This is a unique and very sad story story. A anonymous person called “Art Likely” commenting on a New York Times website article on walking cats on leashes recalled it. It is relevant to training cats to walk on a leash. The commenter is an American and he believes in the British style of cat ‘ownership’ namely to let cats wander freely outside because he believes that cats demand to be free to enjoy the outside.
I’ve only ever had one cat that truly did not want to go outside. It was a cat my wife and I took in from the local veterinary hospital. It was brought there after its owners were murdered (in front of the cat, no less), and hadn’t found a home, so it was to be destroyed. We took it in.
Before owning that cat it never occurred to me that an animal could be permanently traumatized by an event. This cat was. It would not come out of hiding. It generally took an hour or more of extremely gentle and patient coaxing to get her to come out to eat. When she could be induced to bear a human touch, she was desperately affectionate, and when, eventually, my brother-in-law thoughtlessly shouted at her, she fled and was never seen again.
That desperately unhappy feline was the only cat I ever had that wouldn’t willingly go outdoors, and my final piercing view of her was as she fled into the outside world she feared so much. It was heartbreaking to see.
Every other cat I have owned was an indoor/outdoor cat. If/when they disappeared, it was a sad thing, but I have always considered a healthy and happy cat to be preferable to a miserable, penned-in but longer-lived prisoner.
But…cat on a leash? Might as well take up catherding next!
The first thought is: ‘Can cats suffer from PTSD?’. It seems possible.
It’s clear that nearly all British cat guardians believe that it is preferable to let their cat wander around outside despite the dangers. For them it comes down to accepting that a possible short but arguably more enjoyable life is better than a long, confined and less enjoyable one.
This style of cat ‘ownership’ demands a relationship between cat and ‘owner’ which is sub-optimal. The owner has to live with the ever present possibility that their cat might not come home or be injured or killed. Emotionally that’s hard to stomach if the owner genuinely loves their cat and has a close bond.
This is a never ending debate. I struggle with finding the perfect answer because it does not exist. The first duty of the cat ‘owner’ is their cat’s safety so letting them wander violates that obligation. The second rule is to make their cat as happy as possible. Letting them wander supports that objective. There is a natural conflict between rule 1 and rule 2.
There is increasing pressure on cat owners to keep their cats inside to protect wildlife. The option (indoor or outdoor cat) may one day be taken away from cat owners.