Walking Your Cat
there is some concern that giving your cat a taste
of the great outdoors will turn him into a demanding
puss who sits by the door meowing incessantly to
go out, many feline experts believe that the greater
danger lies in providing a living environment for
the cat that is unchanging and unstimulating --
just plain boring. The stress of boredom can be
a contributing factor in a number of destructive
behavior problems (e.g., furniture scratching) as
well as in some physical and psychological problems
(e.g., obesity, over-grooming, feline depression).
While much can be done to make the home environment
more interesting for the cat, nothing can compare
to the excitement of the ever-changing outdoors.
course, allowing your cat to roam outside freely
would be irresponsible. Unsupervised, your cat faces
the very real dangers of road traffic, irate neighbors,
disease and other predatory animals. Leash training
can add a new dimension to both of your lives. Cats
look forward to their outings just as much as dogs
enjoy their walks. If taken out at approximately
the same time every day, your cat will learn that
this is the only time he can go out and there's
no point in pestering you at other times.
always easiest to introduce new experiences to kittens
who tend to view life as a big adventure. However,
even older cats can be trained to accept a harness
and leash if you are patient, persistent and sensitive
to the cat's body language. Each small step of progress
toward the ultimate goal is rewarded with praise
and food treats. At no time should the cat be punished
or scolded. It may take weeks of conditioning for
the adult cat to feel comfortable with this procedure,
but the result is well worth the effort.
A strong advocate for
leash training your cat, Warren Eckstein, devotes
15 pages to this subject in his wonderfully entertaining
and instructive book, “How to Get Your Cat
to Do What You Want.” Here is a brief summary
of the steps involved in training your cat to walk
on a leash:
Purchase a harness that is designed to pull from
the chest, not from the throat. A harness is preferable
to a collar because if properly fitted, it will
provide less opportunity for your cat to wriggle
out of it. You should be able to slip two fingers
between the harness and the cat. If it is too loose,
the little escape artist will be out of it in no
time. The leash should be lightweight and detachable
and have a clip that closes tightly. We do not recommend
"figure eight" style harnesses, as these
can pinch and make the harness uncomfortable. Instead,
the preferred design is an “H-style”
design, with two independently adjustable loops
connected by a third piece of material. SmartCat
has a comfortable and easily adjustable harness.
2. Let your cat get used to the harness
and leash by leaving them near his favorite sleeping
place for a few days. The training process begins
in the home. Before placing the harness on the cat,
prepare your cat’s favorite meal, something
so delectable that it makes him forget about everything
else. Immediately after placing the harness on him,
put the food in front of him. Praise him profusely.
After he is finished eating, let him walk around
for awhile. Distract him with toys, if he seems
unhappy with the harness. After he has visibly relaxed,
the harness can be removed.
3. Attach the leash to the harness. Don't
try to walk at this point, just let him walk where
he pleases, dragging the leash behind him. Always
supervise these sessions in case the leash gets
caught on something. Most cats will accept the addition
of the leash readily, but if yours becomes agitated,
divert his attention, as before. Encourage the cat
to walk and when he does, shower him with praise.
Keep these daily training sessions short and positive.
4. Once your cat is at ease with the harness
and leash, pick up the leash and walk around the
house behind him, being careful to keep the lead
slack. At this point you do not want to restrict
the cat's movement, just let him get used to having
you follow him. Practice this for a few days.
5. Now its time to direct the cat. Using
a sweet, high-pitched voice, encourage him to follow
you. (Kittens have a natural follow-Mom response.)
Don't expect him to walk like a dog. Allow your
cat to wander from side to side within the confines
of the length of the leash, but do not veer off
your predetermined course. When the cat feels resistance,
he will either walk in your direction or lie down.
Patience and persuasion are the key words here.
Never pull or jerk the lead to force your cat back
in line. One bad experience may turn your cat against
leash training forever.
6. Once the cat is walking comfortably
on the leash inside, you can introduce him to the
outdoors. It may be best to simply sit with the
cat on the stoop outside for the first few jaunts.
Let him become used to the sights and sounds of
this new and somewhat scary world. You'll know when
your cat has adapted to this new environment. He
will look relaxed, nervous tail twitching will stop
and he will show an interest in exploring. Let him.
Now find a quiet location that will present as few
frightening elements as possible and follow the
same procedure you used to accustom him to walking
on a leash indoors. (Remember, never leave the cat
your feline friend can join you for walks around
the neighborhood, picnics, even window-shopping.
Trips away from home (e.g. the vet) will also be
easier for you and less traumatic for your cat.