Cats are wild creatures. They love the outdoors, just as much as dogs. A cat’s instincts and natural abilities are unleashed when they are outdoors.
However, in our world, with the business of traffic and the abundance of predators, most pet parents wouldn’t dream of letting their little furry feline baby outside, like they do with dogs. This is for good reason, as veterinarians and cat experts are adamant that cats should never be left unattended outside.
So, how do you give your furbaby the freedom of the outdoors in a safe and enjoyable environment? You bring it for a walk, of course! While traditionally, dogs are the stereotypical walking companion, they are not the only ones who enjoy some fresh air in a natural environment.
Granted, because dogs and cats are different in many ways, cats are not as comfortable with the outside or the leash as dogs are. However, after a little training and some patients, most cats will thoroughly enjoy being outside with you. Here are the steps to how to leash train a cat:
Pick the Right Harness Style
Cats are picky creatures. Cats are also magnificent escape artists that can maneuver their bodies into amazingly small and tight areas. (Think about how many times your cat has found their way behind the couch, under or inside a dresser, or under a cabinet.)
Considering this, picking the right harness for your kitty can be difficult. Fortunately, there are a lot of different options for you to choose from so that you and your feline friend can feel safe and secure. Here are a few of the most common harness styles for cats:
Introducing Your Cat to Walking on a Leash
Cats are not motivated to please like dogs are. They are motivated by a reward system and until they know they like going for walks, they are only going to respond to this reward system. So, the first thing you need to do is to make sure you have plenty of cat treats handy. After even the slightest improvement, make sure you reward your cat with treats, head pats, and anything else that your cat finds rewarding.
In addition to frequent rewards, here are the steps to introducing your cat to walking on a leash:
The key to how to leash train a cat is a slow process. Unlike a dog, a cat will not easily respond to a harness or to being tethered to you. Remember, cats generally want to do whatever they want. So, you need to be slow and easy on your furry friend. This is a big adjustment for them, especially if they are older.
You can leash train a cat of any age but the older a cat is, the more likely they are to be comfortable in the environment they know. This means that you might need a lot more patience with a cat that has gotten used to living indoors, exclusively.
Get Your Cat Comfortable with the Harness:
Do not expect to get your cat in a harness in the morning and go hiking with them that afternoon. In fact, don’t expect to even attempt going outside with your cat the first couple days of teaching them to walk on a leash, no matter how old they are.
It takes a cat a lot longer to get used to being harnessed then it does dogs. It might take a couple of different tries to get your cat to even wear a harness comfortably. The main thing is to provide a positive association with the harness. To do that, you want to give your cat plenty of treats and do not press them to do things they are not comfortable with.
First, you want to give your cat the harness to play with. Let your cat sniff the harness, paw at it, and get comfortable around it before trying to put it on. During this process, give them treats and love when they are interacting with the harness.
Next, put the harness on your cat. Again, make sure there are plenty of treats and reassuring pets. If your cat is not happy with the harness, take it off and continue to get your cat used to the harness by playing with it.
After your cat is okay with wearing the harness, let them walk around the house with it on. Make sure your cat is completely comfortable with their harness before attaching a leash and taking them outside for the first time.
Your First Time Out
The first time out for cats can be both an exhilarating and scary experience. After all, everything from the feel of the grass on their paws to the scent of the air is new to them. They are used to being in a house. This is new, exciting, and likely overwhelming. So, here are some tips to keep your cat comfortable during their first time out:
Maintain a Routine
After the first outside adventure, it is important that you keep at it. Some days might be better than others but if you make leash training a part of your cat’s daily routine, they will be much more trusting of it. Plus, more small, positive experiences will help them be comfortable on a leash far more than pushing their limits intermittently. Thus, it is important to understand that when you decide to leash train your cat, you are taking on a responsibility to maintain the training as part of their daily routine.
Essentially, every cat has its own personality. You as a pet parent, are going to know your cat way better than anyone. So, it is really important to keep the wellbeing of your cat in mind throughout this process. While most cats eventually enjoy the freedom of going outside on a leash, some are genuine homebodies and would rather watch the world from the safety of their window seat. Where does your cat fall within this category? Surely, your cat will not hesitate to let you know.