Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Leash-training your cat (It might be really easy)

Popoki the cat outside on her leash
Ever since I brought Popoki the cat home from the shelter in October, she's had one really annoying habit: Every time I head out the door, she tries to come along. Since she's declawed, she simply cannot go outside without direct supervision. But I grew tired of playing a form of cat defense every time I wanted to go somewhere. I was trying to protect her, but the whole thing was hard on everyone's nerves.

The solution: Cat leash training.

Popoki the cat and Sinead the Boston terrier

People who have dogs know all about using a leash. It's a tether that hooks a pet right to your side, so you can supervise everything that meets your pet, along with everything your pet is planning to do. When dogs are little or in unfamiliar spaces, leashes can be lifesavers.

Same goes for cats. While Popoki would never be able to defend herself against an attacker since she has no claws, if I have her leashed to me, I can make sure that nothing charges her. And, when Popoki is on a leash, she can't do any of the bad stuff cats might be prone to do outside (like killing birds, killing bees, or running into traffic). I'll be there to stop her.

Popoki the cat on the deck

Typically, training a cat to use a leash is a multi-step process that involves:
  1. Allowing the cat to get used to the harness
  2. Asking the cat to wear the harness while inside and dragging the leash
  3. Going outside for brief moments with harness and leash
  4. Slowly allowing the cat to amble about on the leash
I've used this method before (with varying success) on other cats that I thought might enjoy the outdoors. Popoki got to skip all of that. I put her on the harness and leash, held the door open wide, and out she marched. She stayed out there for a good hour or so, loving the great spring weather.

Popoki the cat in the grass on her leash

We do have a bit of training to do, as Popoki is stubborn and doesn't quite believe that I run the leash. She wants to go places in the yard that I'd like her to avoid (like the space beneath the deck), and she doesn't respond to a gentle pull to switch directions. Also, she can get a little freaked out when she turns around and sees the leash. I think she forgets she's attached to something.

But, I'm happy to report that this method will allow her to get some exercise in the great outdoors. That seems to be what she really wants.

Next step: Catio! That's right. The husband is building Popoki an enclosure attached to my writing studio, so she can get out and about in the sunshine without a leash. More on that soon!

Any of you readers use leashes with cats? Lemme know in the comments!


  1. We know lots of kitties who walk on a leash but I'll probably never get to try it. It looks interesting though!

  2. Yay for Popoki! It sounds like she's going to be a pro harness and leash user soon. :)

    How exciting about the catio. We can hardly wait to hear more!