Feline Leash Lessons

Feline leash lessons don’t sound easy and it does take using a strategy. Training a cat is not like putting a dog on a leash and having almost instant success...because dogs tend to want to please. Of course we cat people know our felines are independent and don’t always do what we want them to do. Yes, training a cat to walk on a leash may take a bit more patience and perseverance than it does with a dog, but it’s actually quite simple.

Walking your house cat has many advantages over letting him run loose. Domestic cats on a leash have little chance of running into a car, having to deal with aggressive animals, or coming into contact with infectious diseases.

Before you start your feline leash lessons, figure out if you really need to. If your cat has lived happily indoors its entire life it will regard the outdoors with some trepidation. But once your cat learns about the wondrous world outside the window, chances are it will begin to pester its owner for frequent excursions and may even start bolting for the door. Add the fact that cats that go outdoors are more likely to pick up fleas and encounter toxic substances…you may think twice.

However, in my case, my Himalayan that passed many years ago had lost his sister and was grieving and moping around. They had both been indoor cats and a decision was made to expand Diablo’s world and perhaps get him out of his sadness. The leash seemed a safe alternative because we couldn’t let him wander. I had to learn feline leash lessons through trial and error.

To start with we put the harness on him. The leash followed and an attempt was made to walk. He flopped down and I could mop the driveway with him because he wasn’t moving! Older animals are not as receptive to new stuff because what they see as a very successful habit pattern is already in place. We finally realized that it was the harness he hated so we tried him with a simple, light gauge rope around his middle that was snugged up so he couldn’t slip out.

He loved that so he wandered outside on his rope, happily. For the next couple of years, prior to his passing, he would go and sit with his rope when he wanted to have a small walk outside. This experience convinced me that we should do our feline leash lessons early, when we first get a cat that is reasonably young. We now have two from a shelter and the other four have arrived, about a year apart, at the door looking needy. Here are some small steps to success………

    Any cat can learn to walk on a leash but training a kitten is generally much easier. If you have a young kitten you want to leash-train, start your training while the cat is still in its most receptive period…from 2 weeks to 10 weeks old.

  • STEP ONE: Introduce your cat to a harness. Fit the harness snugly around your cat’s neck and torso so only two fingers fit between the straps and your cat’s skin. Let your cat get used to the feel for about 10-15 minutes while you play with him and reward him with a treat. Continue with daily or twice daily harness sessions for about a week.
  • STEP TWO: Add the leash. Attach it to the harness and let your cat drag it around…while you supervise. One of the worst things that can happen is for the cat to get it hung up on something and startle it. Even if she wasn’t hurt in any way, she will associate that unpleasant experience with the leash. Let your cat get used to the loose leash for a few days in short sessions.
  • STEP THREE: Pick up the end of the leash and walk with your cat through the house or apartment. Be careful not to pull on the leash; simply follow along wherever your cat goes. Make sure your cat is completely at ease with the indoor walks before you venture outdoors.

When you take your cat outside for the first session of outdoor feline leash lessons, pick someplace quiet and free of traffic, pedestrians, and dogs. Let your cat explore at his own pace. Bear in mind that cats…unlike dogs…don’t usually see their owners as a source of security. A cat’s survival perception is one of isolation. The cat looks at you and probably thinks you can’t fit in small places to hide like it can and you don’t look like you can climb. So, if your cat becomes frightened during a walk, she may try to bolt away from you.

But don’t jerk the leash. Just hold it steady, sit down, and try to coax your cat back to you. Eventually, your cat will stop resisting and allow you to gently reel her in. Reward your cat with praise and a treat.

During your feline leash lessons if you do all you can to make sure your cat has positive associations with the leash, she will not only enjoy her outdoor adventures more but will also be calm if you need to harness her for a trip or a visit to the vet. You can have a lot of fun with your cat exploring the outdoors and be patient while it stops to sniff everything.

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