Keep your indoor kitty safe by leash training him
Did you know that more and more people around the world are leash training their cats. Yep that’s right, it’s not only dogs who enjoy taking a stroll with their owner! I can hear the disbelief already, “why on earth would you walk a cat on a leash when they free roam?” Well, I do it because I don’t want my cat poisoned or run over by a car, but there are loads of other good reasons for leash training your cat, a few of which are below:
- Boredom – if you have an indoor only cat and you find your furniture is being scratched up then chances are you have a bored kitty on your hands!
- If you are trying to train your outdoor cat to be an indoor cat for safety reasons (once a cat has been outdoors restricting their access, and keeping them happy and healthy mentally, is a bit tricky. This is where a cat harness is great!)
- You are going on a holiday and would like to take your cat with you
- For safety and control at the vets
- You have an indoor cat who is simply fascinated by being outside, and you want to spoil him!
- For exercise and fun – for the both of you
My cat Pancake used to free roam in the woods behind our house but after beginning to venture towards the main road, and getting lost for two days, I made the decision to cat proof our garden and he now enjoys a 30min stroll each morning with his harness and lead instead of roaming free. I’m happy, he’s happy and most importantly safe!
So many indoor only cats are FAT and LAZY. They are lazy because they are overweight, not just because “they are cats”. I guarantee that if they start to move and burn some of the chub they will be more active and healthier in the process.
If you are interested in leash training your cat then you simply need to follow these 10 steps:
- Take your cats measurements. You need to measure their neck and chest. This is where you need to pay attention and get a accurate measurement, too large and the jacket won’t fit and they may escape
- Choose a harness. I recommend Mynwood Cat Jackets. Many harnesses on the market (esp the cheap ones sold in pet shops) are not escape proof. Cats are pretty resourceful and learn to ‘back out’ of an poorly made harness
- Choose a leash. I personally would start with a short and light leash. You need control in the early days and you also want to be able to let the leash hang behind the cat while you get him used to walking around indoors with his harness on. Once you are comfortable with the set up you can change to a flexi lead (both available from Mynwood), but remember with a flexi lead that you keep an eye on your environment at all times, you wouldn’t want your cat to be so far ahead of you that you’re unable to get to him before a dog does
- Accustom cat to harness without leash attached. Once you have your chosen harness you will need to get your cat used to wearing it. The rule of thumb is ‘little and often’. Put the harness on, and give your cat a treat. Take the harness off. To start with your cat will absolutely HATE the harness, he may lay on the floor and pretend he can’t move, he may walk weirdly like he has a weight on his shoulder. Don’t be fooled, your cat is just fine! Saying that, you don’t want to scare your cat as the whole association between harness and leash should be positive. Don’t do something which would make your cat associate it with anything else
- Attach the leash. Once your cat is walking around the house normally with the harness on you can attach the leash. Again, take it slow. Your cat may revert back to the odd behaviour and flop around the floor. Build up the time your cat wears the leash gradually
- Leave harness and leash on cat indoors before practicing walking around behind cat (indoors). Once your cat is walking around normally with the harness and leash attached, you can begin holding the leash and ‘walking your cat’. I would recommend doing this indoors until you are both comfortable and confident
- Take your cat outdoors but in the safety of your garden. Before venturing outside the secure boundaries of your house and garden I would practice your leash walking further by doing little trips each day in the garden. Your kitty may bolt if he hears a loud noise and the best place to acclimatize him to ‘scary sounds’ is within your own secure space
- Keep near the house and make sure the first trip is a quiet time of day with no loud noises. It’s important that you keep your cat safe when taking him out on walks. Your cat is no match for a large boisterous dog and his little paws could easily be damaged by a passing cyclist. My suggestion would be to keep your walks for the most quiet time of the day, for me that’s really early in the morning. My cat prefers this anyways as that’s when the birds and field mice are out and about!
- Practice, go outside frequently. Leash training your cat takes practice, practice, practice. Don’t assume they will be up for it the first, second or third time.
- Never drag your cat by the harness, if they don’t want to go out they shouldn’t be forced. This final point is really the most important. Do not drag your cat outside by the leash. If they are not up for a walk one day then leave it. Walking your cat on a harness and leash should be fun for both of you, but it does require patience on your part and an understanding of cat behaviour (i.e they are not dogs, they saunter about really slowly and do lots of sitting and stalking!)
Choosing and Fitting Your Cat Harness
As I mentioned above, we use a Mynwood Cat Jackets, they are my absolute favourite brand – and I’ve tried lots! They are made really well, come in a huge range of styles and colours, and are sized as per your exact measurements so no slipped harnesses while out and about.
Putting your cat harness on shouldn’t be difficult but check out the below video if you need a helping hand.
If you have a cat you would like walked on a harness and leash but lack the confidence to do it yourself get in touch. We have been leash walking indoor cats for years and while visiting we can help boost your own confidence in the process by letting you have a go yourself (it really is great fun once you get started!).
For further details and prices see our Pet Visits page.
Credits: Mynwood Cat Jackets