Your cat loves staring out of the window – so much to see, so much to smell, so much to chase! But it's fairly likely he doesn't get the opportunity to step outside very often, if at all. I think all of us would love to let our kitties explore all the possibilities of the great outdoors, but letting them roam free outside presents a lot of unfortunate risks. Luckily, cats, like their canine counterparts can be leash trained. The idea may sound crazy, but with a little work and a little knowledge, it can absolutely be done! Today, we will discuss how to walk your cat on a leash.
Is Your Cat Ready For This?
First, it's important to understand and be respectful of your cat. Although many would love the opportunity to go outside, some are just homebodies. Furthermore, the constriction of a harness and a leash might be a little too much for your cat. Kittens are generally more accepting of unusual circumstances; however, adult cats may be just as likely to learn something new if they find that they are rewarded for their efforts. As with anything else, though, it's a good idea to know when you're beat. Also, though it may go without saying, be certain that your cat is up-to-date on all of his shots. This will help to prevent illness should you come upon anything unsavory during your outing.
Getting the Right Gear
Next, find the right gear. Cats can easily slip loose from or harm themselves with a collar, so a harness is essential. Cat harnesses come in two styles: the H-Harness and Figure Eight. H-Harnesses have a small strap that sits between the shoulder blades, and has loops attached to either end. Figure Eights are designed with two loops that connect at the cat's shoulders. Either style works well; however, Figure Eights tend to fit a little more snugly, making them harder to pull loose from.
Fitting your harness should be relatively easy. They come in small through large sizes. Which size you use is dependent on the size of your cat's chest – generally ranging from 12 to 18 inches. To measure properly, place a tape measure right behind the front legs and go all the way around the chest. Fit the tape snugly in place, but make sure it isn't digging into the skin. Add two to three inches to the measurement you get. Once you have your size and have purchased your harness, double check that the fit is correct. As a rule, if you can place two fingers between your cat's shoulder and the harness, you have a fit that is neither too snug, nor too loose.
Of course, in order to test the fit, you'll need to get your kitty used to his new harness. Begin by introducing it to him. Show it to him, let him smell it – you can even let him play with it a little. After he's had a moment to investigate this new contraption, give him a treat and a nice scratch, make the whole experience a positive one. Also, you will want to start snapping and unsnapping the buttons, rip open Velcro, and just generally get him used to the sound.
Once the mystery is gone, slowly begin to harness your cat. At this point, don't fasten it, but be sure to provide plenty of treats for the sake of distraction. Once your cat has become comfortable, you can start to fasten and adjust the harness as necessary. Let him walk around in it for a while before taking it off. Repeat this process for several days.
After a little bit of adjustment, if your kitty is quite content with his new wardrobe, you can then attach the leash. As with fitting the harness, you will want to start slowly. Begin with a short jaunt around the house, followed by more rewards. Once you both feel pretty secure, step outside. Your cat may be a bit nervous by this point, so just take your time. If he's getting a little antsy, step back in and try another day. If not, take a stroll around the backyard, then around the house, and then even further out until you reach your goal.
That is pretty much that. Learning how to walk your cat on a leash is fairly simple, even if the act itself can take some time. It's important to keep checking in with your cat. All the new stimulus can be very overwhelming, so keep an eye on his body language and vocalizations. Reassure him often, especially early on. So long as the two of you stay in tune, and you ensure that your little buddy is safe and secure, there is no reason at all why you can't show off your cat's fantastic walking skills around the neighborhood!
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