Walking your cat on a leash can open up opportunities for you and your feline friend to bond safely as you revel in the sights, sound and scents that nature has to offer. Acclimating your cat to the notion of strutting on a leash in the great wide open of outdoors must be pursued gradually to gain your cat’s acceptance and to ensure your cat’s safety.
Smart Shopper Selection
The first step in understanding how to train a cat to walk on a leash is to familiarize yourself with the safest necessary accessories. Never attach a leash to your cat’s collar, especially if the collar is one that is designed to break away when tugged. Your cat should be wearing a harness at all times when venturing out on a leash. When shopping for a harness for your cat, it is crucial that you purchase one that is specifically designed for use with cats and that is appropriately sized for your cat. Remember that your cat is flexible and quick. Impersonating Houdini will be a simple feat for your cat if it wants to free itself from a halter that was not designed with the agile cat in mind. When selecting the halter, be sure that the loop through which the leash will be fastened is positioned on the back of the cat’s body and not at the cat’s neck. You will also need to purchase a leash. Choose a leash that has a secure clasp, and avoid leashes that resemble chains. The weight and the sound of a chain leash may be off-putting to some cats.
Accepting the Harness
The first phase of how to train a cat how to walk on a leash is to gain the cat’s acceptance of the harness. Begin the training process by simply leaving the harness near the cat’s favorite napping spot or food bowl for a few days. This gives the cat the opportunity to sniff the new object and to become accustomed to its presence in a nonthreatening situation. Consider placing treats alongside of the harness each day so that the cat learns to associate something positive with it.
For the next step, place the harness on your lap and hold the cat on your lap. Let the cat sniff the harness, and try petting the cat with the harness in your petting hand. Always reward your cat with treats when contacts with the harness are positive. After a few days of this calm interaction, try outfitting the cat with the harness. It will be helpful to practice placing and securing the harness on a stuffed animal a few times before you attempt to put in on your cat so that you are more confident and that there is less struggle with the questioning cat as you grapple with figuring out how to position the harness.
Once the harness is on the cat, offer treats and allow your kitty to walk around indoors for a few minutes while wearing the new attire. If the cat appears stressed, remove the harness immediately and try again another day. Always work at the cat’s comfortable pace when training.
Learning to Love the Leash
When your cat reaches the point of being comfortable with strutting around the house in a harness, it is time to introduce the leash. Fasten the leash, and then allow your cat to walk around a closed room. Supervise the cat closely, but do not hold the leash at this stage. Allow the cat to drag the leash along the floor.
When the cat walks around with the attached leash with indifference, pick up the end of the leash and walk along with the cat. This should be done indoors until the cat is used to the activity. Throughout the training process, make the attempts daily, keep every attempt short in duration and reward all sessions with treats. Remember that walking a cat on a leash takes time and patience when training your cat to look forward to this practice.
Once the cat is used to walking along with you while being tethered to you by a leash, it is time to make the transition outdoors. Start every outing with a treat as you place the harness on your cat, and conclude every outing with another treat after the two of you have returned indoors. Begin your outdoor walks within the safe confines of a fenced yard. For a cat that is used to walls and ceilings, stepping out into a vast, open space with new sounds and smells can be overwhelming and intimidating. Keep the walks brief and secure, allowing your cat to pause, sniff and explore the yard. As your cat becomes more comfortable with nature’s surroundings, gradually extend the lengths of the walks as you venture into new territory. Remember that walking your cat on a leash should be enjoyable for your cat.
Some cats tend to be high strung by nature and may never accept the concept of wearing a harness or walking on a leash. It is imperative to respect the cat’s preferences and abandon the notion of talking outdoor walks together if your kitty is uncomfortable. Forcing the issue may be detrimental to your relationship and cause anxiety in your cat. As you begin the steps of how to train a cat to walk on a leash, observe your cat’s behavior closely and recognize if the activity is too stressful to your kitty.
Understand that although your cat resides indoors where it is safely tucked away from the perils of outdoors, walking a cat on a leash outside exposes your cat to potential loose dogs that you may encounter. Be prepared to quickly pick up your cat, and head home immediately before your cat becomes stressed if you observe a loose dog coming your way.
Your cat will also be at increased risk for contracting parasites, such as fleas, ticks and heartworm. If you plan to bring your cat outdoors, be sure to ask your veterinarian for a safe and effective preventative product to protect your cat from parasites.