What If It Doesnt Work
Leash walking should be something you and your cat enjoy together, so if your pal seems unhappy, slow down the training and use more incentives. Everyone is different, and some animals will take more time to feel comfortable with a new activity than others.
Not all cats will acclimate to leash walking, but there are plenty of other ways cats can enjoy being outside safely. Some cats may not feel comfortable walking on the ground in a harness, but are perfectly content in a stroller. You can even set up a cat tent in an enclosed outdoors area, so your cat can relax on the grass in a place she feels comfortable.
Make Sure Your Cat Is Safe
Cats that spend time outdoors are more likely to get fleas, ticks, heartworms, and other parasites. Discuss preventative options with your vet to make sure your cat is safe and protected while enjoying time outside.
Stay away from things that may startle your cat, such as busy roads and barking dogs, while outside. Even though a cat may be trained to walk on a leash, different situations may scare it and cause it to be afraid of going on a future walk.
Get A Proper Harness And Leash
Cats are great squirmers. If you try to hook a leash to their neck collar, you will soon see firsthand how easily a cat can slip that collar. If youre going to try leash walking your cat, youll need a good harness.
The best harness for your cat will be good at two things:
- Distributing pressure across multiple areas so the harness doesnt choke your cat
- Preventing your cat from slipping out of their harness
This means your cats harness should have adjustable straps that go around the neck and around their body. Depending on your cats body type, fur length, and personality, you can choose between strap harnesses or fabric wraps. The wraps can be difficult to fit around an especially fluffy or overweight cat, while the strap harnesses can sometimes slip off of a slender-framed or short-haired cat. Ive included a few recommended harnesses for walking cats below.
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The Dos And Donts Of Walking Your Cat
Cats love the outdoors, and it can be a sad sight to see your kitty gazing longingly out the windows at the sunlight and breeze. If trained correctly, your cat can be walked on a leash, opening the door to endless adventures for you and your feline friend. But, if you have tried to walk your cat on a leash, you may have noticed that the training isnt so easy and that fun outing ends up looking something like this.
Here are some dos and donts of walking your cat so you can both experience a good time.
Get Your Cat Used To The Harness
As much as you might want to take your pet out for a walk right away, the truth is that some cats might never get accustomed to wearing a harness, especially if theyve also never even worn a collar.
So, it’s safe to say that its a better idea to keep the harness around and fasten it on your cats body several times a day until she gets used to the idea of wearing it. Once that happens, you can leave it on her body for several hours and gauge her reaction.
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Teach Your Cat To Walk On A Leash
Continue to hold the leash and let your cat walk freely outside. Coax your cat to walk where you want it to walk using treats or toys. Dont pull your cat by the leash, but a gentle tug to redirect its attention is okay. You should continuously praise your cat with treats if it is walking in the direction you seek.
Over time your cat will get used to the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences of the outdoors and will be safe in its harness and leash. This may take several days or weeks for some cats, while others will be more comfortable right away.
I Want To Go Out Again
After your first venture, your kitty may want to go back out 20 minutes later. She may claw at the door, wail, and aggressively rub up against you. The answer is “No.” Cats like to test the boundaries, which is admirable in a way. But be firm. Ignore her pleas. Go about your day. Soon enough, your kitty will understand and accept the routine. If you give in, your kitty might start bugging you to go outside all the time.
Be vigilant during this adjustment period when you leave or enter the house. Even more importantly, warn and keep a watch on visitors to make sure they don’t leave the door wide open. You may need to block the door, hold your kitty, or put her in another room if you have guests or any situation in which a door to the outside will be open a lot. Let visitors know that your cat is not allowed outside. A sign on the door saying “Please close the door so the cat doesn’t get out” won’t hurt, either.
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It Provides Mental Stimulation
A daily walk combats boredom by breaking up the monotony of your cats routine. Its easy to enrich their indoor environment with things like cat trees, window perches, and interactive toys. But adding an outdoor experience to their day will keep your kitty extra stimulated, engaged, and content.
Mary Molloy, animal behavior counselor and founder of Nirvana Tails in NYC, agrees. Going for walks outside can be incredible mental and physical enrichment for indoor-only cats, she says. Indoor-only cats tend to be easily bored because they arent having to hunt for food multiple times each day plus, the outdoors have constant sources of interest.
