Many years ago I lost a cat to the road. Not surprisingly, when I bought my new kitten Arthur home, I was very wary of letting him outside on his own, but I didn’t want an indoor cat. Everyone is different, but I personally believe that a cat who’s allowed outside to smell the roses and exercise their natural instincts is a more fulfilled feline.
I bought a harness and leash so that the newest member of my family could have a taste of nature in our back garden. It’s my experience and knowledge of getting Arthur used to a harness and leash that I want to share with you because walking your cat outside is such a rewarding activity. There are just a few simple steps to this:
- Getting them used to seeing the harness lying around the house
- Slowly familiarising your pet with the feel of wearing a harness
- Getting them used to walking on a leash
Patience Is A Virtue.
It’s important to start with the understanding that each cat has a different personality and comfort zone, so don’t compare the time it may take you and your furry companion to achieve your goal of using a harness and leash with that of others. Cat’s are naturally stubborn and will not be forced into doing anything they don’t want to, so you need to go at your cat’s pace and have plenty of patience. The name of the game here is to get your feline to associate the harness with a positive experience. Positive reinforcement, as always, is the key here.
Familiarising Your Companion With The Harness.
The first step is to leave the harness in with your laundry for a few days; this ensures that it will have your familiar scent on it, which is reassuring and comforting for kitty. Next, I would leave the harness beside the cat’s food bowl; this ensures that your cat associates the item with food and all things positive, as well as getting him used the sight of it. I would also leave the harness inside Arthur’s cat bed at night so he’d curl up beside it and wake up by it in the morning. The idea is to integrate the harness into your cat’s daily routines when he’s eating, sleeping or playing so that he becomes accustomed to it. I would consistently repeat this process for a few weeks so that the harness was well known to Arthur before I even attempted to place it on him.
Getting Your Cat To Feel Comfortable Wearing A Harness.
So, after a couple of weeks Tiddles is ready to go to the next stage of trying on the harness. Place it on the floor and try to get them to step into it. Depending on their character, your furry pal may struggle madly in a desperate attempt to get away. This is quite normal. When I first put the harness on my pet Arthur he wriggled quite a bit whilst I did the clasp up, but once I had done it up and put him down, he wandered away without much fuss. I had to pick him up and put his legs through the arm holes as he wouldn’t co-operate and just step in to it for me, but the process of putting it on him wasn’t half as challenging as I’d anticipated. Leave the harness on your cat for a few minutes only the first time, whilst you give him a few treats, play with a wand and generally lavish lots of attention and praise on them. This associates wearing the harness with a positive experience in your pet’s mind.
After a few minutes, remove the harness and again give him lots of praise and a treat or two. Repeat this process every day, increasing the length of time they are in the garment each time until they’re feeling happy wearing it around the house and they’re not feeling restricted in their movement.
Go at your cat’s pace and always be aware of their body language: if they’re not happy and appear stressed then leave it and try again another day. They won’t thank you for forcing them into something when they’re in a bad mood, which we all have sometimes! Remember the golden rule: positive reinforcement and patience is the key to getting results.
Ready For The Leash.
So, your budding adventure cat is ready for the next stage – the leash. Attach the leash to the harness and open the back door to the garden whilst holding onto the leash. The first time I did this with Arthur he wasn’t too sure at all if he wanted to venture out, but that’s OK. Just let them take their time and they’ll get braver and braver over the coming days. What you shouldn’t do is tug and pull on the leash. I’d use treats or a toy to encourage Arthur to move forward in the direction I wanted him to go, even leaving a snack by my feet whilst I crouched down and called his name to come to me. Walking a cat isn’t like walking a dog – cats go where they want and you’re the one who gets walked. Now we enjoy time together outside and it gives me so much pleasure to see him sniffing around and chasing insects in the grass!
Training a cat takes time and patience, along with an understanding that they’re all different. Always be mindful of what your feline friend’s body language is telling you and stop if they show fear or anxiety. Practice and patience will be rewarded, however. Don’t give up, and good luck!