How to Walk Your Cat…

About a year ago, I started taking Ziggy for walks…

Now at first, he wasn’t too keen on the idea and it was more like I was taking him for drags.

But he did eventually get used the idea and now it’s one of the highlights of his day.

Now sure, he isn’t exactly jogging material, but we can stroll at a decent pace. That is until he gets interested in something. When that happens,  I do a lot of standing around while he investigates.

And it’s funny because if you’ve ever seen a cat on a leash, you’ll quickly realize it’s not something you see every day let alone something that looks natural.

People are always astonished by how well Ziggy does on the leash and while I act like we’re old pro’s it wasn’t always that way.

Not even close.

And while learning how to walk a cat may seem impossible…

…with proper supervision, patience, and consistency, you can have your cat walking on a leash in no time. There are just a few things you need to consider, like…

Your Cats Age:

For starters, you really should wait until your cat has reached an age where they have had all of their vaccinations. Prior to that, going outside could be putting them at risk.

But don’t wait too long.

You’ll want to start walking your cat when they are as young as possible. Before they’ve had a chance to fear going outside or fear loud noises. Training older cats to walk on a leash isn’t impossible, but it does take a little more patience. Older cats are usually more reluctant to go outside on a leash -- or to be on a leash at all. So, you may be looking at months of training to get them to accept the harness.  And being led around? Well, let’s just say you’re going to have to be diligent.  But it’s worth it.

It also helps if your cat is responsive to your voice. You can practice this by working on calling your cat and having them come to you. Treats work great too and it does help to condition them.

After some time, your cat will learn that coming when called will be rewarding. That’s when you can start slipping on the harness and making it part of the process.

Selecting the Proper Harness

Because cats are so slippery, a simple collar around the neck will never be sufficient. Trust me, the first time you try to walk your cat outside and they get spooked you’ll find that out the hard way. They can easily pull out of the neck collar, even a well-fitted one (and you do not want to make the collar so tight that you choke them) instead, use a well-made harness that has been designed especially for cats.

Cat harnesses are usually made with an adjustable neck collar and then attached to an adjustable body wrap. The harness should fit snug to your cats’ body, but not too tight.

Ideally, you should be able to fit two fingers under the harness at the neck and under the chest.

Your leash should then attach at the body strap or between the shoulders instead of at the neck.

The clips holding onto the harness should snap firmly in place and should not be the breakaway type so commonly found in cat collars.

The Best Way To Introduce The Harness

Even, if you’ve been using treats to get your cat to come to you while introducing the harness, it still may take a while to get them used to wearing it. Take your time. You can also try placing it near their indoor cat toys, their scratching post or their favorite spot. This allows them to get used to it, smell it and come to accept it as part of their space.  When they show interest in the harness, reward them with a few treats.

After a few days of this, when your cat has come to claim their treat, hold them firmly as they enjoy it and drape the harness loosely on their body. You can secure it but leave it very loose. The key is for your cat just to get used to it being on their body.  After a few times, slowly cinch the harness a little tighter each time until it’s adjusted to where you want it.  Again, positive reinforcement helps a lot here. At first, leave the harness on for a short period of time, a few minutes to start, gradually increasing the time.

If your cat struggles too much, remove the harness and try again later. When he does allow you to place the harness on him without a struggle, give him lots of affection so that he associates wearing the harness with your praise.

Next, Add The Leash

After you’ve conquered the harness, next we need to tackle the leash. For starters, let him wear it around the house. Just attach it and let them roam around with it on. Slowly allow them to wear it longer and longer. You can even feed him and play with him while he’s got both the harness and leash attached.  What you’re really doing is getting him used to the weight of both the leash and the harness together. Just don’t ever leave him unattended. The last thing you need is your cat getting the leash caught on something or you coming home to find him dangling from the leash.

The next step is to randomly pick up the leash and walk around your house.  Don’t try to pull or lead him in any way at first, just hold the leash and follow.  Once in a while, stop him and call him over to you with a treat.

Once you feel like your cat is getting the hang of things…

It’s Time To Go Outside.

Start with short walks, maybe just right outside your door. Let him sniff around, look around and explore a bit. Let him listen and get used to some of the sounds too. After a few times, graduate to the front of the house and maybe up and down the block. Keep an eye out for dogs or anything that may startle him. At first, you may want to pick a quiet time of day to take your walks. This way he can get used to it without all the distractions.

Your Cat’s Safety

When you put your cats harness on, there is no need to remove their normal collar with their ID on it. In fact, it’s best to keep it in place, just in case they get loose.

Another good strategy is to take along a soft carrier so that if for some reason your cat has a panic attack, gets spooked or just doesn’t cooperate…you have a safe place to put them.

Setting a walking schedule is also a good idea.

 It will give your cat something to look forward to and get them into a routine.

And please just remember, your cat is not a dog.

You can’t leave them tied up outside of Starbucks while you go in for a vanilla latte’. If they panic and get tangled they could end up getting hurt. Worse yet, they could get attacked by a dog and be unable to escape.

Walking Ziggy has become a lot of fun and because he’s an indoor cat has really become a treat for him. I know your cat will love it too.

Just take your time and be patients. It will eventually pay off.