Walking an Old Cat on the Leash

by Finn Frode
(Copenhagen, Denmark)

Who has who on the leash?

Who has who on the leash?

It's been a year and a half since we adopted Snow White, our 10+ year old moggie. As we live on the 2nd floor, her outdoor activities have been restricted to our rather large balcony, where she has contended with sunbathing, sniffing the flower boxes and looking at the birds in the garden below.

We actually thought she'd been an indoor cat all her life - until today...

It was visiting the chillicat dot org site that gave me the idea that even a relatively old cat could be taught to walk on the leash. I had the leash and the cat, so why not give it a try?

Against it spoke the fact that years ago, when we tried taking other cats outside, they were terrified by the whole wide world. For it spoke that besides being well behaved, Snow White has a very calm and collected character, or maybe it's just laziness. ;-)

So this afternoon I put the harness on her, attached the leash and carried her downstairs. She meowed a little, maybe because passing the door step usually means visiting the vet, but I easily calmed her down and placed her on the ground in front of the house.

She was cautious as any cat would be in a new environment, but very curious about everything too. She particularly enjoyed sniffing the plants and bushes and rolling around on the ground.

She is a cat, so of course she had her own ideas about where to go, but one thing that really surprised me was that she in no way struggled against the leash as our other cats done. So I figure she must have been used to it from before we found her. At any rate this was a very positive experience for the both of us and definitely something to be repeated from now on.

Here are two more photos. Click on them to see a larger format version:

snow white cat on a leash

snow white cat on a leash

Finn

Walking an old cat on the leash to Cat Facts

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Walking an Old Cat on the Leash

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Sep 27, 2010
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Great Suggestions!
by: Sylvia Ann

Gail - I meant to respond to your kind e-mail before now, but have had a bunch of nasty events going on: prowlings, $300 worth of vandalism, and an attempted break-in.

I like your advice. The first time I put a harness on McWee was the second day or so when we moved in to the new house. We were out in the yard, and he was hating everything about the harness - which was understandable, since he'd never had one on before. To make matters worse, a passerby in the road was shouting profanities at me for inflicting such abuse on my cat. Anyhow, McWee ripped my thumb to the bone, and I didn't take him out after that. It sounds like good sense, though, your description of how you acclimated Sadie to the narness a few minutes at a time - doing it indoors, and rewarding her with a treat. I just might try this again, using your tecnique, and see how we progress. It sounds as if Sadie enjoys her outings!

Thanks again --
Syl


Sep 23, 2010
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Age Nothing to do with Leash
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Sylvia, walking a cat on a leash doesn't necessarily need to begin at a young age. My Sadie began taking to a leash at age 10+ and she's accepted it.

The key to the leash is to make it all about play. Sadie's got a body harness - like an "H" pattern. There's a neck piece, but 2 straps wrap around her belly; each strap either in front/behind her legs; they reconnect with the neck part for balance/comfort.

We began with just the harness part indoors, during playtime. The 1st time she was unhappy, but after being fussed up along with treats, she began associating the 2 as a pleasant experience. We kept the sessions very short - 5 minutes every few hours, adding more time as the week went on.

After a week was up, she was pretty amenable to the whole thing, especially when she discovered it meant 'going out' - she got to explore the great outdoors, whilst being on a retractable tether. She never left my sight. When she had enough, she'd paw the door to go in. It's a special time we share and it's nice.


Sep 22, 2010
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Finn - it's so impressive to see Snow White enjoying her leash.
by: Sylvia Ann

Before reading your posts, I'd never have believed a cat could learn to walk on a leash. When I moved here from Seattle in 2005, I took my apple-faced Siamese, Inspector McWee, outside for the first couple of days - but on a leash. He'd never been on one before, and understandably just about clawed his mom to the bone. Cats probably have to be introduced to a leash when they're very young.

I also have to tell you that Snow White looks almost exactly like my little Ethel - though Ethel has more Persian-like fur.

