RSPCA Says Taking Cats for Walks Could Lead to Distress

The RSCPA has a new warning and it goes out to cat owners. The warning is against walking cats, a new trend that has taken hold with cat owners that walk their cats on a lead, or leash. According to the RSCPA, cats feel stressed out when they don’t have control, which is what happens when they are on a leash.

There has been a growing number of people walking their cats in Britain who have grown to think they are giving their cats more “enrichment,” however, this is actually doing more harm to cats than it is, good. Cat owners who keep their cats indoor for long periods of time, primarily those that live in a city or an urban setting, think that this is giving their cats a bit more freedom and keeping them cooped up inside.

Due to this rise in cat-walking trend, there has also been a boom on cat-walking products by popular pet brand companies. They are capitalizing on this latest craze, especially the companies, PetSafe UK and PetPlanet. They have really stocked up on harnesses and leads for cats in the pet stores. Not only are pet care companies promoting walking cats, but it is also believed that social media is encouraging cat owners to walk their cats. Instagram has used #catwalking more than 14,000 times, including pictures of owners walking their cat in public places, even on public transport systems.

One person that was featured walking their cat, was Marleen Maathuis and Tim Van Cromcoirt (an interior designer from South London). They were pictured walking their Main Coon cat while on a three-day holiday. They were asked why they were walking their cat and their response was a simple reply; their cat, Ash, did not have freedom to roam at home, so they trained him to walk on a lead and now they walk him regularly.

They were quoted as saying, “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.”
Maathuis also said, “Some people didn’t notice, whilst 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. People don’t have gardens and so they have to take their animals outside for a walk.”

Although many people feel the same as Maathuis, the RSPCA says that although cat owners mean well, this is actually having the opposite effect on cats because for a cat to wear a harness and leash, it makes them feel insecure and as if they’ve lost their “sense of control”. This is where dogs and cats differ. Dogs look forward to their daily walks while cats are very territorial and when they leave their comfort zone and environment, they feel stressed. Control is very important to cats, according to a spokeswoman for the RSPCA. The leash and harness prevents a cat from feeling in control, which means that they cannot run away from or hide from things that scare them, and this is very stressful.

According to the spokeswoman, “It may be more difficult for them to be able to move away or hide from anything which might scare or worry them. Therefore the RSPCA wouldn’t recommend that cats are walked outside in this way.” She also said that many cat owners simply think they are doing their cat a favor by walking them, especially those that are strictly indoor cats. They love their cats and want to give them some outdoor time and freedom and think the walks are benefitting them, however, she suggests to cat owners that they take different measures and just provide more stimulation for the cat indoors, keeping them physically and mentally active, which is better for the cat’s welfare.

Although the RSPCA has heeded its warning, there are many animal behaviorists that feel differently. They have said that although there are cats who don’t have the right temperament for leash walking, this latest craze is beneficial to cats that don’t have outdoor access on a regular basis.

According to the founder of the website, Adventure Cats, Laura Moss, more cat owners are starting to train their cats to walk on leashes and she believes it is great, not only for a cat’s physical wellbeing, but for their mental health, too.

She was quoted as saying, “Many indoor cats simply don’t receive enough stimulation and they may suffer from obesity or boredom-related behavioral problems.”

Cat owners may just have to use their own best judgement and see if their cat shows any signs of distress while training to walk on a leash or walking outdoors on a leash. A cat should never be forced to do walk on a leash if they are clearly distressed over the situation.

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