How to Leash Train Your Cats for a Walk/Stroll
Leash training your cat can seem like a daunting task, but with patience and perseverance, it can be accomplished. In this article, we will outline the steps you need to take to leash train your cat, as well as provide some tips to make the process easier. So, if you're ready to have your feline friend by your side on walks around the neighborhood, keep reading!
Why Do We Walk Dogs, But Not Cats?
If you've ever wondered why cats on leashes seem to be few and far between, the answer seems to lie in their behavior and history. Cats tend to be more independent than dogs. Dogs have been bred for centuries to work closely with humans, while cats have evolved to become notoriously independent creatures.
This doesn't mean your cat doesn't enjoy human interaction, however. Many cats form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy spending time with them. Leash training can give your cat the opportunity to explore the outdoors while remaining safe and under your control.
Can My Cat Be Leash Trained?
Not every cat will take to leash or harness training, and that's okay. It's best to start when your cat is a kitten, but there are plenty of leash training success stories involving older cats.
You know your cat's temperament and personality best, and if your cat is easily scared or skittish, it may be wise to work through any behavioral issues first.
What You'll Need
- A high-quality harness. You'll need a harness that's made specifically for cats, not just a small harness that's made for dogs. Harnesses provide more security than collars and are more gentle on your cat's neck.
- A sturdy leash. We recommend opting for a shorter leash so it's easier to keep your cat close by. Retractable leashes aren't recommended, as your cat can wander too far. Two-in-one harness and leash combinations designed for cats are also available.
- Positive reinforcement. This one's a given. Have reinforcers such as treats, a favorite toy, or cuddles (or all three!) on hand to help make the process more enjoyable. Be generous with the praise and reinforcement whenever progress is made!
Choosing the Right Collar Or Harness For cats
Collars are good for cats for identification purposes and to hang a bell on, but not great to use with a leash. Additionally, any collar placed on a cat should be easy release which is another reason not to use a leash with a collar on a cat. Cats are built differently than dogs and they can easily slip out of a collar that is attached to a leash. Harnesses are much more secure for walking a cat with, especially when you are first training it.
Choose a harness that fits securely and is snug but not too tight on your cat. You can check to make sure it isn’t too tight by sliding two fingers underneath the harness. If two fingers can slide between the harness and your cat, then it should fit correctly. But if you can fit more fingers or fewer fingers under the harness, it may be too loose or tight.
Harnesses that are specifically designed for cats work best. If a harness is uncomfortable, your cat will only think about how poorly it fits or how difficult it is to walk in. Harnesses that are made from a soft material, cut in a way to allow a cat to walk normally, and that are lightweight are your best options for your cat. Make sure the harness you choose also has a D-ring securely attached to the back of it as well since this is where you will attach the leash.
Your cat may run into other cats or creatures while outside, so it's also a good idea to make sure your cat is up to date on their vaccines (especially their rabies vaccines), as well as their flea and tick prevention regimen.
Leash Training a Cat: Step by Step
1. Introduce the Harness
Before you even attempt to fasten the harness onto your cat, give them a chance to get acquainted with it. Unfamiliar items can be scary, and giving your cat the extra time to get used to the harness can set you up for success down the road. The unfamiliar sounds of the harness caused by snaps and Velcro can be alarming to your cat as well, so exposing your cat to those sounds in your "practice sessions" can help mitigate stress.
Once your cat begins to show familiarity or comfort around their harness, try putting it on. Be sure not to force anything. If your cat shows signs of discomfort or stress, they may need a little more time getting to know the harness.
2. Practice Inside the House
Don't let your cat's first trial run happen in the hustle and bustle of the outdoors. Practicing around the house allows your cat's first walk to happen in a safe, familiar, and controlled environment. If you have a yard, you can level up to short walks outdoors in an enclosed space.
3. Slowly Venture into the OutdoorsMake sure your cat is already leashed and harnessed before stepping outside. Pick them up and carry them outside, as opposed to letting them take the lead. It's important to set a precedent that your cat is only allowed outside with you when leashed.
Once you're outside, let your cat take the lead. Forcing your cat in a certain direction will most likely just sour the experience for them. If your cat decides to plop down and chill, let them. Some cats will also need a moment to reorient themselves to unfamiliar surroundings. Once your cat grows more comfortable, you can begin to slowly increase the distance of your walks.
Leash-Training Quick Pro Tips
- Put the harness on away from the door and carry your cat outside. Letting him walk out on his own might encourage him to dash out between walks.
- Set a regular walking schedule, so your cat won’t pester you to go outside whenever he feels like it.
- If your cat gets scared while walking, don’t pick him up. Instead, retreat to a previous area that he’s explored.
- Never tie your cat's leash to something outside and leave him.
ResultsIf you're looking for a new way to get some exercise and fresh air with your cat, training them to talk on a leash might be the perfect solution. It can take some time for your cat to get comfortable with outdoor walks, but with practice, patience, and extra love, you'll soon be on your way to plenty of fun experiences together.
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