So, you might get some strange looks, but walking your kitty on a leash is a great option if you prefer to keep kitty indoors (which, as a paranoid pet owner, I would always encourage).
Every experience will differ depending on age and personality but, in theory, any cat can learn to walk with the right approach. The benefits are fantastic – it is safer than letting your cat wander the streets and counteracts boredom, obesity and behavioural issues in indoor felines. Think of the tigers in the zoo – they are given new toys and changes to their environment to prevent boredom and aggression. Domestic cats may be smaller but they have the same need for stimulus, and many lonely hours locked indoors is a recipe for an unhappy cat.
My cat is a meanderer, which suits both of us fine. He wanders with me in a quiet park, sniffs new scents and pretends to be a mini-king of the jungle. With patience and training it is possible to have your cat actually walking on footpaths, but allow for your cat’s individual quirks – a confident Burmese cat might be more readily trained, whereas a shy rescue cat (like mine) may prefer exploring walks. Kittens might take to walking more readily than an older cat. Remember you are training your cat for their benefit, not because you want a mini-pooch.
On that note, remember – your cat needs positivity, rewarding and reassurance. It is about building confidence up and as we cat owners know, discipline is pointless. Have some favourite treats at the ready, saintly patience, common sense and the right equipment – a cat harness with a back clip and a safety collar.
Getting to know you
Time to become friends with the leash and harness. Allow your cat to sniff and get familiar, perhaps have a little play with it nearby. When the harness becomes just another part of the furniture, brush it over your cat near their shoulders and chest. And keep the treats handy (An empty stomach is the secret so don’t bother trying this after dinner)! Remember positive association and baby steps.
Drape the harness over your cat’s shoulders. If your cat is fine being carried and handled, it might be easy to slip and clip them in. If not, I repeat – baby steps. Use treats and a soft, calm voice as you guide them to be comfortable with handling.
Once clipped in, let your cat to have a walk in their favourite familiar indoor space. If they flop or thrash, remove the harness and take a few steps back in the process. No need to rush! Eventually when your cat is comfortable harnessed, clip on the lead and let them have a stroll without holding on. Then let them have while you hold the leash. Any positive progress = treat time.
When harnessed, carry your cat outside (so they don’t get into the habit of bolting when the door is open!) and find a quiet, obstacle-free spot. Place them on the ground and gently coax them forward (but don’t drag!). If kitty takes a step, or two or three – it’s treat o’clock. If they get spooked simple take a step back in the process or try again later, but don’t get into the habit of scooping them into your arms every time they face a challenge. And never leave them unattended or tied up where they can’t make a nifty escape should a dog come past. And don’t let your cat climb trees wearing their leash.
This process might be slow, but I promise it will pay off! Pick a similar time each day for kitty-walk training. Your cat will grow in confidence and adjust to new environments, and once they can walk with a raised tail you know you have a happy, walking cat.
Author Bio: Jessica is a writer, actor and crazy cat lady from Melbourne, Australia. She is also a petsitter and blogger for Pawshake Australia – www.pawshake.com.au
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