Leash Training Your Cat

Training a cat to wear a harness and leash is a safe way to allow your cat controlled outdoor access. Because cats can easily escape a collar, it's not a safe alternative while walking. Be patient, it will take some time to acclimate your cat to a harness.

A good body harness must possess these elements: it must be well-fitted to the individual cat; it must have been designed for a cat's body (do not use a dog harness); and it must be comfortable for the cat to wear. The leash you choose should be practical for a cat: it should be light-weight and made of a cloth or nylon material. Obviously chain leashes are too heavy. "Flexi-type" leashes are also discouraged. They can easily get wrapped around trees and other items. Your cat might also get tangled and injure itself. Make sure your cat has a collar and identification tag.

Acclimating your cat to the harness and leash
This needs to be a slow process. To rush this will cause the cat to balk about wearing the harness and possibly set progress back significantly.

Start by placing the harness (without the leash attached) on the cat. It's best to attempt this while the cat is relaxed - perhaps after eating or after a vigorous play period. Feed yummy treats to your cat while your cat is wearing the harness. Remove the harness after a few seconds. Discontinue feeding the treats as soon as the harness has been removed. In this way you are teaching your cat that the feeling of the harness on his/her body equals delicious treats, and the harness being removed ends access to the treats. Soon your cat will be begging to wear his harness!

Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness, attach the light-weight leash to the harness. Walk behind your cat and gently hold the leash loosely. It is imperative that you make certain there is no tension in the leash. After a brief period of time, remove both the harness and the leash. Continue this process for a few days until your cat is comfortable and freely walking.

The next step is to allow your cat to drag the light-weight leash behind him/her while moving about your home. This will allow your cat to feel a slight degree of tension being applied to the leash. Be sure to supervise this activity. NEVER leave the leash or harness on an unsupervised cat!

Going outdoors
As long as your cat is unconcerned up to this point in the training, it's time to try this outdoors. Of course you must only attempt this on temperate and dry days.

The use of yummy treats will help your cat to feel secure and happy about this adventure. As well, keep the time spent outdoors to a few lovely minutes. Do not wait until your cat has become frightened to bring him/her indoors. You will want your cat's last impression before coming inside to be one of safety and enjoyment.

Set a schedule of when you take your cat outdoors on the leash and harness. This will help to stave off your cat insisting at all hours that it's time to venture outside.



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