If you want your kitty to join you on outdoor walks, you’ll need to first find her a harness that fits comfortably, and then train her to walk on a leash. Leash walking your cat isn’t just helpful when you are both stepping out for outdoor adventures, but also while travelling or taking her to the vet.
Leash training a cat, however, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Factually speaking, training cats for any activity is itself not very common. Accordingly, the best time to introduce your cat to a harness is in early kittenhood, when she’ll be more pliable to something of this kind. Though older cats too can be taught to walk on a leash, the trick is to be patient and make leash training a pleasant experience.
It must be noted that getting your cat to be comfortable in the harness may take days or even weeks, and is essentially a slow, orderly process. Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to getting your feline friend used to a harness:
Step#1: Introduce the Harness
It is important to first introduce your cat to the harness as a harmless object. Leave it on the floor near your kitty, or next to her food bowl. You could also try holding out the harness for her to sniff and get familiar with. Repeat this strategy over several days until your pet seems comfortable – or at least unalarmed – around it. Do not try to put it on her at this stage.
Step#2: Try on the Harness
Now that your cat is familiar with the harness, put it on her, but don’t fasten it yet. Offer treats as a reward – or even as a distraction – so she comes to associate the harness with a positive experience. Reinforce this by not offering treats when the harness is off. In case your kitty gets nervous or upset, take the harness off gently. If she reacts positively, toss her a treat. Repeat this several days in a row.
Step#3: Get her Used to Wearing the Harness Herself
Once your kitty has reached a certain comfort level with the harness, teach your cat to voluntarily put her head into the neck loop of the harness as you hold it up. Again, you can use a treat to lure her. If she willingly sticks her head in, great! If not, keep rewarding her for keeping her head even partly through the loop. Continue repeating this step.
Step#4: Moving Around in the Harness Indoors
Once your cat begins putting her head inside the neck loop of her own accord, close the buckle under her belly. If she finds this disconcerting, continue working on food rewards till she allows you to connect the two ends of the belly strap. Once this is achieved, start putting the harness on her for a few minutes every day. Encourage her to walk around in the harness by pulling out a new toy or flinging treats around for her to find. Make harness time an exciting time!
Step#5: Bring out the Leash
Once your cat gets accustomed to putting on the harness and walking normally inside the house, it’s time to bring on the leash. You could let the leash drag behind her but if it frightens her, it’s better to hold the leash and let your kitty saunter freely. Practice following her around, with the harness and leash on, inside your home. Again, keep encouraging her with lots of praise and tasty treats.
Step#6: Step Outdoors
You don’t have to take your harnessed cat far from home the first time. Any quiet area – the front yard lawn or neighbourhood park – will do. Hold the leash loosely in your hand and walk behind her, letting her feel free to explore the surroundings. Don’t force her to venture farther than she’s ready on the first couple of outings. If you think she could still get panicky, carry a heavy towel to pick her up and bring her inside without getting scratched or bitten yourself.
Experts suggest that leash-walking your cat is an excellent way for her to get some exercise and eliminate behaviour problems related to laziness and boredom. Additionally, it can gradually become a fun activity for homebody cats as it gives them a chance to see and sniff out new things.
We hope you find the above-mentioned guide useful in helping your cat make a smooth indoor-to-outdoor transition. Happy harness training!