Most people don’t think of taking their cats for a walk on a leash. But why ever not? Dogs aren’t the only pets who can enjoy a romp outdoors, and given cats’ innate sense of curiosity, it is more than likely that your cat would love it too. Let’s find out how to take those first kitty steps!
Why Should I Bother?
Harness training provides a compromise between depriving a cat of outdoor stimuli and exposing it to dangers that claim the lives of many a stray. Besides, it will make visits to the vet easier too. Simply by scheduling the walks at the same time daily, kitty will catch on and realise the pointlessness of pestering you at other times of the day.
How Do I Begin?
The first step is to purchase a “H-style” harness that is designed to pull from the chest and not the throat. A harness is preferred to a collar, as your cat is less likely to be able to wriggle out of it. Next, a lightweight leash, no more than 6 feet long. Place harness and leash near your cat’s bed for a few days so it can get used to them and see that they are quite harmless.
Next is to put the harness onto kitty. Prepare its favourite food in advance to present as a distraction immediately after placing the harness on. Remember to praise it profusely. Once it has finished eating, let it walk around, using toys to distract it if it seems unhappy with the harness. Once kitty visibly relaxes, you can take the harness off. Repeat this procedure for a few days.
The third step is to attach the leash and let your cat wander around as it pleases, dragging it behind him. Do keep an eye on proceedings to ensure that the leash does not get caught on anything. Again, if it seems unhappy with the leash, distract it with toys and games. Encourage kitty to walk and lavish praise when it does. Repeat this for a few days, keeping sessions short and positive.
Now that your cat is comfortable, you can pick the leash up and walk around the house behind it. Remember not to try and lead it. Instead, keep the leash slack and let it get used to having you follow it around, again practising this for a few days.
The Final Stretch
Once kitty is accustomed to you holding the leash, gradually teach it to go where you want it to. Tug gently when necessary to stay on course but never pull or jerk. One bad experience and kitty is likely never to walk on leash again. When it feels resistance, it will either walk towards you or lie down. Patience and praises are the key words to success.
Finally, your cat is content to walk on the leash inside your home and you can begin to introduce the world outdoors. For the first couple of days, it may be best to just sit on the doorstep of your home and let kitty get used to all the new sights and sounds. Once it begins to show an interest in exploring, let it. Begin with a quiet spot and continue the practices you did at home, remembering to never let kitty out of sight.
And there you have it. Now you can proudly show off your kitty to the outside world!