Many people decide to get a cat instead of a dog because they feel they are lower maintenance. Dogs need more exercise, attention, and of course, they need to be walked twice a day at least. However, some people decide to leash train their cats. The question is whether or not it is a good idea. Cats have more attitude than dogs, so the decision to teach your cat to walk on a leash has a lot to do with temperament. If your cat is nervous, never goes near the door, or prefers her own space, it may be best not to try to leash train a cat. However, if they are curious, they always seem to go near the door when you go outside; maybe a walk will be a good way for them to get some additional exercise. Just remember, the cliché “herding cats” exists for a reason.
Considering leash training
One thing to consider is the human and pet dynamic. Dogs understand you are their master. Unfortunately, cats look at you like you’re staff. They expect you to feed them on their schedule and only pet them if they feel like it. Taking a cat for a walk may give your cat another thing to demand. It’s best to have a set schedule and stick with it, even though they may have other ideas in typical cat fashion. If you decide to chance another thing a cat demands you do, you will need to consider other things. Additionally, be prepared; your cat may have a tizzy fit the first several times. It’s best to try it several times, and if they still meltdown, they may not be a cat you can leash train. Before you begin to leash train your cat, you will need a harness that fits snugly. Unlike a dog, a collar will not be sufficient since cats are notorious for getting in and out of seemingly impossible locations. You’ll need one that fits snugly around them; measure their girth just behind their front legs. Cats aren’t like dogs so putting a harness on one and thinking they will behave is far from reality. A cat isn’t used to having something around them, so they may be highly uncomfortable in the beginning. It’s best to start slowly. Try to put the harness on them and if you are successful, let them wear it a little while before trying to walk them on the leash. Another idea is leaving the harness out where the cat can see it and examine it. This will help them slowly get used to the idea of something new.
Once they’ve grown accustomed to the harness, try walking them around the house on their leash. Give them time to process the new activity. If everything seems to be going well, try walking them around the backyard. If they are an indoor cat, there will be many new smells and sounds. Additionally, it will be easier to get them back to the house if there is a problem. Smells are another thing that may make walking your cat a challenge. Unlike dogs who innately enjoy the outdoor smells and some of the sounds, cats typically don’t go on walks, so everything may be overwhelming. Remember, if your cat gets scared midway through the walk, you’ll need to get them back to the house while having a hissy fit, which could involve a lot of scratching. It’s best to bring a towel with you so that you can wrap them up while you carry them home if the unexpected happens.
If you start to train your cat to walk on a leash, treat them the same way you would a young puppy; short training sessions with lots of positive reinforcement. Additionally, a cat is not like a dog, so they will never heal or walk as you expect. In fact, they may climb up a tree and bolt if they hear a strange sound. Moreover, when you take them outside, pick them up and carry them, so they understand you are the one in charge and not their staff. There isn’t a right or wrong answer about leash training a cat since it is based on its temperament. If you decide to leash train them, the best thing to do is start when cats are young since they won’t be set in their habits. Your cat may initially fight the harness but feel more comfortable and willing to try walking on a leash over time. It’s also wise to remember that cats are escape artists, so if they are used to going outside, even on a schedule, they may try to bolt outside every time you open the door. Unlike dogs, you can’t take them anywhere you choose. They will never be hiking animals or enjoy crowded areas with many people, especially if they are territorial of you and their house.
The only time that walking your cat is a bad idea is if you are unprepared. If you try to take them immediately outside like you would a dog, it’s going to be a disaster. Moreover, if you don’t give them time to get used to their new harness and feel comfortable, you will be upset. Cats thrive on rhythm and routine, so doing a new activity like a walk is going to shake them up regardless if they like it or not. As long as you are well prepared and understand things may not go smoothly, walking a cat on a leash isn’t bad. It’s just ill-advised to think that once the cat behaves well on a leash, they will learn commands like sit or stay. Give them their space and watch for any signs things will never get better. It’s best not to push a cat into something you want them to do because, after all, they are cats and will do as they please, at least as much as they can.