Teaching a cat to walk on a leash allows a pet safe access to the big world outside. Training can also be a good milestone if you want to help your pet go outdoors unattended someday. When training your pet, it's important to remember that the outside can look frightening to a house cat. Be friendly and patient if the animal seems alarmed or panicked at first. It will take some time before he feels comfortable wearing a harness and getting out, so go slowly and offer him plenty of rewards and praise. Read on to learn how to get a cat outside safely.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing a harness
Step 1. Measure your cat
To go out with you, your pet will need a well-fitting harness -- never wear a leaded collar. If you're walking with the cat on a leash and it shoots -- which they do a lot -- the attachment can damage the trachea, the voice box and the ability to swallow. The harness will distribute the force of the restraint between the animal's shoulder, chest and belly, making it less likely to be injured.
To get the harness measurements, measure around the cat's chest, just behind the front paws, and write it down. Take the measurement with you at the time of purchase
Step 2. Choose a harness
Most cat harnesses are made with adjustable straps for puppies or adults and either nylon or neoprene. Some come with smaller sizes based on the animal's specific measurements.
- The harness should be the right size for your cat and cannot be squeezed or come loose from his body. If the item is snug, you should be able to fit two fingers under it after placing it on the cat.
- Never use a harness as a restriction for car rides -- these accessories are not designed to protect animals in the event of an accident.
Step 3. Choose a tab
Cats need different guides than dogs, so select one carefully.
- Some manufacturers make softer guides specifically for felines, as they tend to be lighter and less vigorous than dogs.
- Elastic bands are ideal because they give enough for the animal to walk around for a while.
- Avoid using retractable ones (mostly sold for dogs), as they do not fit well and can hurt the cat.
Part 2 of 3: Letting your cat adjust to the harness
Step 1. Put the cat in the harness for short periods of time
Before you can take the animal outside, you need to get it used to using the accessory.
- Start by putting the cat in the harness for short periods of time each day for several days. At first, leave the item for just a few minutes, then increase the amount of time.
- Give the animal treats and lots of praise as you put on the harness and as it walks around wearing the item.
- Your cat will need to be comfortable walking around the tack house to the point where he doesn't pay any attention to the accessory.
Step 2. Attach the guide
Once the animal is comfortable with the harness, begin attaching the lead to the harness.
First, let the lead trail behind the cat. Encourage him to walk around with the leash attached by giving him treats and praising him
Step 3. Practice walking with the harness and lead
Once the cat is comfortable with the lead behind him, pick him up and again encourage him to walk around -- this time with you holding.
Offer your cat his favorite treats and give him lots of praise when he starts walking. Try not to pull or drag it -- let it move as it pleases
Part 3 of 3: Helping your cat out
Step 1. Start slowly
Don't force your cat out, as the prospect can be quite intimidating for some. So if yours is reluctant, don't insist.
If your cat is unsure whether to go out or not, leave the door open so he can orient himself and move at his own pace. If the animal doesn't want to venture out, try again another day and be patient -- it may take a while
Step 2. Help the cat out
Once he's ready for it, follow him and encourage him with food and praise.
- Take a short walk -- about five minutes. More than that and the feline may feel overwhelmed and less willing to go out in the future.
- Wait for a dry day to go out. If it's raining or has recently rained, many of the normal smells the cat would use to orient itself will have been removed, and the animal may struggle with this.
Step 3. Take your cat outside regularly
Gradually increase the amount of time and make the walks part of the animal's routine.
As he gets more comfortable outside, allow him to wander further away from you if he wants to. Follow it as far as the guide allows
- It is mandatory to vaccinate the cat before going out with him (and highly recommended, even if he always stays indoors). Diseases such as feline panleukopenia are spread by viruses that can lie dormant in the environment for weeks, so the feline does not need to have direct contact with another infected animal to catch diseases or infections. Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines are recommended in your area.
- Cats are naturally cautious animals that can run away if they encounter unfamiliar stimuli. When taking yours out, be prepared for his urge to run and run. Hold the leash firmly and stay close, offering food and lots of praise as encouragement.
- Remember that cats and dogs behave differently. Don't expect your cat to happily trot beside you on a walk, as it probably won't. Teaching a cat to walk on a leash is primarily intended to allow it to get out in a controlled and safe manner, not to train it to replace a dog.