Not ones to be outdone by other companion animals, cats are taking center stage more and more. With every passing year, modern domestic cats enjoy all that life has to offer. Sure, many cats still enjoy naps in a sunny window or rolling about getting their belly rubbed. But others are going kayaking or riding in a basket on their owner’s mountain bike. This is all to say that cats can and should enjoy the great outdoors. The best part? You can leash train a cat to stay close to you on walks!
Cat owners know the feeling of missing out when they see a dog and their owner enjoying shopping or exercising together. Leash training provides an opportunity to gradually introduce your cat to the wider world. It’s not necessarily easy or immediate, but leash training a cat is a rewarding and valuable experience for both owners and cats alike.
In addition to building lasting memories together, leash training a cat also provides essential social skills and boosts confidence. The process can even influence the frequency and overall experience of veterinary visits.
Getting Into Your Cat’s Mindset
If your cat has a negative experience with something, they are going to avoid future exposure at all costs. Positive reinforcement gives your cat the chance to connect an experience they’re having with something they like a lot.
When you first introduce your cat to their harness and leash, give them loads of praise, back scratches, and even a healthy treat. They will associate their new gear with good feelings, increasing their odds of embracing the endeavor. Give them abundant time to investigate their harness/leash before attempting to put it on them.
Tips for Success
Successful leash training involves investing in the right set up. A cat-specific harness should fit their chest snugly but not tightly. You definitely don’t want them to be able to wriggle out of it, but it shouldn’t restrict movement.
Their leash should be a comfortable length, but no more than 6 feet. Ideally, you should keep them close to you at all times, so find a leash that you can easily fold or scrunch down.
Once you convince your cat that their harness is actually really cool (and not out to get them), simply encourage them to wear it around the house. Slowly, you can start to inch outside, preferably in a fenced yard. Coax them to enjoy the many aspects of outdoor activities, and never scold or punish them for their reactions.
It’s Fun to Leash Train a Cat
Cats respond to stimuli in a highly reactive way. Try to provide them with a peaceful, low-stress outdoor environment at first and gradually take them to other places. Be sure that dogs, strangers, traffic, or crowds are not active threats to their overall state of mind, safety, and health.
Always remember that they respond to tasty treats and other rewards for their efforts. Keep training sessions short.