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Teach a Cat to Walk on a Leash

Updated on December 29, 2009

Stepping out with your cat

Cats can be taught to walk on a leash almost as easily as dogs. Of course, the key word here is 'almost' and every cat might not be prime candidates for leash-walking. But, if your cat is mild mannered, and likes to go where you go, then you might have just picked up a new friend to take along on your daily walks.

Teaching cats to walk on a leash is a whole different ballgame than teaching dogs to walk with you. Begin by embedding two words that begin with the letter 'P' in your thought process. You must remember is 'patience' and 'persistence.' The best time to begin teaching your cat to tolerate a leash is early, while it is still in the kitten stage. Kittens do not have any pre-determined ideas, and are easier to mold into the 'walker' you want than a cat that is older and set in its ways.

You're going to need a few items before walking with your cat. First, you need a harness. The best harness for cats is a figure-8 harness. This type of restrictive device not only protects your cat from choking but it will not slip off your cat. Keep in mind, your feline is not a dog, so the weight of the harness needs to be lightweight, yet secure.

Collar-types are not good because the cat can easily slip out of them, the collar can get caught in weeds or tree branches. If your cat should get snagged and trapped the animal could be choked to death. Also, collars can cause problems to a cat while grooming. A cats lower jaw (teeth) can become trapped under the collar and they will not be able to close their mouth. Neck collars are not the best choices for felines.

You will, also, need a leash that extends about 5 to 6 feet, similar to the ones used to walk dogs. Cat leash-leads are more lightweight but still provide a strong lead to keep your cat safely restrained.

Introducing the harness must be done without causing your cat turmoil or anxiety. Trying to force your cat to accept the harness will not only create fear, but will defeat the outcome you are looking for. If your cat senses it is being punished or restricted, it will, perhaps, never accept or adapt to harness wearing or training.

Talk to your cat in a calm manner! Don't yell at your cat, or demand that it put the harness on and like it! Fear and forcefulness will succeed, only, to teach your cat to be afraid of you and the apparatus. Be gentle, let the cat sniff the new item, and get on the cat's level. Sit on the floor, stroke your cats fur, and invite your cat to play with and get the idea that this is something special for him/her.

Put the harness on your cat and praise it, let it know how proud you are, or how nice it looks. Build up your cats tolerance for the feel of the harness. Introducing your cat to a harness may require a few minutes over several days. Once your cat is used to putting on the harness, connect the leash to the harness and let your cat walk with you in tow. Don't demand your cat to turn, sit, or walk to a specific area! Let them explore and learn that the harness and leash is quality time, and reward them with treats.

After your cat is comfortable with walking with the leash, let your cat know you want them to walk with you by using gentle tugs to guide them. Don't pull the cat around by the leash if they don't want to walk where you suggest. Cats are independent creatures, and demanding will get you nothing but failure. Let them know how good they're doing, and always reward them with a treat, pet or hug.

Once your cat gets the idea of walking 'with' you, and finds the stroll to be a rewarding quality time, you can take your cat outside to, perhaps, a screened in patio or fenced backyard. Don't expect your cat to readily accept the outside world without fear! An indoor cat does not know about the sounds or strange encounters it might find outside it's protected area within the house. Sure, perhaps your cat is tough when it comes to watching birds from their favorite window in the living room, but coming face to face with the outside world is intimidating and scary.

Walk with your cat for several weeks in your backyard or other enclosed outdoor area, away from places where strangers, traffic, loud sounds or running children. Your cat has many new things to discover, such as, grass, gravel, soil, and vegetation. It will take some time before your cat is comfortable and feels safe with this new environment.

Sometimes, once your cat is allowed to go outdoors, you need to keep an eye out for any open doors. Your cat will not understand, for some time, that it must only go outdoors when wearing its harness.

Begin by taking your cat for walks everyday inside your house. Then, add a stroll around the patio and back into the house. But, don't add new territory everyday! Repeat the walking pattern several times before increasing the walk area.

Always, speak gently to your cat. Never yell or punish them for not obeying your command. As with any learning experience, patience and persistence are the correct ingredients.


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