When it comes to cat walking, finding the right harness and leash is really important. It might seem a bit strange to begin with, but using cat harnesses is a really good way to keep a cat safe from the dangers of the outside world. Cat walking is becoming more and more popular for feline owners, especially for those with elderly cats or house cats.
Why do people walk their cats on a leash?
I know it sounds a bit weird, but more and more pet owners are coming round to the idea of walking their cats on a leash. In 2015, Laura Moss launched an Instagram page dedicated to feline walkie time. She now has over 140k followers, and 88,000 pics have been posted with the hashtag #adventure cat.
But walking your cat on a leash isn't just about the social media likes. It's also a really good way of introducing house cats to the outside world. Other owners use a leash to walk elderly cats or felines recovering from a serious illness.
Should I walk my cat on a leash?
The answer to that question depends on your cat's temperament, personality, and situation. Some cats hate the leash, and they always will. If your cat doesn't respond after a few attempts, then leave them alone. Any additional efforts are likely to cause your cat some distress.
As the RSPCA have pointed out, "a sense of control is very important to cats, and being walked on a collar or harness prevents them having control. It may be more difficult for them to move away or hide from anything which might scare or worry them."
Some housecats will start displaying a yearning to explore the outside world. The obvious signs are crying by the window, destructive behaviour, and "accidents" around the house. Such behaviours are indicative of underlying mental health problems, which will only worsen if not addressed. However, sending a housecat into the world unsupervised is unlikely to end well. They could get hit by a car, attacked by other animals, or find themselves lost and with no idea how to get home.
Leash training: the basics
This isn't going to be easy! Leash training your cat will take a lot of time and lots more patience. Don't go into it expecting them to be walking on a leash after a few days. Instead, focus on making small, incremental steps, allowing your cat to get used to the leash in their own time.
The first thing you'll need is a leash and a harness. The right harness must be comfortable but secure. Chain leashes are far too heavy for our little cats; most of them are from lightweight materials like nylon and cloth. NEVER use a flex-type or extendable leash. If your cat suddenly runs up a tree, or sees a pigeon they like the look of, a flex-lead can get tangled up, causing serious injury to your cat.
Start the training with just a harness. It's best fitted when your cat is feeling relaxed (post-meal or post-playtime are ideal times.) Once it's snug on your cat, give them a few little treats. Leave the harness on for a few minutes, then repeat the process for a few days, gradually increasing the amount of harness-time. It will take a little while, but this is the best way of "de-sensitising" your cat to the harness, while the little treats will build up some positive associations.
Leash training: advanced techniques
Then it's time to attach the leash. Keep it very, very loose to begin with, any tension may unsettle your cat, and those positive associations will quickly turn negative. As they get more familiar with the leash, you can start to take more control. Again, work slowly, and stick to short walks around the house and garden.
The outside world
Some cats are more curious than others; some cats are a lot more nervous than others. In other words, you never know how your cat will react to the outside world until they see it for themselves.
If your cat is the anxious type, then don't force them to go outside. You can always try to cajole them with a few tasty treats, but if they don't respond, just try again tomorrow. Remember, focus on making those baby steps. As your cat's confidence begins to grow, their natural curiosity will emerge.
Leash training a cat can be tricky and very time-consuming. However, patience is a must, and you need to allow your cat to learn and develop at its own pace. Pushing them too far too soon will only discourage them. Leash training should always focus on creating positive associations in your cat's mind. This is the most effective technique for building up their confidence, and a confident cat is going to have a lot more fun interacting with the outside world.