Tips for Taking Your Cat on a Leash
It’s a rare occurrence to see someone walking down the street with a cat on a leash, but when it happens, I am thrilled. This isn’t only because of the fact that I am a cat lover, but it’s because I appreciate seeing a fellow cat owner who has taken the time to train their cat.
After all, most people don’t think you can train cats. Cats are known to be independent and stubborn creatures. This is true, but with the right amount of time and patience, cats can be taught.
Like with any pet, it’s always better to start training cats at a young age.
The fear of my cat getting lost, stolen or endangered in some other way made me decide against letting him roam freely outdoors. But from a young age, he showed a keen interest in the outdoors. He spent his days looking out the window for hours at a time, standing next to the front door meowing constantly, and trying to dash out of an open door (and succeeding a few times). With the obligation to be a good cat owner, I decided to take the “leash route.” I was about to provide a daily supply of entertainment for my neighbors and become the stereotypical crazy cat lady who tried to walk her cat.
I started the process by purchasing a cat leash and harness. They are available for sale together at many pet stores. The harness is crucial because most cats will resist trying to be walked at first and can easily break free from a leash attached to their collar. Doubting this at first, I took my cat outdoors with only the leash attached and he had escaped within minutes. In a matter of time he was leash-less and collar-less and I was chasing him frantically around the street. When I mentioned that cats are known to be stubborn, I wasn’t denying it. Did I mention this is unbelievably true?
After this, I made sure to attach the harness every time. Putting the harness on was difficult. My cat probably thought he was being punished, but little did he know it was for his enjoyment. By the way, it is recommended to put the harness on your cat and let him wear it around the house for a couple hours every day. Do this for a number of days before actually taking him outdoors. It will help your cat get used to the smell and feel of the harness so he doesn’t think it is a punishment. Of course, it is always better to start this when your cat is a young age. My cat was almost a year old when I started the process, so I wish I would have started sooner.
I continued to take my cat outdoors on a regular basis. He gradually got used to it and eventually stopped trying to escape from the leash and harness. However, I was unsuccessful at actually walking him. It was actually more like he was the one taking me for a walk. It sounds silly, but I just followed him around with the leash in hand. I looked at it his way: He had already given in to being leashed; there was no way he was going to give in to being walked. That wouldn’t be catlike. He wouldn’t be a cat if he wasn’t stubborn, yet that is one of the quirky qualities us feline owners love about our cats.
In the end, my cat got want he wanted – to go outside. He gets to eat the grass, smell the fresh air, look at birds and marvel at whatever cats like to marvel at outdoors.
So if you’re thinking about walking your cat, I would encourage you to try it. I don’t get to actually walk mine, per se, but at least I can take him outside without him getting into dangerous situations. Just remember it takes a lot of patience.
Amanda McIntosh is a cat lover who works for Trupanion pet insurance in Seattle. She has owned cats her whole life and currently has one two-year-old cat named Basil.