Should you let your meowing mate walk on the wild side (AKA outdoors), or keep your furry friend inside and safeguard Australia’s native wildlife? For many cat parents this is a somewhat tricky question.
Sure, we all want to protect Australia’s native species. But if we keep our cats indoors, how can we ensure they get the exercise and stimulation they need?
Have You Considered Leash Walking Your Cat?
Certainly, the days of domestic cats wandering completely free are numbered, as more and more councils across Australia introduce cat curfews to protect native animals.
Sadly, since cats were introduced to Australia by European settlers, they have played a major role in the declines andextinctions of many native animals. What’s more, recent studies have shown that a large amount of this is happening in and around urban areas. In fact, pet cats kill an average of 110 native animals every year. (This includes reptiles, birds, and mammals.)
It’s these terrible statistics and first-hand experience with injuries or fatal attacks on wildlife while working at RSPCA, that encouraged Anipal vet founder Steph Stubbe to act. Steph has since created a range of feline halters and leads to help fur parents keep their cats out in the natural world, without risking the lives of our precious Australian species.
How to Leash Walk Your Cat
Indoor cats can live long and happy lives. Actually, they tend to live longer than feral cats, as they’re protected from many outdoor dangers. Nevertheless, choosing to leash walk your cat outdoors is a fantastic way to complement their indoor lifestyle.
Enabling our feline friends to safely explore the great outdoors can be a wonderful enriching experience. However, it does need to be carried out in the appropriate way. (i.e., keeping the safety of your cat and native wildlife in mind.)
Think your cat may benefit from leash walking but uncertain how to go about it? Here are some handy tips from the RSPCA for getting your kitty accustomed to a harness.
- If possible, make the introduction to a harness from a young age. Cats tend to become set in their ways. (A little like us hoomans!)
- Introduce the harness at home first, allowing your cat to get used to the sensation in a safe environment with familiar smells and without over stimulation and/or other perceived threats
- Reinforce good behaviour with tasty treats
- Be patient – these things take time. Plus, we all know cats can be very independent and even ‘kinda sassy at times!
- Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness at home you can introduce the lead around the house and back garden before venturing out into the wider world
- If all of the above has gone smoothly, it’s time to walk on the wild side and hit the great outdoors. Hurray!
The Dos and Don’ts of Leash Walking Your Cat
Just like most things in life, it takes practice and patience to learn how to leash walk your cat. It can also be useful to know a few dos and don’ts!
- Do make sure your cat is up to date with routine vaccinations and safeguards against infectious diseases before venturing out
- Do be aware that cats aren’t dogs – they will behave differently on a lead! They won’t respond to cues such as sit or heel, you will tend to follow your cat’s lead as they wander around scoping out their environment
- Do keep walks brief
- Do keep treats handy – the best way to encourage positive behaviour change is through positive reward
- Make sure you have an up-to-date collar on and/or microchip in case of escape!
- Don’t use an ill-fitting harness or a small dog harness. Well-made cat harnesses, like Anipal’s, are fitted with safety release clips in case your cat gets caught while climbing a tree
How Else Can Pet Parents Prevent Their Cats From Causing Harm?
As a responsible cat owner, it’s important to do everything you can to prevent your cat from destroying or injuring native flowers, plants, and wildlife. Sure, it’s always a good idea to chat to your vet or local council about any guidelines that might be in place in your area.
Here are a few other ideas to help you to be a legendary cat owner:
- Look at desexing, registration, and microchipping options for your cat – this will help ensure your furry friend isn’t unwittingly contributing to the feral cat population on night prowls
- Consider night curfews and containment options, so your cat isn’t out preying on vulnerable species
- Keep your cat indoors or in an enclosed outdoor space, there are all sorts of amazing and fun enclosures you can create in your backyard that cats love!
- Use a harness and leash when outside for exercise
- Check out RSPCA’s guidelines on keeping your cat happy and safe indoors
Check out Anipal’s Threatened Species Feline Range. Created to celebrate our native Australian threatened species, it features three unique designs – Gigi the Gouldian Finch, Bertie the Blue Banded Bee and Bobby the Butterfly.
For a limited time, you have a chance to WIN 1 of 5 Anipal Cat Harnesses and Leads. Head on over to our Giveaways page. This giveaway ends May 26th, 2022.