CLICK HERE FOR INFO ON HDW's CAT WALKING JACKETS - NOT AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME
Imagine yourself out in your neighborhood, or even on vacation, taking a leisurely stroll in the wonderful outdoors with your pet, both of you getting valuable exercise, and spending quality time together?? Imagine your pet looking forward to such excursions with you, and you with your pet?? Now...imagine that it is your CAT who is walking with you at the end of your leash!! Sound incredible?? Well, many felines and their owners are doing just this, and "walking your cat" is quickly becoming one of the hottest new trends for cat lovers here in the USA.
There are many reasons why taking the time to leash train your kitty can be of immense value: if your cat tends to scratch her nails on your furniture, and likes to climb your drapes or otherwise cause harm to your belongings; if you are planning to take a trip away from home, and are wondering how you are going to manage your cat; if you've got an outdoor cat and you are trying to turn him into an indoor cat for his own health and safety; if you've got an indoor cat who hangs out at every window, fascinated with the great outdoors; as a valuable addition to a carrier and for safety in a car or at the vet; for the fun and exercise for yourself; for the enjoyment and exercise for your kitty. Most cats between the ages of 6 months to 14 years can be successfully leash-trained, and it doesn't matter whether your kitty is male or female, spayed, neutered, or whole.
To be successful in leash training your cat, it is of the utmost importance that you use the correct type of harness. Cats are notorious for being able to squirm out of many types of harness restraints, and this will obviously not work for successful leash training. You will need a comfortable, safe type of harness, designed for the special needs of cats. Look for a harness that is more of a jacket like the ones we have pictured here (called "Walking Jackets" for cats) -- they're soft and limber, (which also describes cats!) but really strong for their size. This is especially important as cats tend to be more skittish than dogs, and need lots of emotional and physical reassurance. If the cat doesn't feel safe in their harness/walking jacket, they may continue to squirm and ultimately wriggle free and run off.
The Walking Jacket has a collar and 2 straps that go around the girth of the cat, attached by a unique "L" shaped sport nylon fabric, which curves gently under your kitty's stomach to cradle your cat, and gives the jacket it's strength. Carefully designed, the jacket allows for plenty of ventilation and breathing space to the body of the cat, so that no matter what the weather, your kitty will not get too hot even while in the jacket for a long period of time. The 5/8" extra-wide nylon straps have 3 contoured buckles, which are all on the same side of the jacket, for easy fitting and fastening and are more gentle than the thin webbing found in many other types of cat harnesses. To your feline, wearing this type of harness vs another type is the difference between being picked up with two fingers (NOT comfortable or reassuring) or being picked up with your entire hand (VERY comfortable and much more reassuring)!! The collar is adjustable from 8-11 1/2" and the girth straps are adjustable from 12 1/2" -18 1/2". This jacket is hand or machine washable in the gentle cycle, and should be line dried. Can't keep your kitty still long enough to measure him?? If he weighs between 4 and 17 pounds, the standard walking jacket can be adjusted to fit him. There is even a large version of this jacket, for extra-large kitties over 17 pounds.
The first thing to do is to get your kitty used to the Walking Jacket. Be very patient and persistent, and reward your cat lovingly. Yelling, hitting or rough treatment will only teach your cat to fear you. Remember, too, that each cat is as unique as each one of us, and will react differently. The optimum age to start leash/harness training is six to seven months of age. If you have your cat spayed/neutered first, this will enhance its concentration and decrease the hormonal desire to roam. Purchase an identification tag at the same time as the jacket, and have it engraved with your daytime and nighttime phone numbers, including area code. Place the harness with the identification tag and leash where your cat can sniff, paw and play with them. Simply put the jacket down beside your cat, and let him jump, squirm, roll and paw at it if he wishes. Don't encourage the behavior by laughing or trying to soothe him. Do not reprimand him either. It's best to just ignore him and let him get used to the items in his own time and way.
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After several days, gently, but firmly, put the jacket on the cat -- allow two fingers width at the neck and stomach (do not attach the leash yet). Often, the best results come when this is attempted just before feeding. At this point, the cat may exhibit abnormal behavior, such as running around the room or lying on its side and acting as though it can no longer stand. As long as the cat is in safe surroundings, leave the jacket on for five minutes. Repeat this several times a day for a week to ten days. It is very important that your cat learn immediately to associate the jacket with going outdoors, so we recommend that you hold your kitty and speak very calmly but with excitement to him, and carry him out your back door, or even just hold him up to a window, etc. You can also provide some distraction such as playing with him or offering food to get his mind off the harness. Consistency and patience are the keys here to success. Cats are creatures of habit, and you are establishing the important foundation that your cat will come to expect whenever you bring out his Walking Jacket in the future.
Once your cat is comfortable with the jacket and accepts it, he won't even know it's there, and you can attach the identification tag and leash. Let the cat drag the leash around the house for several minutes at a time, several times a day, for another few days, and continue to hold your kitty reassuringly and take him outside each time he wears the jacket, even if it's just on your front patio. Be sure to supervise your cat to avoid him becoming tangled and frightened. Once your cat has accepted his part, pick up the leash and just hold onto it. The cat must now realize he has some restraints placed upon him. While gently pulling on the leash, offer food (Gerber's baby food on your finger is a wonderful and special treat for training times like this) and say the word 'come'. Once again, be patient, persistent and loving. Remember, cats usually will not walk on a leash like a dog. Cats tend to like to run a bit, stop, roll, sniff an area, eat grass and then carry on.
