How can I leash-train my cat?
October 2, 2004 8:26 AM   Subscribe

How did you successfully leash train your cat?

Clearly, the consequences of handling an improperly or insufficiently leash trained cat can be dire.
posted by tomharpel to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
this was discussed earlier, i think. you might find some useful info searching.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:41 AM on October 2, 2004

Response by poster: Google search for cat leash turns up three threads, none of which deal with the topic directly.

Yes, there are pages on the Internet and probably books at the library that cover this, but I'm looking for personal anecdotes. Thanks for your help.
posted by tomharpel at 8:52 AM on October 2, 2004

hmmm. none of those are what i remember. someone talked about living in an appartment block with an old woman, and that woman trained her cat to walk on a leash - the conversation grew from there, i thought. but i can't find anything searching either. ah well - maybe i dreamt it.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:24 AM on October 2, 2004

This is the best thread on the subject.
posted by dness2 at 9:37 AM on October 2, 2004

I have only managed it with one cat, and that was a Siamese, who are generally more "dog-like" than many other breeds of cat (except for Abyssinians, which are aliens), and are considered to be some of the easiest cats to leash-train. This cat had a natural desire to come on walks when we took the dogs, and would follow us anyway if given the opportunity, so it was relatively easy to accustom her to the harness and lead idea, since the motivation was already present. We just put the harness on and let her get used to it. She was never really thrilled with it, though. And for a cat who doesn't have the natural motivation, it can be much more challenging, especially if the training wasn't started as a kitten.

That said, if I wanted to do it now, when I know more than I did then about animal training, I'd just clicker train the cat. Clicker training works wonders (I cannot imagine ever using another method to train now that I've experienced how effective, and what a positive experience for human and animal alike, clicker training is), and I have no doubt that someone with enough patience and desire to make it work (which means finding out ways to successfully reinforce the cat, and putting in several short sessions of training daily) could clicker train a cat to walk on a lead fairly easily. After all, people successfully train cats to do agility.
posted by biscotti at 10:07 AM on October 2, 2004

I concur on the clicker training--there's a good yahoo group on the subject that you might find helpful.

The important thing is to have a cat that wants to go outdoors. That desire will provide the ultimate reward for going through the leash routine.

You need to pick a good harness, not collar. Cats can shuck out of a harness faster than you'll believe; a collar-harness combo is considered safer. Training begins with hanging the harness over the cat's back till the cat ignores it and just walks away. That's followed by putting the harness on the cat, reward, take it off, gradually increasing wearing duration till the cat doesn't roll over and feign death (early harness training is great for kitty dramatics) but will walk around normally. Then attach leash and let the cat walk around (you're still indoors, mind) with it dragging behind. You should also be getting your cat comfortable with a tote, which you will take along as a safe haven when you walk.

When you're ready to begin going out, make tiny forays in the yard, just holding the leash but not directing. Always reward the cat with something yummy right after you come in and remove the harness. This will help forestall the foot-dragging when it's time to come indoors again.

Cats are more likely to walk on the homeward leg of an outing, so tote the cat to a destination (park?) and then try some walking towards home. Or if you're walking up and back on a trail, carry the cat out; walk back. Offer the tote/pick the cat up and put it in the tote every time a dog or other scary thing presents. Or don't, but once a cat has climbed you like a tree to take refuge on your head, you may wish to revisit that idea. If the cat has a dog friend, it may be that walking the two together will also be enjoyable for the cat--but you need to be able to handle them both at once. Cats tend to move along in fits and starts, with lots of sniffing and exploring along the way. And since they prefer shelter to open places, keeping them on a sidewalk/path and out of the underbrush will be an ongoing challenge.

BTW--even cats that don't want to go out benefit from leash/harness training. It's the best way to keep the animal safe while going to the vet or traveling, since otherwise cats tend to lack good handles for keeping them under control. Basically, my cats never go through the door for any reason without a harness and leash, and so have developed the notion that the door doesn't work without the application of the harness. I consider this an enhancement to their longevity.
posted by salt at 10:43 AM on October 2, 2004

I take my cat out on a leash/harness combo from time to time. He really enjoys going outside. Ultimately, the harness is just to keep him from getting away from me, and he ends up deciding where in the yard we go walking. Though most of the time he just plops down in the grass and just sniffs or watches the world go by.
posted by piskycritter at 12:14 PM on October 3, 2004

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