want to turn heads
want to induce shock and awe
want to become a legend in your neighborhood
Harness train your cat.
Seriously, almost every time I take Capo out for a walk, someone will stop and ask incredulously, “Is that a cat???” I answer in the affirmative and then they say, “Well! I’ve never seen a cat on a leash before!”
We’re kind of a big deal.
Here’s where the idea started: I live in a large apartment complex, so letting my cat run around outside is not only dangerous but against our landlord’s policies.
However, I still wanted to be able to take her outside for a change of scenery now and then. After all, a bored cat is a destructive cat. Plus, I know this sounds a little silly, but I felt like I would be depriving my cat if she didn’t get to climb trees and feel the grass beneath her paws.
So, I went online and started reading about harness training. Then I went to Petsmart and bought supplies.
I followed the advice I read online and believe it or not, it wasn’t that hard.
Keeping your cat off the table is hard. Getting her to stop kneading the couch is just about impossible. But harness training is do-able if you follow these steps:
1. Patience, young grasshopper
Start by just laying the harness and leash around the house, perhaps next to her bed or her food. Give her a few days to sniff it and bat it around. After she has determined the harness is not a threat…
2. Figure the contraption out
Figure the harness out beforehand, perhaps practicing on a stuffed animal. There will be no time for fiddling around once you decide to put it on her.
3. Put the harness on her without the leash
NOTE: do this as quickly as possible! Shower her with treats when she lets you snap it on. Pet her and tell her what a good girl she is. She will still hate you, but the treats will help her feelings.
Take it off after about 15 minutes. Shower her with treats and praise again.
Do this several times a day for a few days.
[If your cat seems annoyed or sways her back like she’s carrying 5,000 lbs, this is normal. But if she seems truly distressed, even after a few tries, maybe this isn’t the best idea. In this case, admit defeat, find your receipt, and trade the harness in for a cat toy. There’s no need to torture a distressed cat. And the truth is, some cats will just never warm up to the harness.]
4. Add the leash
Repeat step three, but this time, attach the leash, holding one end and follow her around. Be sure to keep the leash off the ground or your cat may think the leash is a toy.
5. The great outdoors
With the harness and leash attached, carry your cat outside, just barely outside your front door. Follow her where she wants to go. If she sits perfectly still, that’s okay too. Give her time to warm up to the outdoors.
- Watch for cars and dogs. Even in the distance, they may still scare your kitty.
- Cats don’t like open spaces. They like to have hiding spots close by.
- If you live in the city, be aware of tornado siren tests and trash pickup day. Both will ruin an outdoor play session.
Yes, it took some work and determination on my part, but harness training was totally worth it! When Capo is meowing endlessly and misbehaving, I take her for a short excursion outside (15-30 minutes) and she returns a tired, happy cat.
Give harness training a try and I promise you will be the envy of your cat-owning friends, plus your cat will love the change of scenery.