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Are Cat Leashes and Backpacks Safe?

The 411 on cat leashes and backpacks! Get the scoop on what's safe and what's not for your curious copilot's outdoor escapades.

Man walking with cat on leash

When you see an influencer posting photos of their traveling cats on mountain tops, cruising on boat trips, and lounging by the beach, it can be tempting to look at your pet and wonder if you could do the same. The occasional feline may enjoy adventurous excursions, but most prefer to stay at home.

Cats are not like dogs – they have very little interest in doing anything unless it’s on their terms. That said, if you have a particularly confident and curious cat, you may be looking to invest in a cat leash or backpack. Just keep in mind that even if you buy your cat one, they may not tolerate it.

For exceptional kitties destined for adventure, here are our top tips for safely testing leads and backpacks for your cat.

Safe practice

As the RSPCA advises, a sense of control is very important to cats. They need to feel they have the freedom to run and hide if they become startled by new smells, noises, or sights.

Unlike dogs, who seek comfort from their owners when on a leash, your cat is less inclined to trust your judgment and will probably panic if they become frightened and cannot run away. Because of this instinctive flighty nature that most cats possess, the RSPCA generally advises against cat owners using cat leads.

With this in mind, if you are set on testing this setup with your cat, consider investing in both a leash and a backpack so that your cat can hide away in the backpack if they feel threatened.

However, as always there are exceptions to the rule. Some cats have a lot of trust in their owners and are pretty unshakable. If they are used to exploring outside of the home from a young age or are extra curious, they may take to a lead or backpack with little resistance or stress.

If you're going to try a cat leash or backpack, make sure you buy one from a reputable source. Avoid cheap imitation leashes that have sprung up on shopping sites due to the cat-walking trend flux on social media. These may be unsafe for your pet and could break.

When driving to new places with your cat, always follow the law and safety rules of your city or country. You can use a seatbelt to strap in a cat carrier or backpack if the cat is safely secured inside it or use a cat harness with an attachment that clicks into the seatbelt.

Start young, start slow

Cats do not, as a rule, enjoy leashes and many will simply refuse to do more than lay on the floor and flatten into a cat pancake when wearing one. While this can be pretty funny to witness, it's actually a survival instinct as the lead makes them feel they’ve been caught by a predator.

To avoid putting your cat into a state of high distress, introduce the lead slowly and for short amounts of time, with lots of praise and high-reward treats.

The best chance of success with cat leashes occurs when the cat has gotten used to wearing one from a young age. Start with just a couple of minutes per day until your kitten stops reacting to the lead by either panicking, (spinning and running) or by going into prey mode (playing dead).

Backpacks should be left open in a relaxing, neutral place like the living room so your cat can hop in and out at their own leisure and get familiar with it. Cats do like small hiding places, so with a fluffy blanket at the bottom, chances are they’ll enjoy sitting in the backpack.

Stay aware of your cat's body language and avoid situations that make them scared, nervous, or uncomfortable to give you the best chance of enticing them to come with you for repeated adventures.

Don’t force the issue

Even if you really want to take your cat for day trips, never force an unwilling cat into a backpack or to wear a leash. It's rare for cats to confidently explore new places like dogs do, so don't feel bad if your cat won't tolerate it. If you give it a try, be sure to use safe and comfortable harnesses from reputable stores and keep an eye on your cat for signs of stress.

Simon is a pet lover and animal advocate. When he's not taking care of his beloved cats and dogs, he enjoys traveling and exploring new places, learning about other cultures, and has been lucky enough to visit many different countries in the course of his work.

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