Before you start…
You’ve decided you want to let your kitty feel the fresh air in their fur, but it’s too dangerous to let them out on their own and you don’t have a garden or it’s too impractical to cat proof it… the solution? Harness train your fur baby and take them for a walk! Or – more realistically – let them take you for a walk!
If you decide to do this, and you live near any other humans, be mindful that you will get stared at! People will think you are some kind of nutcase, so one of the things you need to have in preparation for this is a thick skin!
Choosing your equipment
After you’ve decided you don’t mind being laughed and/or stared at, the next thing you need to consider is the type of harness or jacket you wish to buy and the type of leash too.
Harnesses come in two basic types: Straps and Jackets. As long as you buy good quality products, both are fine to use, it really comes down to personal preference. We actually have both, as modelled by our very own Lula We find the jacket is quite a bit easier to get on than the straps, and also if you have more than one cat sharing the jacket, you can adjust the size easily using the velcro; with a strappy one, it’s a lot more fiddly to adjust the sizing. You can find jackets for sale on our store here.
Whichever type of harness you use, make sure it is secured sufficiently so there’s no room for your kitty to wriggle out, but don’t make it so tight that they can’t breathe! Make sure you can fit two fingers between the jacket or the straps and your kitty.
Leashes: again the type of leash is down to personal preference – you can get both fixed and extendable leashes. We have a small extendable dog leash which gives our kitties a bit of freedom should they find a nice smell to follow
Now for the good bit!
You’ve bought your equipment, you bring it home, you manage to get it on your kitty with only light-medium scratch marks (don’t worry – the scars will fade in time!)…. you open the door ready to greet the world when …. nothing!!! Your kitty is laying on the floor, and all of a sudden has gone from graceful feline to a lump of rock! Moreover, a lump of rock that just will not budge, no matter how much you try to show them how nice the fresh air is! Eeek! What now?
Patience is the key…. Some kitties may take to their harness and leash straight away, many will not. Most should do with a lot of time and patience though!
Start off with small steps. Indoors. Put the harness or jacket on them and give them a treat or two. Leave it on for only a few minutes. Repeat a few times during the day and for the following days, leaving it on for a bit longer each time. Play with your kitty’s favourite toy to distract their attention from the harness/jacket so they get used to moving around with it on.
Once you feel they’re comfortable with the harness or jacket and they’re moving around freely, try attaching the leash and repeat the whole thing. Start off with just a few minutes a few times a day and build up over a few days.
Things going well? Now you can try going outside. Remember though, that the world is a much scarier place for a little kitty than for a big human and sights & sounds you take for granted might be quite scary for your cat! So when you first go outside, restrict your walk to your own garden if you can, or somewhere quiet at least. Build things up as before, start off by doing only a few minutes that you can build up over time
Follow these steps and we’re sure you will be successful! Our Lula is not the easiest cat to train… so if she can do it, most can! She happily trots around the garden and the field now taking our mummy for a walk!
But remember there are some kitties who just are not comfortable going outside and who don’t want to go for a walk, so don’t try and force the situation – if they’re happy being indoor kitties, then that’s what they need to be!
Good luck to you!