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How to Walk Your Cat (and Live to Tell About It)




Ever seen a cat out walking on a leash? Most people who have seen one react with astonishment that a cat would be domesticated enough to willingly allow itself to be tethered to a leash and guided around by -- of all things! -- a human companion. But it can, and does happen. After all, why should dogs have all the fun? Everyone knows cats like the outdoors, too. Shouldn’t they get the opportunity to explore the great outdoors along with the rest of us? Shouldn’t they be allowed to maintain their youthful figures with some regular exercise? With proper supervision, patience, and consistency, you too can train your cat to walk on a leash.


Does Age Matter?


Once a cat has reached the age when she has been fully vaccinated, it is safe for her to go outside. Remember that this is not so much to protect other animals from what she might be carrying, but to protect her from what they might be carrying. It is best to start as early as possible, before your cat has developed a fear of the outdoors or a fear of unusual noises. Older cats are often more reluctant to go outside on a leash -- or to be on a leash at all. It may take months to get her used to accepting a harness, and to being led, but with diligence and a wish to succeed, you can do it.


It will help a lot of your cat is already responsive to you. If you can call your cat and she consistently comes to you, you are already on a good track. If you do not have this type of relationship, you will need to start there. Using treats and lots of praise, call your cat to come to you. After some time, your cat will learn that coming when called will be rewarding.


Selecting the Proper Harness


Because cats are so agile, a simple collar around the neck is not enough to hold them -- they can easily pull out of the neck collar, even a well fitted one (and you do not want to make the collar so tight that there is a potential of cutting off air flow). Instead, use a good-quality harness that has been designed especially for cats.


A cat harness is typically made with an adjustable neck collar, which is attached to an adjustable body wrap. The harness should fit snug to the body, but not be so tight that air flow will be constricted. You should be able to fit two fingers under the harness at the neck and under the chest.


Depending on the harness, the leash should attach at the body strap or between the shoulders instead of at the neck. The clips holding the harness should snap securely -- they should not be the break away type that is commonly found in cat collars.


Introducing the Harness


It may take some time before your cat gets used to wearing a harness, so start slowly. Set the new harness near your cat’s favorite area and allow her to see it, smell it, and even play with it at first. Offer her some treats and praise if he shows interest in the harness.


After a few days of this, hold your cat securely and give him a treat. As he’s eating the treat, drape the harness loosely over him and leave it for a few minutes. You may need to repeat this several times before actually adjusting it, just to get your cat used to the feel of the harness. Once she appears to be comfortable with having the harness on his body, put the harness on and tighten the straps so they fit snugly. Again, offer positive reinforcement and treats for allowing you to put the harness on her. Leave the harness on for a short period of time, a few minutes to start, with gradually more time.


Do not force the fitting. If your cat struggles too much, remove the harness and try again later. When she does accept the harness without struggle, give him lots of attention so that he associates wearing the harness with good times.



Comments  3

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  • My cats love walks
    02/05/2014 11:08pm

    I found that the vest type harness works best and that perseverence is the key. Start with only a minute or two and sooner or later they find something in the yard to interest them. The you can go out for longer periods, weather permitting. One of my cats goes to the shed where the chipmunks hide; another goes to the edge of the yard to "mark" territory. Another goes to chew on catmint and yet another just loves to roll on the patio and look up at the sky. I continued to take my cats out each day into November ( for a few minutes each until it became too dark by the time I got home from work. They like it so much they jockey for position in front of the door to try to be the one who gets to go first.

  • Storm 6mths
    02/26/2014 04:03am

    I have a six months old kitten that I hand raised since the age of six days so I could not leave him at home. I did some researched on the internet and found quite a few articles on hand raising kittens and walking them. So I started him off on a harness which he loves. The only time I can remove it with great difficulty is when he takes a bath. I started walking him at about 3 weeks in the house and around the yard. Later I took him to the shop and even walked him down the busy road and it always amazes me how people respond to him. One lady stopped me and told me that I was abusing my kitten and picked him rubbing him, I thought she was going to walk away with him but then I explained to her that he has been walking around for weeks with a lead & harness and there is no harm. She was really surprised and put him down. He started to run around and then when I started to walk he walked right along. He even had a beach walk at Camps Bay beach and turned a lot of heads. My friends tell me that he is not normal or that he is more human than cat. The funny part is that he actually calls my daughter by her name when he wants water as well which by the way he only drinks right from running tap.

  • Greycie survived
    11/06/2014 04:36pm

    Greycie was a stray that I took in about a year ago. She was someone else's cat for sure as she jumped into my arms when I was sitting in my yard. Her previous owners must have let her out from time to time but w/ a lot of feral cats in my neighborhood, I was fearful to let her out as she came to me with an eye that required medical attention from a dust up with one of them. She longingly looked out the window and I was afraid she would run out, so I decided to leash train her. The vest was a little cumbersome for her & threw her balance of. The harness is much better for her. It took time but does she ever like to go out. Can't say she is thrilled w/ the harness but when she sees it now, she runs to the door and waits. It took a couple of wks but she is just great out there. Watch carefully, they are escape artists. Stay behind them or to the side. Happy walks.

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