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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Work the catwalk

It may be tough to put felines on a leash but cat owners are doing so to take pets for a walk without them getting into an accident
The Straits Times - March 4, 2012
By: Kimberly Spykerman
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Work the catwalk Gwendolyn(left) and Jenevieve Ng leash their cat Figaro before talking it to the park. --ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Every evening, homemaker Esther Chia puts her two cats into special body harnesses, clips on their leashes - and takes them for a half-hour walk round the neighbourhood.

The sight of two cats being led on a leash as if they were dogs attracts stares, but Madam Chia says she would rather be safe than sorry. Just over a year ago, her grey tabby, Tootsie, died after being hit by a car while roaming the streets near her home in Westwood Crescent in Boon Lay.

Madam Chia, 40, is among some cat owners here who let their pets get their outdoors fix in this controlled way so they do not get into any scrapes or disturb the neighbours.

But getting a kitty as opposed to a canine to go for a walk is no walk in the park.

The fur flew when Madam Chia first tried to put her Figaro and Marine into the harnesses. They

either put up a fight or tried to twist out of the collar or harness.

'If they are in a bad mood, they will just claw you,' she added. So to prevent any nasty skirmishes, she takes care to trim their claws and makes sure her kids are around to carefully help the cats into their harnesses.

It took about a month of cajoling and bribes of tasty treats to resolve the catfight. Even then, the kitties can dig their clawed toes in, sometimes refusing to budge midway through their neighbourhood jaunts. 'They're not people-pleasers like dogs,' chuckled Madam Chia, adding that she just has to wait patiently till they decide to move.

Indeed, pet stores here said that cat collars, harnesses and leashes sell quite well.

Pet Lovers Centre, one of the bigger pet retail chains here with more than 50 outlets islandwide, said that in the past year, there has been a 20 per cent increase in sales of cat collars, while sales of harnesses have been constant.

Another pet retail chain, Pets' Station, which has eight outlets here, as well as Japanese budget chain Daiso, said that sales of these items have been good, though they were unable to provide figures. Daiso sells these items for $2 each. At Pet Lovers Centre, these can go for between $3 and $19 depending on how elaborate the designs are.

Ms Corinne Fong, executive director of SPCA, acknowledged that leashing cats is a growing phenomenon here, but was quick to point out owners should put their cats in harnesses rather than collars to prevent any neck or spinal injuries.

Also, doggie retractable leashes are not advised for cats as they are quick to lunge at smaller animals and owners may not be able to retract the leash in time.

She also highlighted that in the first place, SPCA does not encourage cat owners to allow their felines to wander.

'An animal that is free-roaming could likely

become a statistic. We get a lot of calls about hit-and- run cases that happen in the middle of the night and these are animals which have been left out to roam,' she said.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) told LifeStyle that walking a cat on a leash would

allow for better supervision and control of the animal when outdoors.

Owner of an employment agency Danielle Teo, 42, lets her two cats go outside in the yard of her terrace house by putting them on a 5m to 6m leash that is looped around the base of a chair or porch swing.

She has been doing this for about five months

because she does not want them to bother her neighbours by climbing into their homes through the windows or onto their cars which leave scratches, and could result in altercations.

The Singapore Veterinary Association said there is no need to take a cat outdoors if adequate environmental enrichment and exercise is provided at home. It did give the nod to leash-walking 'as long as the cat has a temperament suitable for exposure to the outdoors, has been acclimatised to harness walking and the activity is supervised by the owner'.

But for Ms Siti Maisarah, 27, who works in sales, walking one of her cats is just a way to help the feline burn off some extra energy. Her four other cats are mostly home-bound.

'My cat is active and always wants to go out.

So it's better for me to leash it so I can control it,' she said.



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