinking about alternative ways to improve the lives of our cats. Some imagination is required.

      I have always favoured cat runs (enclosures) for peace of mind and absolute security and safety for our cats.

      Understandably some people don’t like them, but as you say, times are changing. We have to think of adaptations and compromises.

    • Great comment, Everycat. I feel exactly the same about leashes– that there are times to use them, but then times when you can just put it away because the cat knows where he can go and just learns that that is his territory and then all is well. Cats are smart.

      I have seen the best leashes for dogs lately, where it’s actually a harness and not just around the neck. I wish everyone would use those. I just cringe when I see people pulling on a dog’s leash and possibly injuring the dog’s neck.

      Not every cat would tolerate a harness though. My sister’s cat Kobe has never worn a collar, but a friend gave us a very pretty collar for him. We put it on him and he freaked out, running all over the apartment, as if he was trying to outrun the collar. My sister caught him and got it off of him and we never tried that again. So he could not wear a leash and harness and it would be cruel to try. Luckily, his outside time is on an upper porch so no leash needed. The neighbor claimed several years ago that Kobe was getting up and down from that deck, but now that he is older, I highly doubt that could happen. Also, whenever he is out it seems Monty and I are out below him, so I can watch both cats easily. They will regard each other, Kobe from above, Monty peering up at him from our porch. But Kobe never tries to come down.

  5. Just wanted to add that I like the way the little girl is using the leash, there’s no tightness ever and the cat is allowed to take the lead.

    That Savannah, looks like a very strong animal.

    Corny old saying from the world of humane horse training to promote never pulling any lead rope or leash tight –

    “Keep a smile in the line and keep you and your horse safe and happy”

    Works for any animal on a leash I think.

    • This Savannah is super socialised and domesticated while retaining that impressive wild cat look. She is the famous Magic.

      Good advice on how to handle a leash.

  6. What can I say, we’ve had cats in our family constantly since 1974 they may only have been domestic cats but they have been of very “valuable” to us and we have never felt the need to put them on leashes or harnesses, but what we have done is consider if where we live was a suitable environment before getting a kitten so that there wasn’t the need to use restraints. I’ve never made a secret of the fact I don’t like cats to be on leashes, that is my opinion and I respect other people’s opinions who think differently. I think if where you live isn’t suitable for cats then perhaps you shouldn’t have them. Looking at the video I thought something wasn’t right (again in my humble opinion) and then I saw that in fact the cat is panting through it’s open mouth.

    • Typical of you to spot the panting! 🙂 Very observant. That was achieved deliberately. As I understand it, this cat was exercised before the filming so that she would open her mouth to enhance the wild cat appearance. She is half serval and half domestic cat and a “wild appearance” is important to cat breeders.

      • The cat was deliberately made to pant for filming just to impress people about her half wildness?
        I find that very disturbing!

        • Yes. Cat breeders are in business and that automatically creates tensions between making money and cat welfare. There will always be tension because breeding cats is not really about cat welfare.

          • That is awful, cat breeders who do this are even worse than I thought!
            Breeding for prestige and money, not for the love of cats
            🙁

    • If I had decided that because West Allis has a leash law that then I should not have a cat (since initially at least I assumed he would only be out with leash and harness) then Monty would be dead. They killed 636 cats the month I rescued him. His coat is the every unpopular solid black. He would most certainly be dead. I think a little leash training is certainly preferable to cats not having homes. Monty purred every time he wore his harness and loved his outside time even with the harness, though of course he loves it now more without it. Luckily, he stays in the yard so I don’t have to use the leash or build a more restrictive enclosure. He’s a very good cat.

      • What I said was only my own, English, opinion, of course I don’t know of the circumstances in other countries and Ruth you obviously did a wonderful thing in adopting Monty and saving his precious life, and the world would have been a sadder place without his larger than life character. You used a harness/leash as a means to an end so I couldn’t fault you on that. Maybe my views are old fashioned and belong in an ideal world. I just find it so sad to think of cats tethered or used like the cat in the vid.

