All Kayla Kirsch wanted was a dog, but when she got a cat she bought a leash anyway.
Kirsch’s plan is to train her kitten, Tuna, to walk around Halifax with her, just like a dog would.
“It used to go really, really great,” Kirsch said during an interview at her home in south-end Halifax. “We made it all the way to Point Pleasant (Park) once.”
Under a responsible pet ownership program proposed by the Ecology Action Centre, Kirsch would need to leash her cat every time she takes him outside. The program, which EAC presented to councillors last week, includes a bylaw requiring cat owners in the Halifax Regional Municipality to leash and supervise their cats when outdoors.
Dr. Charlotte Ramey, an associate veterinarian at Fairview Animal Hospital, said a cat’s reaction to being on a leash normally depends on its age. While kittens can adapt easily, older cats, that have never been on a leash, often become catatonic and “fall over.”
“(Kittens) are at a point in their development where everything is new to them. Basically their brain is wired to take everything in stride,” Ramey said.
She added that adult cats are usually uncomfortable with unfamiliar sensations like collars and harnesses.
“They just don’t know how to deal with it. They can’t figure out why this thing is touching them and they can’t seem to get away from it,” said Ramey.
Ramey said that cats are most open to accepting a leash when they are between eight and 16 weeks old. However, with enough love, encouragement and time, she said it is possible to train them at any age.
Kirsch said that Tuna is eight or nine months old, which means he’s past the prime age for leash training. She still thinks it’s a good idea to have all domestic cats leashed, though, at least in the HRM.
“There’s way too many cats roaming around unwatched, unattended,” she said. “You know, they can get hurt.”
Kirsch plans to continue taking Tuna for walks once she gets him a sweater. The cool, fall weather has kept her from bringing him outside and he’s gotten used to the indoors. She feels like he will adapt quickly, though, once they get back into a walking routine.
“He is the best dog I could’ve ever asked for,” she said.