Keeping your cat indoors protects them from road traffic and other dangers and keeps bird and wildlife safe, but what should you do if your cat seems to yearn for the great outdoors?
Leash training is the perfect way for your cat to explore the outside world in safety; simply follow these five steps for leash training and your cat can have the best of both worlds.
1. The Correct Equipment
You’ll need a harness and leash designed specifically for cats; with the leash attachment at the back of the harness, and one that’s fitted correctly to your cat’s size (you should be able to comfortably slip two fingers between the harness and skin). Attaching a leash to a cat collar is a complete no-no – not only could your cat easily slip out of it, you don’t want to pull at their throat. Originally, I used a standard cat harness but these are not as secure as some of the dog harness products available, so we now use Puppia harnesses, small dog size.
2. Get to Know the Harness
Your cat will need to become accustomed to the harness before you even consider trying to put it on. Leave the harness near your cat’s favourite sleeping spot and other familiar places so that he gets used to it being around. Whenever your cat approaches or sniffs the harness use treats and praise to encourage the behaviour.
3. Get Used to the Harness
Once your cat is used to the sight and smell of the harness, you can move onto the next stage – letting your cat get used to the feel of the harness. Put the harness on your cat, and immediately distract him with treats, a favourite toy or other activities he associates with good times. Once he’s happy wearing the harness, you can practice wearing it around the house, starting with short periods and gradually increasing the length of time. Continue this stage for a few days until your cat is completely relaxed and comfortable wearing the harness.
4. Attach the Leash
Now is the time to attach the leash to the harness, and let your cat explore a safe room with the leash dragging around behind. Make sure that you supervise your cat to minimise the risk of the leash getting caught on something and your cat becoming scared. Repeat the leash dragging step for a few days until you’re happy your cat has accepted the leash, then you can start holding the end of the leash and walking with your cat. Don’t hold on to the leash tightly, just let your cat lead you wherever he wants to go – ensure that you praise your cat often and have some treats on hand to reward good behaviour. Work up to gently guiding your cat around on the leash – use a soft encouraging voice and treats to get your cat to follow you and walk in the direction that you choose.
5. Ready, Set, Explore!
Once your cat is happy and confident wearing a harness and leash it’s time to start exploring outside. To start with, take your cat out in a quiet area of your garden, and just sit quietly letting your cat explore. Cats that are not used to the great outdoors can be nervous and be easily started by new sounds, so it’s important not to rush things. As your cat gets more confident he’ll start to take the lead and choose how far he wants to explore. The Pawesome Cats family, only ever go for walks in the safety of our own garden – there are two many scary sights and sounds on the other side of the fence including cars, dogs and children.
Every cat is different, and although it’s suggested that each step lasts a few days, you may find that your cat takes a longer or shorter time to progress onto the next step. The important thing is to follow your cat’s lead and let him go at his own pace. As always, when training cats – patience is key!
Have you leash trained your cat? What are your experiences and tips for success? If you’re new to leash training – are you ready to train your cat to walk on a leash now?