Walking the Cat
It’s the latest trend: Walking cats on lead. All the cool cats are doing it. Why walk a feline on a leash? Cats are curious creatures and any opportunities they have to explore the big wide world can enrich their lives. To help your indoor cat have safe outdoor adventures, you can teach her to wear a harness and walk on leash. At Best Friends, our caregivers have found that walking cats outdoors lowers their stress level, making them happier and healthier cats.
Step 1. The first step is to buy a harness and leash. Believe it or not, there are many different types of harnesses made especially for cats. Choose one that is simple and fast to put on, but that your cat will not be able to get out of. An excellent harness is the Kitty Holster; it’s soft and lightweight, has wide Velcro closures and comes in several colors. If you want your cat to look especially stylish, the Kitty Holster company also sells a boutique line of handmade harnesses made of high-quality luxury fabrics.
At Best Friends, we also use Coastal Pet’s Size Right, which has a figure-eight configuration and only one buckle, and the Come with Me Kitty harness and bungee leash by Premier. All of these harnesses are available online or at pet supply stores.
Step 2. Next, you’ll want to get the cat accustomed to the harness. Leave the harness in your cat’s sleeping area for a few days so she can inspect it. Then, try putting the harness on your cat, distracting her with treats as you do it. Speak in a friendly voice and tell your cat that this is the beginning of a big adventure. If the cat gets too anxious, take the harness off and try again the next day. Don’t give up. Your cat will eventually get used to wearing the harness.
Step 3. Once she’s comfortable dressed in the harness, clip on the leash and walk her around indoors. Again, use treats and a soothing voice to make it a positive experience. During this indoor trial run, make sure you adjust the harness properly to fit your cat; you don’t want it to be too tight or so loose that she can slip out of it.
Step 4. If your cat seems relaxed with indoor walks on lead, try it outdoors. When you go outside for the first time, choose a safe and relatively quiet place, such as a fenced backyard. After you put the harness and lead on, open the door and let your cat decide when to go outside.
The difference in walking a cat on lead versus a dog is that the cat walks you. Let the cat go where she wants to go, but keep her well away from streets and traffic. Always keep the leash slack and don’t ever pull on it. If your cat is startled by something, try to keep the leash slack until you can reach her, to prevent her from wriggling out of the harness. Until your cat is comfortable with being outside and is used to the sounds and sights, we recommend bringing along a towel to protect yourself should the cat become distressed and need to be picked up and carried back inside.
Before long, though, your cat will probably look forward to walks. Most of the cats at Best Friends who started out timidly are now pros, and outdoor excursions are an exciting part of their day.