On any given day, you will probably see several folks walking their dogs….cats often miss out on the fun, so ever considered leash training your cat?
Leash training your cat is a great way to let him enjoy the outdoors. It will also come in handy for trips to the vet, when traveling, or introducing your cat to another cat.
Before you begin, be sure your cat is current on all required vaccinations and is microchipped in case he gets lost.
The San Francisco SPCA offers these tips when leash training your cat:
Training Tip 1: Take It Slow
Despite what you might think, most cats are easily trained for this, with kittens being most receptive to this new experience. For older cats, we you will need plenty of patience. Take baby steps initially and reward progress. Start harness training inside so your cat is comfortable with it before heading out the door.
Training Tip 2: Give Your Cat Time To Check Out Leash/Harness
You want to purchase a harness designed for cats. These have a leash attachment on the back of the harness, not at the neck.
- Leave the harness and leash near your cat’s food or preferred napping spot for several days, giving him the chance to become familiar with it.
- Let him sniff it first and then lay it next to his body and neck. Offer him treats while doing this. Remove the harness as he eats the treat.
- Work up to laying the harness over your cat’s shoulders and down his chest, positioning it between his front legs. Again, offer treats as he becomes more familiar with the harness.
Training Tip 3: Get Your Cat Used To Wearing Harness/Leash
Put the harness on the cat, but don’t attach the leash at this point. Adjust the harness and leave it on for a few minutes. Offer treats. Repeat this training for several days. Once your cat becomes a bit more relaxed and used to the idea, increase the time the harness is on. Treats are a great distraction.
After your cat is comfortable wearing the harness, attach the leash and let him drag it on the ground behind him. Again, treats provide a great distraction. You may want to do this exercise for a few days. Once he shows some comfort with this, gently pick up the leash as he is walking around with it. Let him take the lead and praise him frequently….and remember….treats!
Training Tip 4: Offer Your Cat Lots of Encouragement
When you are ready to venture outside, be sure to use a soft and encouraging tone of voice. Drop a treat and while your cat eats it, walk away to the end of the leash. After he catches up to you, offer praise and a reward again. This step will most likely need to be repeated to enforce positive behavior.
Training Tip 5: Begin Walks In Quiet Area
Begin walking and apply gentle, yet persistent, pressure on the leash if your cat decides to go in another direction. When your cat takes a few steps toward you, allow for some slack on the leash so he does not feel any tension on the leash.
Cats who don’t have much experience with the great outdoors might become nervous and easily startled, begin in a quiet, sheltered location. Expand your walking distance as he becomes more familiar with the routine. Set a regular walking schedule in case your cat becomes overly enthusiastic about this new experience and begs you to go outside all the time.
Don’t be discouraged if your cat doesn’t happily and eagerly adapt to this new experience. If he is scared or fearful, walking outdoors might not be for him. There are many ways to offer him an enriching indoor environment.