Teaching a cat to walk on leash is a long process. It can take weeks or even months. But if you have the perseverance to see the lessons through, the benefits are obvious. Not only will walking on a leash mean you and your cat can enjoy the outdoors safely—getting exercise and alleviating boredom—but it is a useful skill for traveling or trips to the vet.
Introduce your cat to process of going for a walk in steps, starting with a harness. It may take some time to get your cat used to wearing something on its body, so use positive reinforcement (a.k.a. food). Dr. Kat Miller, director of ASPCA anti-cruelty behavior research, suggests putting the harness on for the first time right before a meal: “…the dinner distracts him from the new sensation and keeps him from focusing on removing it.”
Once your cat is comfortable with the harness, now you can finally move on to the leash. Start by allowing your cat to roam freely with the leash attached, using treats and toys as encouragement/distraction. Only after your cat demonstrates some sense of comfort with the leash being attached should you begin attempting to guide your cat. Feeling the tug of the leash can be alarming, so take things slow or risk scaring your cat into fighting out of the harness.
So your cat wears a harness and walks on a leash in the house, but are you ready for the outside world? If your indoor cat has only experienced the world by gazing longingly out the window, actually being immersed in the world may be overwhelming. Start simple, like in the backyard for instance. After weeks of training to get out there you may be anxious to start going on those romantic strolls through town you’ve been dreaming of since you began this process, but do not force your cat into any adventures they are not ready for.
Consider this an introduction for what to expect should you accept the challenge of teaching your cat to walk on a leash. For more information, please read this article by Laura Moss for AdventureCats.org or refer to this video by trainer Robert Dollwet.
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