Walking your cat: why and how?
Got an indoor cat and want to expand her horizons? If your feline friend can learn to walk with a harness, then she can safely explore the great outdoors! And, cats that are accustomed to a harness and lead are also easier to transport to the cat sitter or vet. Yet, whilst some cats take to walking on a lead like a duck to water, others don't enjoy it at all. So, it pays to determine how your little furball feels about it.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can simply walk your cat like a dog; cats and dogs are fundamentally different. Unlike dogs, cats see the world through their eyes and not their noses for instance. They therefore feel most safe when observing their environment from a high vantage point. In unfamiliar territory, down next to you on the ground, your cat instinctively feels exposed. Thus suddenly allowing her to enter the big wide world without sufficient preparation is not a good idea. Build up to it slowly. Many cats are easy to train and ultimately happy to accompany you outside.
Step 1: the harness
Your cat has likely never worn a harness before. Allow her to get used to it gradually. First lay the harness down on the ground and let your cat sniff it. If everything goes well, then try gently fastening it. If she protests, then leave her alone and try again later. If she appears to enjoy it, reward her with a treat and encourage her to walk around freely. She'll quickly get accustomed to wearing her harness this way.
Step 2: walking on the lead
Please note: you should remain indoors throughout this step. You're now going to practice walking together on the lead. Attach the lead securely to the harness, call your cat, and walk a few steps. If she walks with you, reward her with a treat or toy. Begin training for just 1 minute and slowly build up every day until, eventually, your cat walks next to you in a completely relaxed manner. Never pull on the harness if your cat does something you don't want. If she tries to walk in the wrong direction, stop and reward her as soon as she starts walking the right way again.
Step 3: braving the outside world
The outside world can be a scary place for indoor cats. Start off in your garden or local area during a quiet time in the evening. Don't step outside immediately, but first open the door. Remember, a passer-by, dog or passing car can be enough to scare your cat out of her wits. Open the door and allow her to soak it all up from the safety of the doorstep. If this goes well, reward her and take a step outside. Build up the training gradually, starting with 1 minute as per step 2. If she visibly enjoys it, then take one step further each day. If your cat clearly finds it scary or uncomfortable, then keep her inside and provide plenty of opportunity for play.
Does your cat enjoy walking on a harness? Are you currently training your cat to walk with a lead? We'd love to see your photos and hear your stories! Share them at Facebook or Instagram and tag your photo #PawshakePaws