Kitten imprinted bonding makes cat leash training easier

I would suggest that kitten imprinted bonding makes it much easier to leash train your cat and treat your cat as a dog if you want to. The point I am making is that it would be nice on occasions if you could take your cat to the shops with you like a dog!

Well, perhaps not quite that because the problem is that cats are not socialised in the same way as dogs to interact with strange people. There are several reasons for this one of which is that the dog is a pack animal and secondly because for about 30,000 years they’ve been working dogs interacting with people. That’s their raison d’être in essence.

And because dog breeders can train their dogs to walk on a lead they can introduce them to strange people which socialises them to people other than those with which they are familiar. This prepares them for acceptable behaviour in public.

But this is a different topic. I want to briefly discuss imprinting and leash training.

An imprinted kitten is more likely to be successfully leash trained and thereby enjoy the outside safely
An imprinted kitten is more likely to be successfully leash trained and thereby enjoy the outside safely. Image: MikeB under license
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

RELATED: Is it normal for a cat to imprint on you? What’s the difference to attachment?

Personal experience

My cat regards me as his feline parent. I am imprinted on his brain as his mother because I raised him from about six weeks of age as a foster carer and then adopted him. He was born in the wild as a feral kitten.

He follows me everywhere. I know other people experience the same relationship. He follows me literally to every place I go to. I go to the toilet, he arrives like clockwork. I go outside to buy newspaper, he follows me down the street which makes me anxious but I do it in the very early hours of the morning when there is very little traffic.

He lies next to me on my bed, he’s a devoted lap cat. He likes to mate with me which you can read about by clicking on this link. There is no doubt I’m imprinted as his parent.

Imprinting or imprinted bonding

It’s a phenomenon which is normally associated with birds but it can occur with other animals including humans.

The mental process is a combination of biological and psychological factors. When a person cares for a newborn kitten they become the primary source of protection, nourishment and care. The kitten relies on the person for their survival and well-being.

And this occurs during a critical formative period in the kitten’s life, the first seven weeks. The person’s consistent presence and nurturing provides the kitten with a sense of security and attachment. They become their mother.

The process triggers the release of various neurotransmitters and hormones in the kitten (and also in the person) such as oxytocin which is linked to attachment and bonding – the love hormone.

As the caring continues a strong emotional bond can be created. The person is very protective and the kitten develops a deep sense of trust and comfort.

Ideal candidate for leash training

Because there is such a strong attachment, I believe that a kitten under these circumstances is an ideal candidate for leash training.

I also believe that an adult cat who is leash trained can enjoy a much fuller life and a safer life. This would particularly apply to a full-time indoor cat. It’s a wonderful way to allow a cat to be mentally stimulated safely. I think a lot more people should do it but the barrier is the difficulty because a cat’s mind does not lend itself to being trained but it is very possible and made easier for the reasons stated.

Leash training a cat

This as you would imagine is a gradual process requiring patience and positive reinforcement, which, as you might know is reward-based training. Here are some steps that you might like to follow from my assistant Poe!

  1. Introduce the harness: Start by getting your cat accustomed to wearing a harness. Choose a lightweight and comfortable harness specifically designed for cats. Allow your cat to sniff and investigate the harness before gently placing it on their back. Make sure it is snug but not too tight. Gradually increase the duration of wearing the harness over several days to help your cat become comfortable with it.
  2. Positive associations: Associate the harness with positive experiences. Offer treats, praise, and rewards while your cat is wearing the harness. This will help create a positive association with the harness and make your cat more receptive to wearing it.
  3. Attach the leash: Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness, attach a lightweight leash to it. Allow your cat to move around freely indoors while dragging the leash behind. Supervise your cat during this time to ensure their safety and prevent them from getting tangled.
  4. Encourage exploration indoors: With the harness and leash attached, encourage your cat to explore different areas of your home. Allow them to roam freely while gently holding onto the leash to prevent it from getting caught on furniture or other objects. Use treats and praise to reward your cat for positive behavior and exploration.
  5. Short outdoor sessions: When your cat is comfortable with the harness and leash indoors, you can start introducing short outdoor sessions. Choose a quiet and secure outdoor area, preferably fenced or enclosed, to minimize potential risks. Allow your cat to explore the surroundings while keeping a gentle hold on the leash. Gradually increase the duration and distance of outdoor sessions over time.
  6. Positive reinforcement: Throughout the training process, use positive reinforcement techniques such as treats, praise, and gentle petting to reward your cat for walking calmly on the leash and exhibiting desired behavior. Avoid using punishment or force, as it can create fear or resistance in your cat.
  7. Practice and consistency: Consistency is key when leash training a cat. Regularly practice short sessions, gradually increasing the duration and distance as your cat becomes more comfortable. Each training session should end on a positive note to keep your cat engaged and motivated.

Remember that not all cats may be suitable for leash training, as some may find it too stressful or overwhelming. It’s essential to respect your cat’s individual personality and preferences. If your cat shows signs of distress or resistance, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist for guidance.


I have some great plans for my cat and me. I am going to leash train him because he’s bonded to me as mentioned. I’m going to take him to the local park: Richmond Park, a magnificent open space, one of the best parks in the UK and a nature reserve. I live about 2 miles from it.

And I’m thinking on going on some camping trips with him after he’s been leash trained so we can both explore the UK before I die! And before he dies! I’m 75 years of age and I won’t be able to do that kind of thing for much longer.

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