For your first walks, try starting in the late evening or early in the morning in a quiet area. Your cat is much more likely to venture out when there's no one else around. Chances are very good that once he gets to sit outside on the cool grass and sniff the fresh air, he'll understand what the idea is all about, and will quickly learn to associate his Walking Jacket with this new adventure. Most cats take a few days to adjust to the idea of leash walking.
Most leash pulling behavior begins as soon as the cat sees the leash and knows he's about to go for a walk. If the walk begins out of control, the precedent is set for the entire walk. Before expecting your cat to calmly walk beside you on leash, he must be calm when you are putting his jacket and leash on, so it is well worth it to you to spend as much time as you and your cat need with the initial training and having your cat just get used to the jacket and firmly associating the jacket with the pleasure of the outdoors, your attention, and the fact that this is a treat worth looking forward to!! Ask him to stay while you are putting on his jacket and leash. If he does not stay, the walk should be delayed until he does. Don't give in (but stay calm and do not get angry) or he will learn that it's OK to be out of control.
Purple Cat Walking Jacket modeled by another very satisfied customer named Fred
~ Remember, PURPLE IS FOR ROYALTY! ~ (photo by Fred's owner, Ellyn Cole)
Simply hold onto the leash, stand still and let your cat dance, ricochet and bounce around at the end of the leash. It may take 5 minutes or more, but he will soon realize that you are not going anywhere and will begin to calm down. When this happens, praise him for being good. After another minute or so, take your first step, but NOT toward the door. Instead, walk your cat around your house, garage or yard to give him a chance to practice his 'not-pulling' skills. Every time he lunges or strains on the leash, simply stand still again. When he calms down, talk to him, praise him calmly and quietly, and give him a dab of baby food on your finger. When you feel that your kitty is in control and he is walking nicely without pulling in your house or yard, then it is time to proceed to the great outdoors. Every time your cat pulls on leash and you continue the walk, you are rewarding his behavior. Every time your cat gets out of control it is important that you instantly stop the walk, stand still and wait for him to calm down before continuing. It is a tremendous effort in patience at first but it will pay off if you persevere. You may only get to the end of the block or even your driveway on your first outing, but if you give in to your cat's demands, then he will continue to pull on the leash. But, please remember that a cat is very different from a dog, and you will be learning together what behavior of your cat is acceptable behavior to you, yet allows for you and your cat to have an enjoyable outdoor adventure together.
You can try using lures and praise to keep your kitty close to you, but do not drag your cat back to your side. Use a quick tug on the leash, then immediately release so the leash is slack again. Instead of trying to correct your cat after he is already pulling, do not give him the opportunity to pull. If he never pulls, he will never learn to pull. You should try to correct him BEFORE he pulls! It is perfectly fine to give your feline lots of practice getting used to walking on leash in his own home, since it is a familiar environment with minimal distractions. When he is comfortable indoors, try going outdoors again. Again, begin in an area with few distractions such as your front or back yard, and at a quiet time of day. When the two of you have mastered this, you are ready for places where there are more distractions. This exercise won't be difficult, since you've both had lots of practice beforehand at getting it right.
If your cat starts biting and chewing the leash, try applying a product like Bitter Apple or Tabasco sauce or some other unpleasant tasting (but non-harmful) substance to the leash. Reapply before every outing until your cat has lost interest in chewing on the leash.
Although it takes patience, an outdoor cat can be turned into a perfectly content indoor pet. The key is to make the conversion gradually and provide lots of attention and stimulation while the cat is indoors. Teaching your cat to go on walks with you is also a wonderful means of providing stimulus, a safe outdoor environment for limited time, and positive reinforcement with plenty of time and attention from you. You must be careful to slowly replace your cat's old routine of going outside with the new and "exciting" routine of staying in. Any change in a cats environment or habits can be extremely stressful to the cat. If your cat is outdoors most of the time, bring your cat inside for increasingly longer stays. Gradually shorten the length of time the cat is outside until you no longer let him or her out at all, with the exception of the times that you and your cat go on walks together. Cats really do need human companionship to be happiest, and when they spend all their time out of doors, they get very little attention. An outdoor cat may welcome the indoors if he or she gets more love, attention, and play. Provide plenty of things to keep your cat occupied indoors such as secure cat furniture which offer acceptable and interesting places for your cat to lounge, play and scratch, and hopefully be able to look out a window. You should also provide scratching posts, corrugated cardboard or sisal rope for your cat to scratch and be sure to praise your cat for using them. Cats also love toys of all varieties, and some also enjoy fresh greens. You can buy kits that include containers and seeds to grow, or plant pesticide-free alfalfa, grass, bird seed, or catnip in your own container. This way, your cat can "graze" safely and not destroy your house plants.
If, after all these efforts, your cat remains stubbornly committed to life outdoors, help him or her adjust by providing an outdoor covered enclosure or run that the cat can access through a window or pet door. Such a facility gives the cat some of the advantages of being outside while minimizing the dangers. You can make the outdoor enclosure interesting and appealing by adding objects for the cat to explore, such as tree limbs, multilevel cat condos, tires, toys hanging from branches, and boxes in which the cat can curl up or hide. And, don't forget the leash-training and walking your cat!! Remember, when cats become a nuisance, it is the cat's owners who are at fault.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO ON HDW's CAT WALKING JACKETS - NOT AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME
~ NEW! Click on image above to find out more about these absolutely stunning leopard print pet cat strollers we've found; they hold pets up to 30 pounds, so bring your feline and take a walk on the WILD side!! ~
~ NEW! Click on image above to learn about the best exercise wheels for cats!! They're simply the best designed, best built and best priced wheels we've found anywhere!! ~