How to Walk Your Cat (and Live to Tell About It)
Add a Leash
Once your cat is accepting the harness, let her wear it around the house, doing her normal activities. Gradually increase the amount of time your cat is left in the harness. You can even feeding her while she’s wearing the harness. Next, attach the leash to the harness, allowing her to drag the leash around. This is to get her used to the weight of the leash, but remember to keep an eye on her while she is dragging the leash. You don’t want her to get it tangled up on anything.
You can then graduate to walking around inside while holding the leash. Don’t pull on the leash and don’t try to force her to follow you at first, follow her lead instead. Every now and then stop and call her to you, giving her a treat and praise when she comes.
Finally, when she seems comfortable on the leash indoors, it is time to go outdoors. Begin with a short trip outside, maybe just as far as outside the door where your cat can sniff around and start getting used to the sounds and scents. After doing this a few times, you might take a short stroll around the block. Before you go any farther than the immediate area, get to know your neighborhood to make sure that your neighbors do not allow their dogs to roam freely -- or so that you know which areas to avoid because of roaming dogs. Choose the quietest and safest areas for your cat to walk in, so that the experience is pleasurable for both of you.
Tips for Safe Walking
Although your cat’s usual collar does not need to be removed, it is not part of the harness system. However, you should leave the collar on, with its ID in place, just in case your cat gets loose while you are out.
For the first few walks, as your cat is getting used to being outside, you might want to take along a soft (or hard) carrier, just in case your cat has a panic attack, or in case you unexpectedly come up against a free roaming dog. A panicked or threatened cat is not going to want to be held in arms until it gets home.
This will work best if your cat has been spayed or neutered. An unneutered male cat may be more likely to try to escape the harness or get out of control while outside, and an unspayed female cat may be attacked by feral male cats.
Setting a regular time to walk each day will give your cat something to look forward to. Try to stay consistent.
Unlike dogs, cats cannot be tethered to a pole while you step into a shop, even for just a few minutes. Your cat might panic and get itself tangled in the leash, or it may be attacked by a dog and not be able to escape.
Image: Krikit / via Flickr
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