SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NEWS AND VIEWS: This is a new but unwelcome development in one respect. In Sydney North Shore and eastern suburbs well-heeled residents are occasionally paying cat walkers AU$78 an hour to walk their cats on a leash at a local park where there are dogs. Pet sitter Sarah Kwong quite rightly says that it’s good to take a cat outside for a short walk and certainly if it is safe to do so. It’s quite difficult taking a cat for a walk on a leash but if you can do it it should be done particularly for a cat who is confined to the home.
She said that it provides enrichment for the animals. Absolutely correct. She said, “I think that’s okay to take them for a walk. Not a long walk, just around the block.”
It seems that the idea of taking a cat out on a leash is gaining a little bit of traction, as they say, which has resulted in a debate on a local Facebook group where one resident asked that cat owners stop walking their cats in dog parks when dogs are off-leash. You can see the problem.
Perhaps it is time for people with dogs in this dog park to put their dogs on a leash! I fully realise that my suggestion is untenable. But it would be fairer. Why should dogs dictate terms to cats? They are equal 🙂 .
One person on social media said, “Where else are we supposed to walk our cats? Control your dogs.”
One North Shore cat owner, Anna Nguyen, doesn’t see a problem because her eight-month-old cat Maxim Louis Vat likes to play with dogs despite being an indoor cat. She first took him to the park in St Leonards when he was 12 weeks old. The dogs are excited to see him and she said that they play “joyfully”. He’s a Bengal cat and he’s been appointed as a diplomat for North Sydney Council’s Bark in the Park program. He represents other cats in the region in promoting the local authority’s dog-themed annual market.
Another resident, Stephen Barbour, said that he has been walking his cat in dog parks for 20 years. Clearly he’s been doing this without any real issues. He keeps his cat indoors at night to stop them hunting and damaging wildlife which will please the neighbours and the government’s conservationists. He said that, “Dogs tend to bolt over to the cat which if properly trained will just jump up onto the owner.”
Another local cat owner who owns a Tonkinese said that she is aware of the potential dangers and does not take her cat to places where there are dogs running free, off-leash. She takes her cat Ruby to the beach on a harness to give her some outdoor space and contact with nature. Otherwise Ruby lives indoors with access to an enclosure.
Walking a cat on a leash is difficult and there are few people who do it so this is not going to be a mainstream problem. But it’s an interesting one in that when rarely domestic cats are taken out on a leash, the dog owners complain! Perhaps it is because it is so unusual for cats to go for walkies like dogs. The dog owners are not used to it. If it did happen more often there would have to be some adjustments by the dog-loving fraternity in order to keep the peace.
If you want to take your cat out on a leash then you should really train him or her to accept it when they are kittens. A common reaction by cats when a harness and leash is placed on them is to fall to the floor as if you’ve zapped them with some sort of drug. It is mystifying to a lot of people. I think it’s because the pressure on their body due to the harness causes a reaction which is a bit like the reaction caused when you hold them by the scruff of their neck. This is the kitten response used by their mothers to carry them safely to a new den.
Even when you have trained your cat to respond normally to the harness and leash it can be difficult for them to follow you in an organised and practical way. Yeh, we know that. They are cats after all.