Is That a Rat on the End of that Leash?
If you've got a housebound indoor cat, you may wonder what it would be like to give her a taste of the outdoors.
Most who wonder that will never take action. They assume that walking a cat on a leash is just nuts. But a few will give it a try, and a small percentage of those will incorporate a walk into their cat's daily exercise regime.
In the case of Court Hassinger, his cat Radar (in photo above) took to a leash almost immediately and they enjoy walks together across Manhattan's Upper West Side and Central Park. He gets a lot of double takes, and has even been asked, "Is that a rat on the end of that leash?"
You, too, can raise a few eyebrows in your neighborhood by taking your cat for walks. Here are some helpful hints:
10 Tips for Training Your Cat on a Harness
- First, evaluate your cat. Is your cat outgoing and sufficiently extroverted to tolerate the sights, sounds and smells outside of your home? Shy and introverted cats are not good prospects for leash training. Breeds that are more likely to tolerate leash training include the Abyssinian, Maine Coon and Manx, but your local shelter can also help you identify adoptable cats who have exhibited personality traits that suggest that they're good candidates for leash training.
- Don't attempt if you don't have medical insurance. Cat scratches can be hella nasty and can require hospitalization.
- The fit of your cat's harness should be snug but not restrict the cat's range of motion. You should be able to slip a finger between the harness and your cat with a tiny bit of wiggle room. Too much wiggle room and your cat can wriggle right out of the harness.
I don't recommend the type of inexpensive harness that's made out of the same material as your leash. It's the easiest to wriggle out of and the most difficult for your cat to become accustomed to wearing. Try a Puppia harness (right) or similar style for the best results.
- Practice leash training indoors before taking the show outside.
- It's natural for your cat to do the "snake slither" when you put a harness on her. If, after a dozen attempts, she never removes her belly from the ground, give it up. She's not a good candidate for leash training.
- Young cats are easier to train than senior cats. Don't stress your senior cat by forcing leash training on him.
- Never take your cat anywhere outside the home without ID tags.
- At first, it's easier and safer to have a friend or family member accompany you on your training walks. In the event that your cat wriggles free and escapes, she'll be easier to corral if another person is helping.
- For the first couple of weeks, limit your outdoors exposure to your yard and nearby homes. When she becomes comfortable with your yard, expand the perimeter.
- If your cat hates the harness, consider a pet stroller instead.
Walking your cat on a leash can be a rewarding and bonding experience for you both. And for you single guys, there's not a cat lady alive who could resist a man with a cat on a leash!
[PHOTOS: New York Times]