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Many cat owners believe that their cat is too stubborn to learn to walk on a leash. While this may be true of many cats, some may actually take to it easier than you would expect. Inquisitive breeds like the Siamese (who often enjoy dog-like games of fetch or follow their owners like puppies) have been known to walk on a leash nearly as well as a well-trained dog! However unteachable your cat may seem, there are some hints that could make leash training a reality.

The most important item to consider is the harness. A proper cat harness should fit snuggly around your cat. Too tight of a harness could be painful for your cat, but having the harness too loose risks the cat wriggling free. A rule of thumb is if you can slip two fingers between the cat and harness, it is probably secure. You should never use a regular cat collar when walking a cat, as most cats can easily wriggle out of it or cause injury to themselves in the attempt.

When you first place the harness on your cat, you are likely to encounter some resistance. Offer the cat a treat and speak with a calm, reassuring voice to let her know she is safe. At first your cat may act strangely while wearing the harness. She may stiffen up or even fall over. Don’t worry—this is normal behavior. Leave the harness on your cat for five or ten minutes, then take it off. While the harness is on, you may wish to hold your cat and walk to a window or onto the porch. This will create an association for the cat between the outdoors and the harness. Repeat this exercise several times per day for a week to ten days.

After your cat has become acclimated to the feel of her harness, it is time to attach the lead. Do not attempt to walk your cat right away; instead, allow her to drag the lead around behind her for a few moments at a time. This will get her used to the feeling of being attached to something. Repeat this several times a day for a few days until your cat becomes accepting of the lead. At this point, you can hold the lead while remaining stationary. Your cat will realize she is restrained to a certain area and learn to adjust her actions accordingly. During both of these exercises, continue to speak to your cat in a reassuring voice and offer her treats. A positive association with the harness and lead is the most important key to successfully leash training a cat.

After several days, your cat should feel comfortable with the feeling of a lead attached to her harness. You may now make the great transition to the outdoors! For your first walks, be sure to choose a time when there will be little noise such as the evening. It is unlikely your cat will go very far, as she will be too busy sniffing the grass and taking in all the sights. Your cat might pull against the leash or bounce around trying to get free; if this happens, simply stand still and let her realize for herself that she’s not going to get anywhere by struggling. Do not tug on the leash or attempt to force the cat in any direction; if she does not want to come, she is not going to. Go at your cat’s pace. After all, this is supposed to be fun for both of you! It will take several days or even several weeks for your cat to become accustomed to going for walks; however, if you take your time and are patient, your cat will form a positive association with walking on a leash.

Several tips to remember:

1. Be patient! Cats are creatures of habit, and it takes a while to teach them a new behavior.

2. Listen to your cat! If she is struggling against her harness or clearly in distress, do not attempt to walk her. It will not be fun for either of you, and you are likely to damage your training efforts.

3. Pay attention! Whether you’re in the training process or actually going for walks, always keep an eye on your cat. It only takes a second for a cat to become entangled in a lead or to be attacked by a neighborhood dog.

4. Be realistic! Not all cats will enjoy walking on a leash. If despite your best efforts the training just isn’t working, it’s okay to admit defeat. There are plenty of other activities you can enjoy with your cat like wand toys or laser pens that will be enjoyable for you both.

For more info: The Daily Cat, Pet Wellbeing, CatsPlay

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