I know nothing about Finland, by the way, except for Beatrice Ojakanga's cookbook on Finnish pastries; I've tried nearly all - and all are to-die-
for - her marzipan pastries, cloudberry recipes, breads with golden raisins and cardamom ....oh my....

There's only one other thing about your homeland: if I could afford it I'd buy CDs of every composition of Jean Sibelius. I listen to his music and see birch forests swaying in the wind, and golden globe flowers blowing on the tundra...

Happy jaunts with Snow White!

Best wishes,

Sylvia


Sep 21, 2010
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Photos
by: Finn

Snow White (mixed breed) in harness

ABOVE: Puppia Soft (left) and Puppia Regular (right) - click on the image to see it in large format

cat in harness leash

ABOVE: Snow White exploring her new playground - - click on the image to see it in large format


Sep 21, 2010
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New grounds and new harnesses
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi Ruth, Kathy and Maggie. Thank you for your comments and sorry for not getting back to you earlier, but our move has taken a lot of time and energy over the summer - and still does... ;-)


Note: Please see the photos illustrating this comment in the comment above

Since we moved in I have been walking Snow White around her new neighbourhood every night when weather allows. She knows the time well enough to remind me, and if I'm late she follows me around the house until I'm ready.

Usually she starts with a quick inspection of the garden, just to check whether any neigbourhood cats have been trespassing. Then she walks through the gate and stops to wonder what route to chose.

She has learned that I am unable to walk under bushes and parked cars, so usually she walks around these obstacles. She is very considerate, yes, actually a joy walking around with.

We've been all over the place by now, but she has her favourite places - notably the crossroads where other cats pass. She'll then rub her chin or roll on the ground for several minutes - almost like as if she has been sniffing catnip.
The only real conflicts we have, is when after 30-40 minutes I decide it's time to go home. Then she growls a little, but nothing more than that. Well, sometimes I have to carry her home... ;-)

But back to the comments. I too am not entirely pleased with the H-style harness, which now seems to be the only type available in Danish shops. In the past we've used the 'figure eight' type, but that's nowhere to be found anymore. Problem with both of these types is of course the they are basicly some rather narrow straps that might cuts into the cat's throat if it panics.

Both the Joykatz Walking Jacket and the Kitty Holster seems like good, snug solutions to me, but unfortunately not available over here. And as it is said, shipping will probably be costlier than the harness itself. Not to mention the tax from countries outside the EU...

Based on the recommendation of other cat people I've then tried a couple of harnesses from Puppia. Actually they are for dogs, but cats can wear them as well - and many does so happily, it seems from comments on a Danish cat site.

Both are good, secure harnesses that does not get too tight around the neck, but unfortunally they do not fit 'substantial' cats like Snow White too well. The 'Soft' model was the better of the two, although it caused her to walk a bit stiffly. The 'Regular' model was clearly awkward for her and she simply refused to move at all.

Eventually we have returned to the H-type which my old-fashioned princess clearly prefers, but in all fainess it must be said that both Puppia harnesses would probably do fine with other cats.

Finn Frode avatar


Sep 18, 2010
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Better harness
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

Dear Finn,
Monty used to have the style of leash you are using in the picture, but I found a more comfortable harness for him, which I use with a 16 foot retractable leash. I got it at kittyholster.com. It's very easy to put on and comfortable for the cat. I don't know if they will ship outside the U.S. My husband says the shipping will probably be as much as the harness, but it's worth looking into anyway, I think.
Ruth


May 10, 2010
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the leash
by: kathy

My Lia and my new Savannah both walk on the leash. Mostly we just try to keep them confined to our little deck. Lia mostly just likes to bask in the sun. Last summer we used to let him come out on his own only when we were with him to supervise him. But he is so sly he knows the instant you take your eye off of him. We looked all over for him one day and I was totally freaked out. Well our neighbor Bill likes to leave his patio door open for his cat Stormy who goes in and out. Well Lia chased him off his deck and Lia was inspecting Bills house when we finally found him. Also the dog behind the fence barked at him and you never seen an old cat run as fast as he did. So now he only has his leash and collar on and even though he lets us know how indignified he feel having it on its for his own safety. And little Arora would never be allowed out at all without hers. She walks very good but Lia would just prefer to lay down and look hurt.