Choosing A Collar Or Harness For Leash Training Your Cat
Collars are good for cats for identification purposes and to hang a bell on, but not great to use with a leash. 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 isnt 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.
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Introducing The Cat To The Harness
The key is gradual introduction, in steps that allow your cat to become familiar with the harness and to help him or her come to associate it with pleasurable things. Letting your cat sniff over the harness is the beginning step. Try putting it near a place that the cat associates with good things, like a favourite bed or food bowl, at the start.
Pick The Location For Your First Outdoors Adventure
Once you have gotten plenty of practice walking around inside, set yourself up for success by choosing the perfect location for your first foray outdoors.
Its important to find a safe, semi-private place, so your cat will feel relaxed, secure and confident on his first trip. Woodard recommends starting in an enclosed area, such as a fenced backyard, where you wont need to worry about traffic, dogs or other potentially frightening stimuli. Check the weather report too, and make sure no wind or rain is in the forecast.
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Alternative Training Technique :
When using an escape-proof or jacket-style harness, your training approach will be slightly different.
Use this method by teaching your cat to put his head through the harness.
Step 1: Start by having your cat target the harness, click, and treat to build a positive association.
Step 2: Hold open the harness in front of the cat, put your other hand slightly through the opening of the harness while holding a treat, wait for your cat to take the delicacy. Repeat for few days.
Step 3: Hold the treat inside the harness opening so your cats nose is barely inside the loop to get the treat. Recap for several days.
Step 4: Hold the treat further towards you so the cat must place his full head through the harness opening to get the treat. Repeat several times.
Step 5: Once he or she is comfortable, put the rest of the harness on the neck/shoulders.
Step 6: Try to remove the harness just before they done eating so the cat does not have the opportunity to back out.
Step 7: When your cat is comfortable, provide him or her with a small bowl of food as a reward for putting the head through the harness. While chewing, attach the harness, take if off before it finished eating.
Step 8: Work on keeping the harness for longer periods while the cat is eating or playing so they barely notice wearing it.
Step 9: When your cat is relaxed wearing the harness, attach the leash, and follow the steps depicted above.
NEVER leave your cat unattended outdoors on a harness and leash.
What Cat Breeds Will Walk On A Leash
All cat breeds can be taught to walk on a leash.
Certain breeds may be simpler to train and walk than others. Ragdolls love to please their owners and follow them around, Abyssinians enjoy being out meeting people, Bengals are extremely intelligent and highly energetic, Maine Coons are curious, easily trainable, Ocicats and Savannah cats are super energetic and need a large amount of exercise. .
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Can I Teach My Cat To Walk On A Leash
A cat walking on a leash isnt something you see every day but if you have an indoor cat, you may want to let him out-of-doors to explore. Unless you have a catio or other such screened in space, letting your cat out on his own to roam the neighborhood could be a recipe for disaster. Training your cat to wear a harness or walk on a leash lets him embrace his cat-ness while keeping him safe.
If you want to train your cat to do a trick or walk on a leash, you need to practice patience and keep the training sessions short. Here are some tips.
Harness Training Your Cat
Whilst were out at work or school, our cats might be spending a lot of time indoors by themselves. Without a lot of stimulation your kitty can be prone to boredom . Being able to take your cat with you outdoors is a great way to provide them with the stimulation they crave, ensure theyre getting enough exercise, and provide an opportunity to for you to spend more quality time with your feline friend. With harness training your cat, they can experience all the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors in a way thats safe for them, and your local wildlife.
Winnie and Nathan the RSPCA cats
Its as if she forgot all about her hate for the harness and was more interested in the new sights and smells, as well as keeping up with Nath.
Personality Tip: Every cat is different and you need to take harness and lead training slow. Some cats will just prefer to be indoor couch potatoes.
Our Rule of Thumb : You should be able to fit one finger under the harness when its on your cat.
To make sure its a positive experience, start each harness training session just before meal time, so your cat has a tasty reward at the end. Go slow the first few days might just involve showing your cat the harness and allowing them to sniff it. Ideally, you want your cat to learn that the harness implies good experiences ahead like their dinner, and later on, exploring outside.
