LEASH TRAINING YOUR CAT: IT CAN BE DONE!
DOG OWNERS DON’T GET TO HAVE ALL THE FUN!
So you have an indoor cat and have been toying with the idea of taking your furry friend for a walk outside. Well, leashes are not just for dogs. Your cat could benefit from a regular walk in the great outdoors. Cats, like most of our furry friends, love to be stimulated. The outdoors provides not only visual stimulation, but a plethora of scents and sounds to pique their interest and indulge their senses. A walk outside allows your cat to move differently and become engaged in their surroundings.
The benefits that come with regular excursions to the outside world are numerous. Aside from enhancing their quality of life and entertaining your feline friend, the regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, something that is vitally important for our indoor cats. Exploring outside can also help boost your cat's confidence, making them less jittery or timid as well as helping to lower their stress levels. In addition, once your cat is used to the all-powerful leash and the resulting walks outside, trips to the vet and introducing them to new experiences can be less stressful, as they have become used to new experiences and external stimuli.
The main benefit is that you get to have fun outdoors with your furry buddy and perhaps turn a few heads at your awesomeness. Learning how to walk your cat, safely and carefully, can be done. All you need to do is follow some guidelines, pay attention to your feline friend’s body language and of course, contact your vet if you have any questions.
In order to train your cat to walk on a leash, you will want to keep the following in mind.
Now, before I begin to give you fun tips on how to train your cat to walk on a leash, it is necessary to point out a few things to pay attention to in order to determine whether or not your feline is leash inclined. As always, if you have any questions or doubts, be sure to contact your local vet, for expert advice.
DOES YOUR CAT HAVE THE LEASH MENTALITY?
As everyone who is owned by a cat knows, they all have very distinctive personalities. This means that while some cats may have the perfect personality to don a fancy leash and walk proudly with their human companion, others would prefer the quiet sanctuary of their home.
It is up to you, to determine your cats aptitude. If your cat is timid and hides under the furniture when their routine is upset, this may be an indicator that your feline in not going to take to leash training. If you have an outgoing companion who takes most things in stride, you may have a cat who is prime for leash training.
It seems to be the consensus that kittens are ideal for leash training as they are, like most young’uns, easily adaptable and accepting of new experiences. You can begin teaching them new tricks and raise them to accept leash walking as a normal part of their routine. However, that does not mean older cats cannot be trained to love the leash. As the saying goes, Yes Margaret, you can teach an old cat new tricks.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN LEASH TRAINING
Prepare your cat for their upcoming adventures by making sure they are up to date on all of their vaccinations. You will also want to make sure they have protection from critters like fleas and ticks. Contact your local vet for more information on how to protect them from bitey pests.
In addition, make sure you furry friend has some identification just in case they manage to escape your clutches. Personally I would opt for two methods, a collar with a trusty id tag that has your number and info and I would make sure they are microchipped. (Do I really need to say talk to your vet for this one?)
HARNESS OR COLLAR?
You may have noticed that cats are different from dogs. Shocker! So, when you are getting ready to train your cat on how to walk with a leash attached, you are going to want to get the proper supplies. That would include a harness, rather than just a collar. Cats are escape artists and can twist their agile bodies into amazing positions to escape any situation. Have you ever tried dressing your cat for the annual family picture? I do not recommend it.
Get yourself a good harness that has been specifically designed for cats. Talk to your vet about the proper way for your cat to wear the harness so that they will not escape. It should not be too tight nor too loose.
It takes time to properly train your cat on the joys of walking on a leash and wearing a harness. Once you have purchased a harness specifically designed for cats, leave it out where your feline can get used to its existence. Let them sniff it, rub their scent on it and if they are inclined, let them play with it.
Once your furry companion has gotten used to the very existence of the harness, strap them in and let them wear it around the house. Be prepared for the drop. Most cats who have never worn a harness before will have trouble at first understand what is happening and they lose their ability to stand. Although this can be funny, keep in mind this is a new experience for them and they may find it frightening. Do not ever drag your cat or yell at them or scold them for being unable to stand up while harnessed. This can be overwhelming for your cat so be patient and offer rewards like petting them or giving them treats.
The goal is to associate the harness with positive reinforcement. Be patient and supportive and if you must, take some Instagram photos.
Once they are comfortable with the harness, you can attach the leash and let them wander around with it attached. This helps them acclimate to the added weight and pull of the leash.
PLAY FOLLOW THE FELINE
Once you have successfully introduced your cat to the harness and leash and they are no longer falling over in shock, you can take them out for their first outdoor excursion. I recommend doing this in your yard or, if you do not have one, in a quiet spot in your neighborhood.
Allow your cat to lead you, follow their whims and let them get used to the experience. This means you need to be patient and allow your cat to roll around on the cement or grass, sniff everything or even just lie down in the sun to catch some rays and watch the scenery.
This experience is for them and you need to allow it to proceed at their pace. Do not tug the leash and as I mentioned before, do not drag your cat.
The best thing is to find a safe and quiet place to walk your cat while you both become used to the experience. You want to make sure your companion is not overwhelmed. You also want to make sure you are not absorbed in your cell phone and are aware of your surrounding so that you can protect you cat while they are exploring. You need to keep an eye out for other animals as well as other dangers like broken glass, garbage, and even plants that could poison them if consumed.
LISTEN TO YOUR CAT
Keep in tune with your cat’s body language. If they seem distressed, signs can be simple: their ears are flat against their head, their eyes are wide, they are slinking close to the ground or their tail is between their legs, call it a day and head home. Trust your cat to tell you when they are uncomfortable and listen to them.
Leash training your cat can take some time and some cats are not going to be as enthusiastic about it as you may be. Make sure you are patient and that you pay attention to your cat’s body language. Accept their decision if they do not want to learn. Do not force it.
Training your feline companion to walk on a leash can have many benefits, but you can be sure that if they take to it, they are going to want to do it often and not always on your schedule. This means that your cat may begin to paw at the door when they want to go out. If they are vocal they may become even more insistent when they want to go for a walk. There is nothing more pleasant than trying to make dinner with a howling cat pawing desperately at the kitchen door in an attempt to get you to grab that leash and go!
In addition, you are going to need to be much more aware when coming and going as your cat may become an escape artist who darts out the door the second it opens. Another reason why you should make sure you cat is up to date with all of their vaccinations and that they have their ID’s. Once they get a taste of outdoor adventure, they can become junkies!
CATS CAN BE LEASH TRAINED
Remember, cats are not dogs. They have to be trained and handled differently. However, there is no reason why they cannot be leashed trained if they have the right temperament and inclination. (A few treats and head rubs can help too!) Just make sure you take the proper precautions and are patient and aware of your furry companion’s moods.
If your cat does not take to the leash, you can always get an animal stroller for your furry companions. Or, accept that you have a homebody cat and spend some extra time playing with them at home.
Have fun and be safe!