How To Leash Train Your Cat

Leash training isn’t just for dogs anymore. Other pets are learning to walk on a leash including ferrets, hamsters, rabbits and cats. Yes, cats!

Contrary to popular belief cats are relatively easy to leash train and actually enjoy being outside whilst attached to a harness and leash.

Steven Jacobson and Jean Miller, a married couple who have plenty of leash training experience have written and published their own book on leash training cats entitled ‘Walk Your Cat, The Complete Guide’.

“After a tough day,” says Miller, who is a Virginia Tech philosophy instructor, “it’s a nice, relaxing thing to come home, get the leash and take the cat out for a long walk.”

Those words will take some getting used to for a few cat owners. Others though, will jump at the chance to be able to bond with their cat whilst out for leisurely walk.

If cat walking is so easy, then why aren’t other people walking their cats as well? According to Miller, there are two main reasons as to why this is. Firstly, most people do not think that cat’s can be trained to do anything, never mind being leash trained; and secondly, Miller says, is “because they’ve used a dog model of leash training. That’s certain to fail.”

In fact, these two authors believe that the commanding and controlling approach which is often used with dogs will never really work with cats and probably will cause them to try and escape and run off. It is therefore, imperative to know how to motivate your cat and reassure them if they become nervous, as well as how to get them used to the sights and sounds of the outdoors.

The first rule in leash training cats is to have plenty of patience.

“Patience,” Miller says. “Without patience it’s not going to work.”

Even though Miller encourages cat owners to keep their cats as indoor only cats for their own safety, she firmly believes that cat owners should oblige their cat’s needs to go outside by walking them on a leash, as this will allow them “the incomparable variety and intensity of sights, sounds and smells,” not to mention the significant “behavioral stimulation.”

“Cats have a very real need to go outdoors,” she says.

Besides patience there are also a few simple things to keep in mind when attempting to leash train your cat, the most important, being to provide your cat with a very well-fitting harness. Cats do not like being jerked around by their collars and can slip out of one quite easily, especially if it is a safety collar. Therefore a harness is better to attach a leash to and it should be loose and comfortable for your cat.

Before putting the harness and leash on your cat, let her play with them first so that she can get used to them. When you think that your cat is at ease with the new harness and leash, you can then attempt to place the harness loosely on her and see how she reacts to it. Let your cat wear the harness around the house for a few minutes every day.

Keep in mind that this is the most crucial step, because, if you force her to wear the harness, before she is ready, she will not respond to wearing it at all. This is where having lots of patience comes into play.

As soon as your cat has become comfortable with wearing her harness loosely, you can then tighten the harness up until it is the right fit for your cat. Again, allow your cat to wear the tightened harness around the house for a few minutes each day.

The next step is to attach the leash onto your cat’s harness and practicing walking your cat around the inside of your house. This will help your cat to become accustomed to not only wearing the harness but also to feeling the tug of the leash.

When you believe that your cat is doing well and is comfortable with both the harness and the leash, it is then time to take your cat for a walk outside.

However, be sure that the leash is not too loose. Outside there are many distractions for a cat, like birds, squirrels and butterflies, which can cause your cat to want to run away, which is why you must keep a tight leash so that your cat walks with you and does not attempt to pull you all over the walkway.

Remember to let your cat set the pace and if your cat shies away from any step, simply go back to the previous one and try again.

Photo Credit: carolyn.will

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