So you decided to make your cat an explorer or you just want to be sure it is safe on the way to the vet or, being a pet lover, you are concerned about your cat’s well-being. Going outside can enrich the life of your feline companion and give you an opportunity to form an even stronger bond during your outdoor adventures. Daily walks can be a good way to provide your cat with exercise and reduce the chance of having some boredom-caused behavioral issues. All you need is to teach him how to walk on a leash or a harness.
Leash training a cat might be an intricate task, but at the same time it might be very rewarding in the end. It’s best not to force your cat and do it slowly. Most cats can be trained to walk on a leash, but, please remember, even if you do your best, it might not work on some cats. For those kitties who are easily frightened, shy away from people or jump at any loud noise it might not be the best idea. It would be better for such kitties to stay indoors and travel in the carrier or a special catpack. The earlier you start training your cat – better as a kitten – the more chances you have for him to accept the leash.
First step will be to find a harness that fits your kitty. It must not be too tight and it must not be loose. The best options are to get an adjustable harness or to order one to be made for your cat personally. While you are choosing the harness, you can start training your cat with teaching it to wear a collar, a bandana or a cat sweater. Leave it for a little while on, while distracting your furry friend with his favorite snacks and games. Add several minutes every day until the cat is ok wearing things.
Second step would be to help your cat get used to a specific harness. Let him sniff it, put it near him and let him get used to its smell. Only then put it on him slowly, making no loud sounds or harsh movements that might scare him. It is very important to make it a positive experience for your feline friend. You don't want your cat to get scared of the harness, as it might make it impossible to use it afterwards. If your kitty is showing uneasiness or anxiety, play with him or distract with treats.
Many cats freeze up and don't want to move if you put something on them, this is why you need to give your cat time to get used wearing harness inside, so it won't stumble, fall or freak out outside, where he can get hurt or ran away from you. It may take from several days to a couple of weeks of training for your cat to feel comfortable enough to move further.
Remember to practice adjusting the harness so it would fit your kitty nice and snug, but not too tight. You must be able to put no more than one finger underneath it. Keep in mind that when frightened, your cat can back out of walking jacket, so it is better to choose the safe ones , which can't be taken off easily.
When your cat got used to wearing the harness indoors, it is time to the third step - attach the leash. (NB: If after several weeks your cat is still dropping dead or trying to take the harness off anxiously, don't force your friend to go outside, there is always a way to have fun inside!).
You can attach the leash and let your cat roam around your place following him and holding the leash loose, or you can let your kitty walk by himself with the leash dragging behind him – remember to watch his reaction closely and distract him whenever you see him getting alarmed. Practice following your cat around your house holding the leash until he is comfortable with it too.
Fourth step would be to start gently guiding your kitty. Add a little bit of pressure and call him to follow you. When he shows the reaction you need, reward him with a treat.
Fifth step is to take your cat outside. (NB: If you have more than one kitty, walk them separately in time or have someone else to walk the second cat as they can scare each other or just go in opposite directions.) Once outside for the first time, your cat will be on high alert, so it is better to do it in a safe and quiet area and don't take other pets or many people with you.
Carry your harnessed cat at first. Walk slowly and do not take him far from your door or porch. Just let him look around and get used to the new smells and sounds. Same as with indoors training, take your cat outside for a small amount of time and add up little by little every time.
When your cat is used to be outside a little, put him down and let him walk by himself, using same tricks as you used inside. Let him decide when he is ready to start exploring and then gently lead him. Remember to tell him “no” and teach him about dangerous things like dogs and roads.
If your cat got scared or does something wrong, stay calm and do not raise your voice. Talk to him kindly, distract with snacks and give clear commands that are known to him. Until you are sure that your cat is comfortable outside, it is good to carry a heavy towel that you can use to wrap up the panicked cat to bring it inside. A catpack or a carrier is also a good option. You can quickly put your cat in the safe zone in a matter of seconds in any dangerous situation. Also the first few trips must not be far from your door that must be left opened.
Keep in mind that walking a cat is not the same as walking a dog. He might not be happy with long walks, but more likely would prefer to sniff around, hunt bugs or nap in the sun.
Here is a summary of tips on how to leash train your cat:
• find a comfortable harness;
• train your cat indoors first;
• take it slow;
• walk your cats separately, if you have more than one;
• do not grab your cat outside;
• do not make loud noises or scare your cat otherwise;
• be ready for anything;
• stay calm in every situation;
• carry a catpack, a carrier or a towel with you;
• carry snacks with you;
• do not force your cat, let him decide;
• don't forget to enjoy it together.