| Walking Your Cat? |
Nobody thinks twice about walking the dog —but the cat?
Now that’s another story!
Anyone who knows cats well will admit that cats are not the most trainable of all animals. But with a little practice, your cat can learn to enjoy leash walks! Really!
Cats are trainable, but the methods used for training have to be carefully adjusted to allow for that famous regal independent streak our cats enjoy. No use trying to force a cat to do something. It has been said that they have better luck training us, than us them. It is important to have a load of patience! Be ready to reward little steps forward (literally).
Most cats enjoy a short walk about town, but some cats, especially older ones may not readily take to walking on a leash. Best to introduce leash training while she is still a kitten where possible. If you thought it was hard teaching an old dog new tricks, try old cats….though perhaps we should not generalize since cats are not little dogs- are they !
Teaching cats any special skill requires the use of very short training sessions. With a very short attention span, walks will definitely be on the short side during the learning curve. Consider up and down the driveway a monster walk for starters. Cats respond well to praise—never get tough if Kitty doesn’t cooperate—yelling, pulling the leash or other harsh feedback will instill a clear aversion to walking on the leash in her mind, likely forever—so don’t forget to praise anything reasonably close to good behavior and move past uncooperative behavior!
First, ensure that your harness and leash are at hand. A harness (not a collar) should always be your first choice for cats. The harness should be snug fitting, not tight. Make sure the harness is not loose or Kitty will slither through pretty quickly and be off! Leashes should be long enough that Kitty can wander a bit, but avoid the long leash on retractable string that we use for dogs. Use cat leashes, which are lighter in weight than dog leashes. Keep Kitty on a taut or lightly looped leash. Avoid letting long sections drag on the ground because if she becomes scared or decides to go chase a squirrel or bird suddenly, she may be hurt. A sudden dash will lead to a sudden stop when the long loop becomes taut and this can jar her chest and neck.
Acclimate cat to wearing the harness first before attaching the leash and going outside. Let her wear it for short periods of time (10 minutes several times a day) around the house. Praise her for wearing it. After she is comfortable with the harness, then attach the leash and again work in the confines of the home at first. Offer treats or favorite food while leash and harness are attached.
Reward even a few steps taken along with you! If Kitty appears tired or bored, you may need to pick her up and carry her home until she gets the gist. If you normally walk your family dog, you can try having her come along, with another family member holding her leash—don’t try to manage both animals yourself especially if she is still learning or Puppy is active. This only works of course if they are best buddies—otherwise they will want to walk in opposite directions—fast!
Don’t let the cat eat lawn grass on walks because grass may be treated with pesticides or chemicals.
Remember to keep Kitty’s vaccinations and worming treatments/ flea and tick control measures up-to-date!
A walk with a cat is a slow leisurely walk! You cannot train a cat to heel snug by your side as with a dog. Do your power walking when the cat is not around…..
Any cat taken outdoors should have permanent identification, preferably a microchip. A breakaway collar with ID tags is an OK option, but if she slips her collar, the ID goes with it into the bushes!
How to Leash Train a Cat
Cats are notoriously curious animals who love the great outdoors, but letting them wander isn't always an option. If you live in an area with lots of traffic or a local population of feral cats, both can pose great danger to your pet. If you're willing to provide supervision, then walking your cat can be a good solution. Since cats are often less cooperative than dogs, however, you're going to need to invest some time into training your independent feline before escorting it outside.
- Buy a soft buckle collar or harness made specifically for felines. Buy a separate lightweight leash approximately 6' long, with a loop handle. Placing the loop over your wrist will help to prevent the dropping of the leash.
- Trim your cat's toenails.
- Begin training before your cat's regular meal time, when they're most receptive. If you feed your cat "free choice", take up its food for several hours prior to the training session, so she is hungry.
- Allow the cat to smell the collar/harness.
- Start in one safe, small room, with delicious tasty treats your cat loves. Put the collar or harness on the cat. (A small area will prevent a panicking cat from becoming lost in the house wearing its collar or harness for the first time.) The cat will probably do one of two things: sit very still, crouching low to the floor, or squirm in a frantic panic. Immediately give your cat his regular meal. Stay calm and don't interfere unless the cat seems like it will hurt itself. Repeat this several times a day so that it associates the sensation of the collar/harness with good things.
- Allow the cat to walk (and lounge) freely in the harness for a time when you can supervise the cat, then take it off.
- Repeat this process for however long it takes for your cat to feel comfortable.
- Set a path through your home to walk after your cat gets used to the harness. This is essential if your cat has never been outside and you want to train it to walk with you before exposing it to the outdoors.
- Clip on the leash. If you are using a harness, this is also a good time to watch and make sure the cat can't squeeze out of its harness -- they can be incredible contortionists. A well fitted collar is safer than a harness, as a cat cannot back out of a collar.
- Let you cat walk around your home, following your cat as you hold the leash. Frequently reward your cat with delicious treats.
- If you plan to walk your cat off your property, choose a route on which to walk the cat outside, and walk it solo for the first few times to see if it's also a route used by dog walkers. Being confronted with a dog may cause your cat to panic and escape, so it's important to try to prevent this. You can also prepare a cat carrier to bring on your walks and so that you can secure the cat in it if you see a dog coming your way. A pillow case also makes a great emergency cat carrier. Carry human breath spray with you. Dogs and other cats hate this safe but strong smelling spray.
- Leave the front door open and start making your walks gradually further in that direction. Guide your cat, (don't pull), to the door.
- Take your cat outside for 5 minute increments, 3-5 times a day, gradually increasing the amount of time outside. Call the cat as you walk it and be consistent in where you walk the cat each time. Eventually the cat will become familiar with the process, but you must be patient.
- Give the cat treats during your walk and as soon as you get home, and eventually your cat will love going for a walk.