Today, I published an op-ed in the New York Times about the need to let our cats outdoors. Cats “have not evolved to slumber in living our living rooms,” I write. “Today’s indoor cat is a tiger robbed of his dominion, a Lamborghini left idling in the garage.” (Here’s me on Cheddar TV talking more about it.)
Yet taking your cat outdoors is a risk for your cat and for wildlife as well. My compromise: Let’s walk our cats like we walk our dogs. Not on leashes, necessarily, (though I’ve certainly done that), but in a responsible way that protects both them and the world around them. As I write, “We don’t let our dogs wander unsupervised or destroy whatever they want. We should exercise the same responsibility with our cats.”
If you’re ready to give it a try, here’s what you’ll need:
A collar/harness: When you bring a cat outside, there’s always the small chance he’s going to get lost. Your cat should at least have a microchip and a collar or harness that contains a name tag and phone number. We’ve been using harnesses with Jasper and Jezebel for the entire thirteen years we’ve been walking them, because we used to walk them on leashes, and it’s much easier to control a cat with a leash attached to a harness than to a collar. A harness also allows you to add other accoutrements like a tracker and a light (more on those below). They sell walking harnesses for cats, though we still use harnesses made for small dogs. We use this type of Lupine harness for Jasper and Jezebel.
A leash: Chances are you won’t be walking your cat on a leash. Cats don’t walk like dogs, and if yours decides to dive into a bush or slink under a car, you’re going to end up twisting yourself into a pretzel to unhook him. Still, I try to have a leash on hand–we use an older version of this Flexi model–in case I want to bring one of our cats home without picking them up, or if I’m trying to find a safe way to extricate one of them from a catfight. For some reason, Jasper goes on autopilot as soon as I connect his leash, and almost immediately starts making his way home. (Jezebel needs a bit more convincing.) If your cat is uncooperative with the leash, don’t drag him. I find that a few soft yanks typically gets them going in the right direction.