May 02, 2010
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Walking your cat
by: Maggie Sharp

Sounds like she's having a wonderful time, and it looks like it from the new photos too... She's a beautiful girl... She does look like she's had some experience with the leash in the past, or perhaps she's just got a high level of tolerance for the leash and a keen sense of adventure.

You're very welcome for the Chillicat site, I was glad that I found it too, as the similarities between this Chilli and my Chilli were quite a coincidence, I didn't think there were anyother leash walking Chillis around... Hehehe.

Here's another site you might like to look at, I got one of these for Chilli in February and they're absolutely fantastic! Far better than the harness... I'm trying to convince myself that he doesn't need another one, because other wise he'll end up with a whole wardrobe full of them! Hahaha.
http://www.joykatz.net/walkingjackets.htm


May 01, 2010
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New adventures
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

Hi Gail. Thank you - yes, it's wonderful for the both of us. I'll definitely switch to a retractable leash as soon as she has learned where I'll allow her to go and where not. She sees main roads under bushes where I am simply not able to follow her. But luckily Snow White is not afraid of being out in the open - actually she behaves as if she owns it, calmly looking and sniffing at everything.

Hi Magie. First of all thank you so much for the Chillicat link. Without it I would probably never have thought it possible training an old cat to walk on the leash. Well, maybe Snow White has tried it with her previous human, but most of the time she accepts the restriction and just enjoys her new adventure instead. You are right that this is not like walking a dog - cats have their own mind about things.

Sun was shining this morning, so I had her out for an early walk. She studied all the bikes and baby prams in the shed very carefully, before heading for the sandbox. On the way a rook in a tree kaah'ed at her repeatedly, but she didn't pay much attention.
The sandbox was very interesting, but considering what the neighbours might think I didn't allow her in it, although she probably just wanted to roll around. Instead she gracefully ballanced on the boards surrounding it.
Next a big tree caught her eye. She watched for a moment, then jumped up and started climbing for the first branch. It was just 5 feet up, but I decided enough was enough and took her down under some protest.
Then the playground house had to be thoroughly inspected, before she headed for home. She got a bit confused because all the entrances look the same, but when we finally got there she seemed to recognize the bushes from yesterday as some kind of known territory.
While she was under the bushes a man walked by with his dog, but it didn't smell her and she just looked. And that concluded Snow White's second walk.

I'm not really sure whether she understands that this is the scenery she has been watching from her window or she sees it as a totally different dimension. But she obviously enjoys the adventure with all its new perceptions - and so do I watching her. :-)


Apr 30, 2010
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Walking the cat!
by: Maggie Sharp

It's great to see her out and about! She looks quite happy in the picture. I was watching videos of when Chilli was in 'leash training', I wish I had kept training him, he would walk just like a dog... But I suppose it's nice now too, especially for him, he goes where he wants and does what he wants... And I mean, the only reason we walk our cats is so that they can enjoy themselves, right?

Keep up the good work!!


Apr 30, 2010
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Congratulations!
by: Gail (Boston, MA USA)

Finn, well done! Isn't it great to be able to share the outdoor experience with your little moggie?

Sadie has been accepting a leash for a few years now; however, hers is a body harness. The leash attaches to the harness, but we also added a retractable leash to the lead so she can wander a bit further whilst we monitor her movements.

In our present home, we only go out on the multi-floor porch and at the bottom of the steps in the grass. We need to be careful since we have lots of wild animals, strays/ferals (she likes to hiss/spit/attack them) and she is not innoculated for the outdoors, so with her health issues we need to be careful.

Enjoy the great weather will your little one.


Apr 30, 2010
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Inspire us
by: Michael

I hope this inspires us, who are reluctant, to give it a try. Thanks for sharing your experience.



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