How to Leash Train a Cat: did you ever envy those dog owners always getting plenty of fresh air and physical activity along with their dog?
Well, think again, because truth is cats can also be leash trained. I have had my cat leashed trained as a kitten and we both enjoy our little evening strolls to the park.
But cat owners must be aware: kitties are independent creatures with heads of their own; you will not walk you cat, rather the cat will walk you. You must know from start that you will not be able to pull on the leash and have the cat follow you as a dog.
Pulling a cat can hurt the cat and can quickly turn a pleasurable event of going outdoors into an unpleasant experience for the cat.
Having accepted these two vital aspects, then you are ready to get your cat trained.
Leash training does not happen in one day, rather it may take up to a couple of weeks, but once you both have it down you will be walking pals for life.
It is important to choose a good harness to which you will eventually attach the leash.
Do not use a regular collar and leash; a harness is much safer and will make escaping less likely if your cat gets spooked of something.
Ideally, leash training should start when the cat is a kitten but older cats have also been able to learn rather promptly. You and your walking pal will have to follow the following instructions:
-On day 1 you want to have the cat sniff the leash and harness and play with it. Let kitty get used to the material and associate good things with it such as play, food and treats. Leave leash and harness next to kitty while kitty is eating. Then let kitty play with it again, this will prepare kitty for day 2.
-Day 2: let kitty wear the harness without attaching the leash onto it. If it bothers kitty, take it off for a few minutes and then retry later. Try putting it on right before meal time and have kitty eat with it on, he/she should hardly notice it if he/she is eager to eat as most cats are. Afterward, have the cat play with the leash while wearing the harness. Take off harness and repeat at next meal time.
Day 3 Put harness on again. Repeat as yesterday but let kitty keep it on longer and do not take off after meal. See if kitty is comfortable in it now. Continue to let kitty play with leash. Always monitor cat when wearing harness, you never know it could get caught somewhere and cause injuries.
-Day 3 Put harness on at meal time and attach leash while kitty is eating. Do not hold leash rather let the leash lie nearby. After Kitty finishes meal take leash off.
Around next meal time put leash back on and this time hold leash and a treat in other hand. Have kitty follow you holding leash and treat. Give treat. Repeat with other treats. Then get meal and have cat follow you while holding leash in one hand and food bowl in other hand. Hold on to leash while kitty eats. Don't pull on leash if kitty does not follow. Rather find a way that kitty follows you as calling his/her name or showing food.
-Day 4 Big day, have cat come out with you with harness and leash on just slightly outdoors leaving home door open in case cat gets scared of loud noises.
Follow cat around but do not go too far. Limit to a few minutes. The come back in and praise cat and give treat.
-Day 5 Keep door open and walk cat again outdoors. You can venture out a bit more this time if cat was OK and relaxed yesterday. It may be helpful limiting to night walks at first as it is much quieter.
-Day 6 If cat did well and did not run back indoors from getting spooked yesterday, you can try to walk further and close the door this time. Have your cat eat some grass as many love getting out for this purpose. Be careful if grass was treated. Only have cat eat grass if you are absolutely sure grass was not treated. If cat becomes scared pick up, reassure and go inside. Offer treat.
-Day 7 Congratulations for making it so far! Try going out during the day if cat was good yesterday. If not repeat from Day 4, cat may need to get used to some noises and seeing people, most likely after some conditioning to these sights and sounds most cats adapt quickly and will look forward to going out.
A week has passed now and if your cat is calm and relaxed you are ready for daily walkings. My cat becomes pretty excited when she sees her leash and harness and looks forward to walking every day. I think it is adorable and my neighbors do too!
It will take usually another week for your cat to get fully accustomed to walking outdoors.
You may now start enjoying your walks now, and remember that walking cats has a major plus versus walking dogs, there will be no messes to pick up!