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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.