You might have been thinking about leash training your cat. You might have been thinking about it for a long time but have been put off by the difficulties. And there are some difficulties. The biggest difficulty is that it requires a lot of patience. However, the need to leash train your cat is becoming ever more pressing because there are more full-time indoor cats nowadays and there is a greater need to protect wildlife. Leash training allows a cat owner to take their cat outside safely. It is a good compromise between allowing your cat to free-roam during which time they can fully express the natural desires and motivations and keeping your cat safe and wildlife safe. It is a time to compromise and to leash train.
The only other compromised situation is to build a catio or a backyard enclosure for your cat. It is taking the middle road and I think that this is the best way forward. It is not ideal obviously because it’s a compromise. However, life is about making things work as best as possible.
Leash training is best done when your cat is a kitten. In an ideal world as soon as you adopt your kitten you begin their leash training. And you get them used to going outside in a stroller (perhaps). That is what a TikTok video maker says in the video below. In this video you can see that she has double-trained her cat both to enjoy the outdoors confidently and to accept a harness to which is attached the lead. I like the video because the essential points are made.
Domestic cats do need to get used to wearing a harness because it tends to make them floppy. It tends to signal to them a need to totally relax – flop down. This is the basis of a product called the Thundershirt. It is the pressure on the flanks of the body which sometimes provokes this reaction to varying degrees in different cats.
But a cat will overcome this and get used to the harness. The harness must be absolutely solid with the minimum possibility or a zero-possibility of the cat wriggling out. And it should be easy to get into 😊. Some of them are and some are not. You do not want your cat to wriggle out of the harness at an inopportune and dangerous moment when you are outside walking down a sidewalk as it would totally undermine the purpose of walking your cat on a leash which is to go outside safely.
I don’t think there’s any fancy training procedures. You get the best possible harness you can and you get your cat used to the harness and a lead as early in their life as possible. And you spend a lot of time walking your cat both inside the home (initially) and outside, when ready, on the lead. Eventually it will become second nature and your cat will probably ask you to take them outside on the leash.
This is also about human rhythms and routines. Once your cat gets used to the idea of going out on a lead at a certain time of the day, they will be prepared for it and, as mentioned, ask you to go out with them.
Here is another video about leash training.
From my perspective, I feel that the biggest problem with leash training the human, not the cat. Cats will respond differently depending upon the level of confidence. The more confident obviously the better. And a timid cat might never get used to it. They shouldn’t be forced. You may have to admit failure.
But that failure should come from your cat’s inability to adjust to the harness and not you! It will take commitment, patience and self-discipline to achieve that utopian goal of your cat walking next to you on a lead down a sidewalk into a park. But there will be dangers and therefore vigilance must be the byword. There will be dogs in the park and strange sounds and you’ve got to have a method to deal with these encounters.
You may have to also train your cat to jump into a backpack when dangers present themselves. That is the kind of thing I would do. I think you will need some sort of backup, safety measure in case things go wrong. Remember, the whole purpose is to ensure that your cat is safe. Undermine that and you might as well forget about leash training. Cats can get use to the new stimuli and it’ll be good for them.
Your cat will be delighted to go out safely if they are a full-time indoor cat. They will be thrilled to explore the outside and to feel grass and earth under their feet and blue sky above. And the ornithologists will also praise you and welcome you into their arms because they want to protect native bird species. They think that domestic cats decimate them. As it happens domestic cats prefer to prey on small mammals that live on the ground like mice because they are much easier to catch.
But it is time to find a compromise not only in the life of a domestic cat but in the relationship between cat lovers and bird lovers. There needs to be a rapprochement between these two groups of people. Bird lovers want cat lovers to keep their cats indoors and cat lovers want their cats to enjoy life as much as possible. The middle ground is leash training and it’s time for some cat owners to bite the bullet and take those tentative steps towards that utopian compromise.