Kitty Walkies

It is possible to teach your cat to walk on a lead, and it’s a great way to get them safely out of the house. It’s important to start slowly, to get them used to the feeling, or they may be put off for life.

Cats do not look like dogs when walking. They may look crouched down or hunched. This is perfectly normal, because cats have sensory receptors in their skin. A cat is aware of touch when it’s guard hairs touch an object. This is because cats have evolved as excellent nocturnal hunters and it gives them a fighting edge. The harness is not going to hurt your cat in any way, they may just look a little crouched down.

How to teach them to walk on a harness:

  1. Let them smell and sniff the harness, and possibly leave it close to their sleeping area. They will get used to the smell and associate it with the feeling of contentment they get whilst napping.
  2. Stroke and touch them with the harness and lay it on top of them. Reward them with pats and treats for tolerating it. Repeat this as often as necessary, until they seem completely comfortable with the harness.
  3. Now you can try the harness on your cat. Make sure that it is properly fitted – you should be able to fit two fingers between it and your cat, but no more. Only leave it on for short periods and reward with treats and pats as before.
  4. Attach the lead once they are used to it, and follow them around the house whilst they are wearing the harness. Don’t try to direct them just yet.
  5. Over time, you can start to gently encourage them in the direction you want them to go. Reward with treats, pats and gentle words of encouragement. If they resist, don’t try and drag them along, but wait patiently until they start moving forward again.
  6. Now you can start to try outside. Always carry them outside so that they don’t get in the habit of dashing for the front door every time you open it. Start off with very short sessions in the front yard.
  7. Forcing a cat that doesn’t like it to explore, possibly into other cat’s territories, can be stressful for them. Let them explore, sunbathe or watch the world go by as they like. Different cats will take pleasure in different aspects of the outside world and this is their time to relax and enjoy it.

Indoor or Outdoor?

Indoor cats can live just as a fulfilling lives as outdoor cats, without the numerous risks to their health and safety.

Many cat owners to let their cat outside during the day, so they can roam the yard and lock them securely inside at night. This eliminates nocturnal hunting and protects native wildlife. Cats who are allowed outside should wear a bell on their collar to alert native animals/birds to their presence.

Outdoors

There are plenty of safe ways to give your cat access to the outdoors:

  1. Build a cat walkway – enclosed ramps from window to window on the outside of your house will provide your cat with some basking time and a great view to watch what’s going on, without being exposed to all the dangers of outside play time.
  2. Cat proof your yard – if you can’t bear the idea of keeping your cat inside, building cat proof fences isn’t as hard as you might think. Chicken wire at a 45 degree angle will prevent all cats from being able to scale fences – just make sure that the surrounding trees are cat proofed too and there are no platforms to leap from. Alternatively, string some plastic tubing threaded on a wire around the top – they won’t be able to get a footing as it spins around.
  3. Build a cat enclosure – having a cat flap that leads out into a completely sealed enclosure with cat trees and toys is the best way to provide them with safe, outdoor access.
  4. Teach them to walk on a lead – most cats can learn to love being outside on a lead. Make sure to tailor your walks to suit your cat – some will want to explore, whereas others will just want to bask in the sun.
  5. If none of these are an option for you, keeping your indoor cat happy and content is simple with these tips and tricks:

 Indoors

  1. Use an interactive feeder – having to work for food will keep the cat busy, tired and quell her hunting instincts. There are many options available and rotating a few will ensure that boredom does not become a factor.
  2. Build cat trees or climbing places – cats like to have the majority of their territory high up where they can’t be ambushed and can keep an eye on what’s going on. Try to have platforms close to windows where they can look out and make sure that they have perches available in the centre of the house, where they can watch everyone’s comings and goings.
  3. Windowsills – they love to sunbathe and windows are like a TV for cats. If you have narrow windowsills, install a cat perch or place a climbing tree close by so they can watch the outdoors. Consider installing a bird feeder to attract birds close to the window, where your cat can watch.
  4. Hiding places – having a place to crawl into and feel safe is an important part of being a cat. Even something as simple as a cardboard box will provide them with endless hours of entertainment.
  5. Playtime – all cats can be coaxed into a game, if you have a variety of toys available. Try and find something that they find interesting, whether it’s material to suck on, crinkly paper to scratch or moving toys to chase. Have a few different ones available and rotate them to keep the novelty
  6. Bring the outside in – provide them with grass or plants to roll around in and chew on. Kits are available to buy, allowing you to grow your own catnip or cat grass for indoor cats.
  7. Companion – if you have a single cat, try introducing a friend. Having a companion for grooming, playtime and to help guard the territory can greatly enrich a cat’s life.