How to Train a Cat to Walk on a Leash
Cats Can Walk on Lead
Cats love being outside, but it's just not always safe or the best option to let your cat wander outside alone. You have to worry about other animals, traffic, chemicals, and people. There is just a lot of things that your cat can get into that can be detrimental to his health, if not fatal.
But, if you are willing to spend a little time outside with your cat, you have an option...
You can escort your cat on lead around your yard.
It may sound silly, but I've actually seen a few people train their cat to walk on a leash. I mean, it's a great option when you go camping so that your cat can come with you and be safe. It's also an option if you go to the park, pet store, or outdoor event. I've seen it all.
If you're interested in training your cat to walk on a leash, you'll want to remember to be very patient.
Training Your Cat to Walk on Lead
You want to use a soft cat collar or harness and a lightweight 6 foot leash. The collar or harness needs to be specifically for cats! You may be able to purchase a harness/leash set, which is actually the preferred method of walking a cat on a leash. (I have posted different options throughout this page.)
When first starting off, you'll want to get the cat used to the collar/harness by letting him sniff it and check it out. You don't want to force the cat into the collar/harness before he's ready, as this is detrimental to the training process; you'll stress him out and cause a bad memory of the training process.You want the process to associated with good things.
It's a good idea that you start training before a meal, so that your cat isn't full. If you free-feed, you'll want to remove the bowl for a few hours before training. This keeps the treats interesting if your cat is just a little hungry.
You want to start training in a small, quiet room, offering your cat hist favorite treats. This will help calm him, and it will provide a safe area in case he starts panicking once you've put the harness on for the first time.
In the beginning, your main focus is to get your cat used to wearing the harness. For the first few sessions, your cat may sit very still, crouch low to the ground, or squirm in panic. Just remember that you need to stay calm and try not to interfere so that the cat doesn't hurt himself or anything else in the room.
Just leave the harness on for a brief moment to start, and slowly lengthen the amount of time that you leave the harness on your cat. Try providing treats throughout the session to calm your cat and create as pleasant of an experience as you can.
When your cat is used to the harness, he'll start to relax and just walk around the room. Let him do so. Keep it at short periods of time to start and lengthen the time over a few sessions. Make sure to take off the harness after each session.
Also, make sure that your cat is comfortable before you start to lengthen the sessions. You want to stop before your cat starts to get irritated.
When you think that your cat is ready to add the leash, give it a whirl. Just remember to always start with short lengths of time before you gradually lengthen the time frame. Never force your cat to move faster than he's ready to.
You want to set a path in your house, try a hallway, to start leash training your cat in. This will provide a comfortable environment with few distractions.
Clip the leash to the harness, or collar (remember you can use either one). Harnesses are typically used, but many people find that fitted collars work better, since cats can be contortionists and can sometimes squeeze out of the harnesses. If you opt for a harness make sure that your cat cannot squeeze out, but also make sure that the harness isn't too tight.
Let the cat walk around the pathway that you've set aside within your house. Hold the leash gently and follow the cat. You want to frequently offer cat treats to reward him for being calm and walking on the leash. Sometimes, when you first start off, your cat may not want to move at all; you can use the treats to entice him to walk forward. Typically, if you've let the cat adjust to the harness/collar appropriatelly he will move around fine.
Just remember to never pull your cat along if he's not moving. He won't like it, and it definitely won't put a good sensation about leash walking in his head.
When your cat is adjusted to walking within the confined environment on leash, you can move outside, to a pet store, or wherever. I would recommend starting with as few distractions as possible, and moving towards more distractions as your cat gets comfortable with walking on the leash.
Some suggest 5 minute intervals about 3 to 5 times a day to start off, staying within your yard in the beginning before you start to venture off.
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Tips for Leash Training a Cat
Remember that even though your cat is on a leash and you are standing by him, there are still many dangers that can pose harm to your cat.
If you plan on walking your cat off your property, say around the block or even at the pet store, you'll want to make sure that you can find a route that has the least dogs. At a pet store that can be hard to accomplish, but when walking around your neighborhood, you can walk a few different routes until you find one that has the least dog walkers.
Being confronted by a dog may cause your cat to panic and try to escape. If you do see a dog on your walk and you notice that your cat is stressing out, you do not want to snatch your cat up no matter how close the two of you are. You should carry a towel or piece of clothing with you to cover the cat as you pick it up in one swoop as carefully as you can. The material will help protect your from your cat scratching or biting you.
By picking up your cat, you're protecting it from the dog, and from itself. If he's on a collar and tries to dash off, the cat may choke himself.
Other things to consider:
- Start leash training as early as you can to reduce stress on an older cat.
- Never leave your cat alone on his leash, even if that means just walking around the house with a loose lead trailing behind him. The lead can get stuck on something.
- Never tie your cat's leash to a post and leave him unsupervised outside. Always be with your cat while he's on lead.
- Let the cat walk on his own terms. You don't want to jerk or pull the leash as you can hurt the cat.
- Keep the leash short enough so that your cat can't jump over fences, but long enough so that he has some lead to walk and explore.
- Remember to carry a pillowcase, piece of clothing, or towel with you in case you need to grab your cat off the ground if he stresses or starts to panic.
Walking inside cats on a leash outside can reduce the fear of the outside world, making the cat more likely to run out the door when open.
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