While almost everyone walks their dog, few people walk their cats. However, cats can learn to walk on a leash. In fact, there are collars, harnesses, and leashes designed just for cats.
Unlike dog collars, cat collars are not created so that they can be used with a cat leash. The shape of a cat’s head makes it too easy for a collar attached to a leash to pop right off. Instead, collars are used for other reasons. Many people use collars as accessories. They place jeweled collars on their cats simply because they like the way these collars look. Other people use cat collars to hold id tags, so that they can more easily find their cats if they escape. Of course, the most common reason for putting a collar on a cat is to warn birds of his approach. Collars with bells on them may be a low tech alarm system, but they work.
Cat harnesses are designed to stay securely on a cat, even when the cat is on a leash. You can buy a simple nylon harness for your cat or you can find more deluxe models that look more like padded vests. As long as the harness is completely adjustable, it should work well.
Cat leashes can be standard leashes or retractable models. Whichever type of leash you choose, be sure that it is lightweight enough to allow your cat to move easily under its weight. Retractable leashes are ideal for people who want to allow their cats to explore their surroundings in a park or other traffic safe area, but want to keep the cats close by when they are walking to and from their homes.
To accustom your cat to walking on a leash, you should not use the same techniques you use to train your dog. Cats do not do well with negative correction, so giving a quick tug on the leash when they do not stay at your side will not teach them to heel. Instead, praise your cat when he does what you want and ignore him when he does the wrong thing. Although you can teach your cat to tolerate a leash, don’t expect him to consistently heel on command.
The easiest way to teach your cat is to use a leash is to start when he is a young kitten of eight to ten weeks old. Place his harness on him and allow him to walk about completely unrestrained. After a few days, add the leash. Be sure that you do not apply any pressure. Once your cat is used to the leash, you can pick it up and teach him that it is ok for you to be on the other end of the leash. Gently apply pressure to the leash and call your cat to you. Praise him when he responds. Eventually, he will become used to following you when he is on his leash.
Once your cat is on a leash, you can finally take him outside without worrying that he will use your neighbor’s vegetable garden as a big litter box.