There has long been an ongoing debate about whether cats should be kept inside or allowed to roam independently outdoors. According to Animals journal, approximately 63 percent of domestic cats in the United States are kept exclusively inside, meaning 37 percent are allowed outdoors part or all of the time.
While cats are smart creatures, the outdoors poses certain risks. Outdoor cats can become exposed to feline leukemia viruses and rabies, as well as fleas and ticks. If your cat hasn’t been fixed, she could also fall pregnant. Unsupervised outdoors cats are also at risk for wounds and other injuries if attacked by other animals.
One of the best ways to protect your cat is to keep it indoors. Of course, that doesn’t mean that your cat can never enjoy the outdoors. Leash training your cat allows your pet to explore their environment while significantly reducing their risk of illness, injury, or becoming lost.
What Is Cat Leash Training?
Most people are familiar with walking a dog on a leash. The same concept can apply to cats. Leash training teaches cats to walk on a leash attached to a harness. Just like with a dog, the pet owner holds one end of the leash, allowing the cat to explore the outdoors while remaining close to their human.
Leash training a cat can be a bit more complex compared to leash training a dog. Cats tend to be more resistant to leash training as they are naturally independent creatures. However, with consistent training and patience, most pet owners can successfully teach their cats to walk on a leash.
Steps to Train a Cat to Walk on a Leash
Cats will generally not walk on a leash the first time you take them outdoors. It’s important not to force your pet and instead, prepare your cat for walking on a leash through leash training at home.
Learn how to leash train a cat with these simple steps:
1. Let Your Cat Get Acquainted with the Harness
If your cat has never walked on a leash, chances are she’s not familiar with harnesses. Before putting the harness on your cat, allow your pet time to sniff and get acquainted with the gear. Move the harness around to let your cat hear any sounds it makes, such as Velcro. Leave the harness and leash in your cat’s favorite area for a few days, such as on the back of the sofa or near the food bowl.
2. Gently Put the Harness On
Once your cat has become acquainted with the harness, try putting it on her. Your cat may struggle at first so you’ll want a few treats in your hand to get her attention. Once the harness is on, keep it on for five minutes. The next day, put it on for 10 minutes and continue extending the amount of time over the course of a week. Remember to always reward your cat with plenty of treats and snuggles.
3. Attach the Leash to the Harness
After wearing the harness for a week, your cat should be used to how it feels and should resist far less when putting it on and taking it off. After your cat starts to feel comfortable with the harness, try attaching the leash. The first few times you attempt to attach the leash, don’t hold onto it. Allow the leash to drag behind your pet as she walks. Once she becomes accustomed to the leash, hold onto the end and gently guide her around the house. Reward her for a job well done.
4. Gear Up Your Cat and Venture Outside
With the harness securely in place and the leash attached, it’s time to venture outdoors. This first field trip outside should be brief to prevent overwhelming your pet. Try to stay near your home, such as in the front or backyard. Let your cat take the lead and follow her if possible. If she starts to wander somewhere she’s not supposed to be, gently pull on the leash and direct her where you want her to go. Always provide praise or a treat as a reward when she listens to your instructions.
5. Use Caution and Avoid Triggers
Depending on where you live, you may find that certain things scare your cat, such as sounds from vehicles, dogs barking in the distance, or other animals on the street. You’ll want to avoid walking in areas that could pose a safety hazard to your pet, such as near a neighbor whose dog is outdoors or next to heavy traffic. Try to find a quiet place to walk that is away from people and other animals. Look for signs that your cat may be frightened. For example, your cat may try to hide, pull her ears back, appear smaller, or become immobile. Some cats may show signs of aggression or agitation, such as an arched back, dilated pupils, piloerection (hair standing on end), or hissing.
Leash training your cat can sometimes be a long process that requires a lot of patience. However, with some persistence, you may be able to leash train your cat successfully and enjoy leisurely walks together outdoors. If your cat refuses to walk on a leash but you still want to bring her safely outdoors, consider investing in a cat stroller. Cat strollers allow cats to get mental stimulation and fresh air in a safe and protected environment.
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