Just like dogs, you can train cats to walk on a harness. I have done it with Hiro and Suki, but I can’t remember if ever made a post about how I did it. I did write about it on Anipaltimes.com. But not on Cats & Co yet! I feel like I’ve neglected you guys lately. Sorry about that.
The Right Harness
Before you start the training, you need to purchase a harness that is comfortable and fitting. It’s a good idea not to use a collar. Cat collars aren’t made for a leash and your cat might easily slip out – and you don’t want that, when you’re walking outside. So it’s better to pull the leash from the chest, instead of the throat. A walking jacket is another alternative that works the same as a harness. If you’re about to buy a harness or a walking jacket you might want to measure your cat’s chest. You don’t want to come home with one that is too small for your cat. There are also several harnesses that you can adjust to your cat’s size, but the leash should be a lightweight leash, five to six feet is fine.
How to Start?
Take things easy and don’t stress out your cat or yourself.
Let your cat get used to the harness by letting him sniff it. If you want, you can place the harness close to your cat’s sleeping place for a day so he’ll get used to it.
After that you can take the harness and put it on your cat. Give your cat a treat as soon as you put it on. He might not like it first, fall over and refuse to walk. That’s alright, he just needs to get used to it. Try to get him to walk by offering him a treat, so every time he walks, he gets a treat. I also often give rewards with strokes and sweet words (“Good boy/girl!”). Try to motivate your cat to walk. Don’t make the sessions very long at first, five to ten minutes is more than enough, and you can make those sessions longer the more your cat gets used to wearing the harness. Get the harness off your cat when you’re done training, and reward your cat with a treat again, and repeat those training sessions every day. Don’t get frustrated if your cat doesn’t want to walk.
When your cat has got used to the harness, it’s time to put the leash on. Use the same method as you did with the harness. I leave it on for five minutes, let the cat roam around the house — but be careful it won’t get stuck on anything with the leash, and take it off afterwards. Repeat the session everyday until your cat is used to the leash. When your cat is used to it, you can walk around inside your house with your cat while holding the leash. I suggest repeating this until your cat is used to having the leash attached to the harness, and you holding it, so your cat knows how things are going when he is on the leash.
Ready to go outside
For indoor cats only it could be scary to go outside all of a sudden. Strange noises, strange people and a lot of strange smells. Try to see how your cat reacts to the outside world by having him in his harness and holding the leash and opening the front door for a little bit, see how he reacts, and end the session. The next day you continue, but each day you open the door just a little bit more — remember to keep him on a leash — until he’s outside. You can also try it in your own yard first. It’s okay if your cat doesn’t want to go outside the first time, give it some time, it’s his first time ever going outside into the big wide world.
Take your time when you’re walking with your cat outside and don’t tug on the leash but let your cat lead the way. If your cat doesn’t want to come, or you want to go another way, gently pull on the leash, use treats or pick him to lead him into the right direction. If he does, give him a treat. And if there are moments that he might be scared, try to distract him with some treats.
The most important thing is to have fun, both you and your cat.
For more tips, you can take a look at the post on Anipaltimes.