photograph ©copyright Helmi Flick
Is a cat on a leash realistic? Yes, only don’t expect to go walkies in the way you would with a dog.
Dogs are pack animals (and so are male humans) and they will follow etc. Dogs are of course more trainable than cats. But with patience and praise and some best quality food your cat might be trained to wear a leash.
It goes without saying that you won’t be needing a conventional collar. They don’t work for cats and are dangerous anyway. The kind of harness that you see in the picture above is as good as it gets. These harnesses are designed for cats. They are lightweight figure of 8 style halters. Don’t fit it too tightly nor too loosely otherwise your cat might have it off.
The purpose of using a leash on a cat is not primarily to go for a walk and get some exercise (although your cat will get some exercise), it is for your cat’s safety and to stop him or her running off.
You cat will, as usual, do pretty much as it pleases unless you have invested a lot of time in training. Or you start at an early age. If a cat becomes accustomed to wearing a leash as a kitten I would foresee little problem when he or she becomes adult. The best examples are with expensive and large wild cat hybrids as in the video above. This is an F1 Savannah cat bred by Martin and Kathrin Stucki.
Talking about training, how do you train a cat to accept a leash? You’d be lucky of you could just put it on and wait for him or her to trot out with you. More likely your cat will try and get it off, initially.
Once you have put it on; wait a while, (s)he’ll probably roll over and try and get it off based personal experience. Now’s the time for patience and to tease her into accepting the harness by offering her favorite tasty food (best quality chicken or in my case lightly cooked prawns – instant distraction and reinforcement of good behavior).
Keep up the above over a three day period or so until (s)he accepts the harness.
Attach the lease and gently train her to walk by walking forward and gently tugging on the leash and show the prawns. She’ll follow and give her a reward. She’s starting to become a cat on a leash. There will be more times when she will be non-co-operative of course. Remain patient and reinforce with rewards.
Phase out the rewards gradually – time to go out…?
Needless to say start somewhere safe and quiet. He or she will go at her pace and she’s the boss. Beware of her eating grass if in a park (possible pesticides). The place you go should obviously be known to be safe for her. Cats are very sensitive to surroundings so she’ll be constantly distracted by investigating etc.
She Finn Frode and his cat on a leash as a very nice example of a cat on a leash: Walking an old cat on a leash.
See also cat clicker training.
Picture of black and white cat © jacob earl reproduced under creative commons.