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Purchase A Harness For Your Cat
Cats do best when they are walked on a harness instead of a collar. A harness provides them more comfort and security to stretch their legs and move about freely and doesn’t pull on their small, fragile necks. Collars can also easily slip off, which can lead to scary incidences and your cat getting lost outside. No matter how far you plan to go, or where, your cat should wear a harness. Select a harness that fits snuggly but is breathable and doesn’t hinder your cat’s body movements.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
Some cats might never learn how to walk on a leash. There isnt a good or a bad time to start leash training, but it’s generally assumed that younger animals are better at learning than adult and geriatric cats.
If you try to teach your cat to walk on a leash for several months and you see no progress, there is a possibility that she might never learn how to do it.
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Be Prepared For Anything
Some cats, especially those that are used to indoor living, might not react well to being outdoors, especially for a long time. Pay as much attention to your pets behaviour as possible to see whether, at any point, she becomes uncomfortable.
Moreover, you should consider that cats that go outdoors are more exposed to both internal and external parasites, and they can also pick up other diseases from other animals or the environment.
Avoid walking your cat in busy areas where there might be a lot of traffic, other people, pets, and children, especially if your pet isnt used to spending time outdoors and in the presence of strangers. These things can all be scary to a cat.
Why Leash Training A Cat Is Beneficial
While cats who live indoors are generally healthier and less at risk for injury than those who live outdoors, many kitties can benefits from exploring the outside world in a safe and controlled manner. Learning how to leash train a cat or kitten is a great way to let them stretch their boundaries, exercise their bodies and their minds and maybe discover a part of their personalities that doesnt always come out when theyre behind closed doors.
Shojai believes that many cats can benefit from leash training, especially confident, active kitties and those who live in small apartments and may not have access to an enclosed patio or backyard.
Very confident felines accept leash training more readily. Kittens, especially those under a year of age, also learn to accept leash training most easily, perhaps because they still have that kitten curiosity, she says.
Laura Moss, editor-in-chief and co-founder of AdventureCats.org, a resource for outdoorsy cat lovers, agrees. Cats certainly love to sleep, but to stay healthy they need physical activity and mental stimulation just like we do, she explains.
Of course, not all cats are bound to love the great outdoorsand thats OK, too. Be sure to pay close attention to your felines behavior to ensure theyre comfortable exploring the outside world.
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What If Your Cat Gets Loose
If something unforeseen happens and the worst occurs and your cat gets loose, follow the steps below.
- Remain calm.
- If she hasn’t wandered far away, walk over to her at a normal pace, and calmly grab the leash. Secure it as previously described.
- If your cat has run off, now is when you issue the call to which she responds. If she responds to you shaking a jar of treats or popping the top off a can of cat food, try that as well.
- If you’re not sure where she is, check all the places around the house, including under hedges and raised buildings, and in sheds that may have a door ajar.
- If any doors to the house were open, check inside the house.
- Enlist the help of other household members and neighbors. Have one person stay close to the door by which you normally come in after walks, and have others gradually fan out away from the house, periodically rechecking the closer areas. Keep calling her.
- Determine what went wrong and seriously reconsider this decision. One-time freak occurrences can happen. But it may also be that you, your cat, and leash-walking are not a good fit. A fun outing is not worth risking your cat’s safety and well-being.
Never yell at or physically punish your cat for escaping or failing to come back to you once you have her with you again. Your cat will not understand this negative response and it will make her less likely to return to you if she ever gets loose again.
The Type Of Cats That Might Enjoy And Benefit From Outdoor Leash Walks Could Include:
- Adventurous cats that might show an interest in going outside .
- Cats showing potential signs of boredom and stress, even if you’ve tried to make their indoor environment more stimulating. Signs such as over-grooming, aggression, destructive tendencies around your home, and even urinating outside of their litter boxescan indicate boredom .
- Cats living in small apartments although you should still take steps to provide plenty of indoor environmental enrichment, too.
- Cats transitioning from outdoor to indoor lifestyles, whether they’re in the process of switching or have already made the switch.
If you are going to walk your cat, dont go about it like this writer from the New York Post.
I procured a cat leash and harness from a friend, who had attempted, unsuccessfully, to walk her own cats. Hoping to have a better go of it, I strapped my 7-year-old tabby, Jameson, in and headed out on a recent sunny Saturday.
As you might imagine, she soon realized that walking a cat is not exactly like walking a dog! First of all, cats don’t always take to leashes and walks as readily as dogs . Second, being cats, they’re not exactly, shall we say, “naturally inclined” to being led around by a leash. Third, many of the places youd likely take your dog typically arent as well-suited for a cat .
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