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Upon Further Review: A Cat on a Leash

Cat on a leash.

This isn't the cat in the story, but you get the idea ...Photo by jlib via Flickr.

The "leash law" for pets in national parks is intended to protect pets, wildlife and park visitors from undesirable encounters, but even following the letter of the law can occasionally have an unexpected outcome. Perhaps that's even more likely to be true when the situation involves a cat on a leash.

The following story, sent to me by a reader, provides a good example.

In the early 1980s I visited Grand Teton National Park on a three-month journey west. I traveled with two cats in a full-size van, camping along the way. My feline companions were house cats, and road travel was something they didn’t love, but they adjusted. Charlie was the more adventurous of the two. He didn’t mind a leash, and his deep, groan-like voice, characteristic of the Siamese, would holler continually during our entire walk when we stopped for some exercise.

One day we stopped at an empty parking area for a hiking trail at Jenny Lake, and Charlie was aching for some new scenery. The trail was narrow, winding and wooded, and one side afforded lovely views of the lake and Tetons beyond. Along the opposite side of the trail, both up ahead and behind us, the foliage was thick and obscured visibility.

Charlie dove into that walk with a lot of energy to work off. His loud, long, groaning meows broke the still silence of the lakeside trail as we began our hike. Back in the parking lot, a couple arrived to take some photos. I heard their faint voices behind us, and walking a cat is very slow exercise, so I was waiting for the people to get closer so I could gather up Charlie and make room for them to pass.

Time went by, but the other people weren’t catching up with us. Charlie and I walked on, and they still weren’t catching up. I continued to hear the same faint voices, but I noticed they were now more like whispers, rather than faraway voices.

All at once I heard an outburst of laughter right next to us, behind the thick foliage. The couple had heard the sounds from Charlie and had been stalking quietly through the bushes in hopes of seeing the “big cat” making all that noise! The man’s camera had been poised to catch the wild animal on film before it bounded away!

One moral to this story: you can’t always believe your ears, even in the Great Outdoors.


Funny story but a serious subject. In my opinion, the only way to take a cat on a trip is to have it comfortable walking on a leash. Cats, more so than dogs, have a mind of their own and get spooked easily. Unfortunately, many cats have been lost when they were let out of a vehicle, tent, rv, etc to exercise or a potty break. Domestic cats have a very low survival rate in the wild as they are not the same as feral cats.

I had an inside cat for 18 years. I took her out in the yard occasionally on a leash. We never had a problem and she lived a safe, healthy life. Pets are great companions and deserve to be well taken care of. A cat on a leash may get some funny looks and comments but it is a safe cat.

Betty -

Thanks for your comment.

I agree that if people want to travel with a cat, having it comfortable with a leash is a real plus.

During my years in the parks, I had several situations with visitors who had a pet escape and become lost. If the cat isn't found right away, those are always bad situations for the animal, the owners and the area that has just acquired a cat.

We've been owned by cats for many years and have come to understand that getting a cat to walk on a leash is one of the more difficult tasks in life. There are compensations, though. I recall reading an article back in the 1980s about a woman who was walking her cat on a leash when an unleashed dog lunged at the cat. Thinking quickly, the woman swung the cat up into the air by its leash and whirled it around and round, keeping it out of the reach of the dog until help arrived. Cool.

I agree that taking cats for hikes on a leash is a great idea and much safer for the cat (not to mention the birds!). My cat also enjoys traveling and happily hikes for a couple of hours with our two dogs. I think it is helpful to start them when they are a year or younger and walking with an extendo leash works best. With our cat, the trickiest part was getting him to walk at a good pace and not stop and start too much. In part I think he learned from the dogs but offering treats helped him get the idea and picking him up and carrying him when he stopped helped too. It may not be for every cat but it is a joy for ours...

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