The RSPCA say that when a domestic cat is on a lead he loses control which makes him agitated and also he is being taken to places which are outside his territory which adds to his agitation.
A number of cat behaviour specialists disagree with the RSPCA and say that cats can learn to walk on a leash and it makes their lives more interesting. This is important in urban environments particularly in apartments where it is difficult to enrich the environment sufficiently to entertain the cat. I’d say a cat can learn to walk on a leash and be relatively content walking outside his territory but it will take time and there are dangers.
Thanks to social media and the Internet generally more and more people are taking their cats out on a lead in urban environments. Apparently, the hashtag ≠catwalking on Instagram has been viewed more than 14,000 times alongside pictures of cat owners taking their cats through city centres and even onto public transport.
There’s a brilliant picture of a Maine Coon cat, Ash, walking on a lead through Snowdonia National Park. His human companions are the actress Marleen Maathius and interior designer Tim Van Cromcoirt.
Just because we live in a flat and haven’t got a garden, we didn’t want him to miss out on the beauty of life… Cats are curious animals, they like exploring. It would be a shame if he just stayed indoors because of the busy roads… Some people didn’t notice, while others were amazed and struggled to grasp the idea that we were walking the cat. Other people walked by with their dogs and the dogs looked more surprised than they did… In London, we see it often, people walking ferrets, rabbits-we even saw a guinea pig on a leash in the park recently.”
The RSPCA appear to be adamant that this well-meaning trend is undesirable for the cat. Cats are forced to walk with a collar or harness which removes their sense of control.
Cats are too territorial to enjoy this form of activity. They’re being forced into new environments which unsettles them. A sense of control, the RSPCA says, is very important to domestic cats. They recommend enriching their environment rather than leash training.
Personally, I have found more than one difficulty with walking a cat on a leash. If the cat becomes agitated because he/she is being controlled by the leash and the harness he may become aggressive and difficult. You may try to release himself from the harness. You may escape in fact. Or he may become aggressive towards his owner. These are difficult situations to deal with. Also a harness (the thick ones) can make a cat passive and behave in a strang manner. Although cats can be leash trained with a lot of patience.
I, personally, would not try to walk my cat down a street in an urban environment. There are too many distractions. The cat might wriggle free or do something unexpected which could put his safety in jeopardy.
I think that leads or leashes are not bad but not ideal for cats. They are a big compromise. Cats are not really suited to them at this time. Perhaps in 1000 years they might be.