        • Not every cat who is harness trained is “tethered”. The cat in the video is being handled very well and humanely, despite the information about being exercised before to show panting.

          If the cat had been exercised and was panting and off the harness, it might get a different response.

          I don’t believe that assessment of humaneness should be based on international boundaries either.

          • As Michael said, Barbara’s opinion is always welcome and sensible and appreciated and I agree.
            In my opinion it’s wrong in the first place to breed half wild cats and secondly to exercise a cat to panting level for showing off on a video is wrong.
            What do you call a cat on a harness and leash if not tethered? Let’s face it, that cat was made malleable to walk on a leash led by a child to give the wrong impression that half wild cats are easily handled even by a child.
            I wonder how many idiots who saw that video said Oh I must have one of those cats for my kids……
            I don’t believe cats should be exploited in any way at all no matter which country they live in.
            We care about ALL cats worldwide!

            • Qoute from Michael
              ‘It was about making the cat look more attractive’

              Not about the cat’s welfare at all, only about making it look more attractive to encourage people to spend money on that breed especially bred to make money while already domesticated cats die for lack of homes.
              If that’s not morally wrong and very sad, then what is?

              • Tethered, in terms of animal restraint means tied to a fixed point. Any animal tied to a fixed point is “tethered” An animal walking on a harness or lead of any kind being led by a human is not tethered.

                No one has questioned the right of you Ruth, or your sister to express your opinion, but you see fit to question my right to.

                I came back here to this site a couple of weeks ago, for interesting information about cats. Michael’s site has much improved in the years I have been away. I have found some very interesting information here, and in the main, have enjoyed the discussions, especially the ones where the participants view and discuss the broader picture and issues around the welfare of cats.

                Ruth, if you had bothered to read what I originally wrote about the creation of wild/domestic hybrids you would understand that I do not agree with it at all. Yes, I do think that the young girl handling the cat was doing it well. Plenty of other videos are available showing this cat at home, not panting, playing and relaxed with the family.

                We can disagree without you and your sister launching into a tedious rerun of your personal issues with me and resorting to the tactics that I have seen you both use when someone expresses an opinion or knowledge that differs from yours.

                I do not come here to be told off for expressing my opinion and experience in rehabilitation, rescue and training of cats or horses. Nor do I come here to indulge your personal ire at the audacity of my return. This is Michael’s site not yours.

                Michael, thank you for the hospitality you have shown to me recently on your site and for the opportunity to share my experience of my FIV+ cat. I have enjoyed intelligent discussion with you and others. Please feel free to remove this post as you see fit. I, will not be offended.

              • For God’s sake Jane, no one is questioning your opinion, nor should anyone question ours.
                As for:
                ‘you and your sister launching into a tedious rerun of your personal issues with me and resorting to the tactics that I have seen you both use when someone expresses an opinion or knowledge that differs from yours’
                I think you are way out of line, what tactics ? PoC is about free speech which Michael encourages, not about personal issues, we are all equal here and Babz and I have stayed loyal to this site for years now because it’s about the welfare of cats and that’s all we care about! We will NOT stand by and say nothing when cats are being exploited in any way at all.

              • PS
                ‘Michael’s site has much improved in the years I have been away’
                is an insult to him, it has been and always will be the best cat site on the internet and why Babz and I have stayed loyal to him all those years you were away.

          • A most unpleasant comment from Everycat, not sure what your reference to tedious personal issues with you refers to Jane but if you don’t like my posts the remedy is very simple, my name is at the top of my comments so just don’t read them, the same as I don’t read yours when they go on and on and on ad infinitum with your “expert” knowledge. This site is for everyone, Michael has always allowed free speech so until he says otherwise I’ll carry on voicing my own opinion, as I’m sure you will too, maybe you don’t like what I write but that doesn’t make my opinion wrong nor give you the right to make personal attacks on my sister or myself.

