Walking Your Cat On a Leash – It Can Be Done!
18 May, 2015
While most of our felines today are indoor cats, the majority of our kitties would like to get a glimpse of the outside world. And, if your kitty is new to the outdoors, we cat owners would never just let them out to explore as we would be afraid of the repercussions. Therefore, wouldn’t it be great to take your cat out walking on a leash where you can supervise? While this seems like a nearly impossible task, with time, patience and practice, you can have your cat walking on a leash outdoors with you!
Make sure to purchase a harness and leash designed for cats
There are harnesses designed for cats with a leash attachment toward the middle on these harnesses rather than at the neck, which is much safer and less stressful for your kitty. If your cat runs up a tree or gets caught somewhere, a standard collar could strangle him, and a breakaway collar will detach. And cats are extremely flexible and able to fit through tiny, awkward spaces. It isn’t uncommon for cats to find a way out of their collars. You don’t want this worry while you’re outdoors with your cat.
Start slowly and do your training when your cat is hungry and not sleepy
Make sure to do your training sessions when your cat is hungry. Make sure to break treats into very small pieces as your kitty’s cooperation will decrease in direct proportion to how quickly her tummy gets full. Cats don’t have a desire to please their owners like dogs do, so food treats are their primary incentive. Try limiting treat-giving to training sessions so you don’t overfeed your cat.
Start slow and take baby steps. As anyone knows who has tried to train their cat, most will do what they want, when they want, for however long they want. But kitties do actually respond to food treats, verbal praise and praise in the form of love, rubs and kisses.
Practice indoors and let your cat get used to the feeling of a harness
You need to get your cat used to wearing the harness and leash before going outside. Put the harness on your cat, making sure it’s snug but not too tight. The second you’ve got the harness on, before you let go of her, give your kitty a treat. If she takes a step in the harness, give her a treat, praise her and pat her on the head. Repeat the treating and praising if she continues to move about in her harness.
If your cat seems frozen in place or completely hates it and runs to hide, remove the harness and give a treat as a peace offering. Try leaving the harness near your cat’s food bowl at mealtime and near her favorite napping spot for a few days to get her used to seeing it in places she associates with good things.
Or try holding the harness and a few treats and when/if kitty sniffs the harness, give her a treat. Next hold the harness against her body and offer a treat. As she sniffs the treat, slowly pull the harness away and let her eat the treat. Giving treats immediately is crucial because you want your cat to connect a desired action with getting a treat.
Keep praising your kitty as she gets used to the harness
As your cat learns to tolerate the harness and leash for longer periods, give her a constant stream of verbal praise, head pats and food treats while she’s wearing it. When she’s done with a training session, meaning she’s dropped to the ground, her tail is switching, remove the harness immediately. You want to end the session with your cat feeling confident and in control.
Next step outside with the harness
Once your cat is walking around in his harness and leash in a normal manner, you can step outside the door. Depending on your kitty’s tolerance, you might spend the next few weeks getting down the front walk or onto the grass. Or, if your kitty likes it out there, you could be walking in a week or so. If your neighborhood has lots of traffic noise, dogs, or other distractions that your cat views as threatening, try taking her to a quieter area where she’s less exposed to frightening sights and sounds.
Now try to take your cat out for a little longer walk
Try to take your cat a little farther on each outing. When your kitty’s eagerly exploring a new area with his tail up, take another baby step. However, make sure that your cat doesn’t pick up anything in her mouth or lick anything. And no tree climbing for leashed cats. It’s too dangerous on many levels.
Don’t tie your cat’s leash to something and leave her outside, EVER. If something spooks your cat, she could get tangled in the leash. If she’s threatened by another animal or even a person, she can’t get away. Your kitty should never be outside unattended for any reason. See how your kitty adjusts and you will know how long you can stay outdoors walking.
Remember that there could be setbacks when walking your cat outdoors
One day, your cat might be fine walking out on a leash and the next day, he or she won’t budge. Just go back to the last place when your cat was comfortable and move forward with baby steps. And unless your kitty is in harm’s way, resist the urge to pick up your cat if something spooks him. It’s better for your cat’s confidence if you can leave him on the ground at his own pace.
With time, effort, practice and a lot of patience, you can get your cat walking on a leash.