Your first question may be WHY?? Why leash train a cat??? So glad you asked! Here is a partial list of reasons and I’m sure there are many more we aren’t thinking of:
- At some point you will take your cat to the vet and just think how much nicer it will be for her if you don’t drop her into a carrier and instead let her stroll into the office under her own power and with all the dignity she can muster.
- Many indoor cats would love to accompany their humans on walks and the leash and harness provide a safe way to do that.
- If you are like most pet parents and would love to take your feline four-legged baby out with you – the way dog owners routinely do – to the book store, hardware store or out to eat, the leash and harness will enable you to do that.
- If you travel with your cat, you can easily take her out on the leash at rest stops without worrying about losing her. You can also eliminate the need for a stinky litter box in the car.
- Many indoor cats need more exercise and going out for a walk with you is not only fun but healthy.
- Cats, unlike most dogs, easily climb trees, fences and other tall objects, quickly putting them out of reach. The leash and harness will allow your feline baby the freedom to walk and run around outside while giving you the ability to keep her within reach.
- Seeing the double takes when people catch sight of your puss-in-boots strolling along in her smart harness get-up is well worth the time it will take you to train her.
OK! Now what?
Now that we’ve clearly established why it is a GREAT idea to leash train your kitty, here are step-by-step instructions, as illustrated by Pizootz:
Equipment. I used a bungee cord style leash to allow Pizootz freedom of movement and take into account the fact that cats move differently than dogs do. The harness should fit well and be comfortable. The first time I put the harness on Pizootz I failed to fit it correctly and it hung off him. Be sure to make the harness snug but not so tight that it restricts movement or is uncomfortable.
- Positive association. You want your cat to WANT to get into the harness and go for a walk so introduce him to the harness with his favorite food/treat.
- Incentive. Use a soft, smelly and delicious – to your cat – wet food.
- Slow and easy wins the race. Don’t force anything and be patient and smart. Observe your cat to see what freaks him out, what he responds well to and adjust as you go.
- Step-by-step process: Now that you have the proper harness, leash and incentives (a.k.a. food) , here is what you do:
- Wait until your cat is hungry, then put his favorite food on a plate on the floor and place the new harness next to the plate. You want your cat to begin to think positively about the harness by associating it with food. Let your cat eat the food and then wait until the next meal time.
- For the next meal, put your cat’s favorite food on a plate on the floor but this time put harness opening around the food on the plate. The idea is to get your cat comfortable putting his head into the opening of the harness. At this point the harness is flat on the plate and not touching your cat but you are reinforcing the harmless and positive nature of the harness.
- Next meal time put some of the wet food on a small spoon, hold the spoon in one hand and the open harness in the other and hold the spoon with the food through the harness to allow your cat to eat the food off the spoon near the extended harness.
- Next time, repeat Step 3 but bring the harness forward so that it is next to the food on the spoon and closer to your cat’s head.
- Next time, repeat Step 4 but put the harness slightly ahead of the spoon so that your cat has to put his head through the harness to get the food on the spoon.
- Once he’s reached his head through the harness a couple of times, just rest the harness on his back while he eats and then remove it then he’s finished.
- At this point, you can put the food on the plate again with the harness around the food and when your cat is busily eating simply lift the harness off the plate and over your cat’s head and rest the harness on your cat’s back without clipping it on. When he’s done eating simply let him back out of the harness and leave it behind.
- The next time, repeat Step 7 but fasten the harness on while he eats and then remove it when he’s finished.
- The next time, fasten the harness on while he’s eating and attach the leash and then remove everything.
- The next time put the harness and leash on, leave the ensemble on and pick up the lease and stand there for a minute holding the leash. Then remove everything when he’s done eating.
- Now it’s time for your first walk. Once you have the harness and leash on and your cat is done eating, pick up the leash and let your cat walk with the harness on to get the feel of it. Let him decide where to go and let him play with the leash if he wants to. Remember that you want as many positive associations as possible, including food and play and outdoor time with you.
- Remove everything after the first few successful steps. Remember, slow and steady. You are building your cat’s confidence and comfort level.
- Next time you get the harness and leash on, open the door to the outside and let your cat lead the way out for a short walk.
- Initially walk in your back yard where it is quiet and safe, without cars and other animals.
- Eventually go to the front yard and then the street and then the sky is the limit.
Don’t be afraid to develop your own routine. Each cat will react a bit differently to the harness and the process of walking on a leash so figure out what motivates your cat and incorporate that into your training routine. Enjoy!
Leash and harness roundup
Here are some harness and leash suggestions for you to try.
PetSafe Come With Me Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash: This is the equipment I used to train Pizootz and it worked very well. The harness is easy to put on and the lease is a bungee style which allowed Pizootz freedom to explore while giving me the ability to keep her within reach – and bring her back down from the occasional tree trunk she tried to scale.
Kitty Holster Cat Harness: This is a walking vest style of harness and fits most adult cats. You would need to buy the leash separately. 10% of profits donated to Crazy K Farm Poultry and Livestock animal rescue and sanctuary.
CatYou Harness & Seatbelt Set: This harness comes in small to XL so can be used with kittens and adult cats, as well as dogs of all sizes. The set includes a padded vest with two seatbelt restraints to allow your pet to ride safely and comfortably in the car with you.
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