            • No personal attacks are not on we are all entitled to our own opinion and I enjoy the lively debates here and can see no reason for such criticism which spoils the article for others.

  7. The modern world has so many variables and sadly so many cats that need homes, then some flexibility in approach is definitely needed. The welfare of the animal should be paramount. However, the longer we as a species are on this planet, the more we learn about our world and the needs of the species within it, the more we need to learn about different ways of providing good stewardship and sometimes, accept that compromise is fine and animals can thrive because of it.

    I’d not suggest anyone who cannot provide good welfare to an animal go just out and accquire any animal, but often (and in my case with all the animals I have ever had the pleasure to care for) they have turned up in need when no one else bothered to help them. Mostly as adults, but sometimes as trapped feral kittens.

    The leash anathema is very strong for some. I do understand why that is. But the killing for convenience anathema is utterly abhorrent to me. This is the fate of many cats who do not get homes in the UK. Many, many cats will spend a long time in cages in shelters too. Again, lousy isn’t it?

    Every one will have examples of exemplary work done locally to them, just as many will have examples of less than exemplary solutions nationally.

    The need for good homes and care for millions of cats is, to my mind, is a priority. The need for education is massive.

  8. Yes Barbara I’d agree that cat is panting through his open mouth which says he is either anxious or possibly in danger of heat stroke.
    It makes me sad that some cats are treated like dogs, it’s not natural to restrain a cat, they are free spirits. I can identify with that because I’m a free spirit too and would hate anyone restraining me. Just you try it …lol …..
    Yes I accept cats have to be treated like dogs sometimes for their own safety but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    • But a cat on a leash and harness is not like a dog on a leash. You go where the cat wants to go. Not too much different than now without his harness– I follow Monty around out there and stand by him watching to make sure he doesn’t try to eat another bee. I’ve been a little more vigilant since that other cat was in the yard last week and then scurried over the fence and I wasn’t sure at first if the other cat went over or Monty did, because the cat in front of me looked so wild. It was Monty after all. So now I’ve been standing right by him almost the whole time. He just ignores me, just like he did while he was on the leash. Except earlier in the week as I stood stretching my back he came up and bit my knee and then ran off. I guess I was cramping his style– groaning too much while I was stretching and scaring away his prey.

  9. So it’s all about showing off those half wild cats so as to sell them is it?
    I am upset that the cat was exercised so much before this video she was panting and too tired to protest at being on a leash.So making those cats look easy enough even for a child to handle.
    I shudder to think how many people “must own” a cat like that to impress with even though they know zero on how to care for cats.
    I don’t like leashes either but like others have said I have to accept they have their uses where a cat can’t have any free range.
    As for that cat being valuable maybe so in money but all cats are valuable to the people who love them.I pity the half wild cats who are entrapped in unatural lives and probably their instincts telling them that their life was never meant to be that way.
    sad sad sad

    • So it’s all about showing off those half wild cats so as to sell them is it?

      Pretty much. It was about making the cat look more attractive.

      I shudder to think how many people “must own” a cat like that to impress with even though they know zero on how to care for cats.

      Sadly, I wonder if any customers really know how to care for a cat like this properly. That said the Stucki’s will do a lot of work on that to make sure it works out well.

      • Exactly! Selling cats to customers who don’t know how to care for them, by making them look easy enough to be handled by a child.
        sad sad sad

        • Ruth, I think you are referring to the problem that can never be resolved:

          Making cat breeding a business. It is not right ultimately. Not while there are homeless unwanted cats. My apologies to all breeders.

          • I know it can’t be resolved but it’s sad isn’t it!
            Especially taking cats from the wild to breed half wild cats just because some people must ‘own’ some different creature.
            How can their conscience let them do that while homeless cats die!

  10. It should be resolved breeders should be stopped from doing things like making half wild cats look tame so as to sell them.
    Ignorant idiots buy them and then what the poor cat is got rid of as unmanageable.
    It’s wrong.

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