We all know that walking a dog is a necessity and part and parcel of having a canine friend, but have you ever thought about walking a cat?
Many cats have lots of energy and unfortunately there’s not always a place to channel that. In large cities where many live in flats and apartments cats tend to spend most of their lives indoors, away from the harsh streets, which may need a trip down the stairs or elevator to get to anyway!
Whilst most indoor cats are picked suitably for this kind of lifestyle; that is, they are picked for being calmer, less energetic and less aggressive. Even so, their behavior still tends to be negatively impacted to some extent by not getting any or much fresh air.
Why should you attempt walking a cat?
Cats are naturally outdoor animals, no matter their breed or personality, and in places where there are no other alternatives, or indeed even if your cat does have a garden outside to run around in, leash-walking them is a great way to get rid of this excess energy.
It is also great for creating bonding time between you and your cat. It is widely assumed that cats are solitary animals who don’t crave any affection, but the truth is they do need human company and bonding time otherwise they are bound to get lonely, and a lonely cat along with too much energy and boredom can become a destructive cat.
However, you would be right to assume that in most cases cats do not automatically like or respond well to being put on a leash. Though unlike dogs, they need to feel more independent and anything that restricts their movement is often times not well tolerated.
Why buying a harness is important for you and your cat
However, with positive reinforcement, training, and patience it is possible to get your cat used to being on a leash.
Perhaps, they may even come to like it, especially when taken for a walk in a natural setting and not in the midst of a bustling city which will tend to terrify them.
The first step is to buy a harness. Leashing a cat on a collar is dangerous as it can easily come undone and cats learn to easily slip out of them. Having them loose in the middle of the street where they are small and easily trodden on or even run over by accident will definitely not entice your cat to continue leash walking with you.
You can buy a harness made for a smaller dog such as a chihuahua, nothing heavy duty is needed, something light and comfortable will do. Make sure it comes with a ring on the front with which to attach the leash to.
A good harness I came across can be found here.
Getting your cat used to the walking apparatus
When you have found a harness that will work, it is then time to get your cat used to it. First allow them to get used to the harness being near their bed or napping spot, let them get used to the look of it and smell of it. When you see that they start to ignore it as if it’s no big deal then ready yourself to get the treats out!
During this time the leash can also be left out for them to get used to. When you start to put on the harness however, give them a treat straight away. Allow them to just stay there, then move back a little and extend your hand with another treat.
Keep doing this in fifteen minute sessions each day until they get used to it and can walk around the house with it on for extended periods of time with no trouble. Again, when they start to ignore it and forget it’s there, that’s a good time to put the leash on.
Don’t do anything with the leash, just allow it to drag behind them as they continue walking around. They may need a little more encouragement and treats. Keep an eye out for the leash getting caught on anything.
Taking the lessons outside and putting them into practice
When they are walking around comfortably like this, then you can pick up the leash and allow your cat to guide the way at first. Gradually allow yourself to guide and lead the way you want. Remember to give them treats and praise for being a good kitty.
Once you have mastered this inside then you can take it outside, step by step. Remember that the type of outdoors environment may affect how easily walkable they will be.
It may take a few weeks to get your cat comfortable walking on a leash, more so if you are training an older cat, but once you have accomplished walking a cat you won’t regret it!