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April 2001


by (Livin' La Vida) Mocha


English Translation:

If you think a cat can't be leashed trained, you are wrong. This month we will run through the first 3 steps of the 7 needed to train kitty. Next month, we will follow up with the conclusion of our training.

1. Condition kitty to a reward marker. The best way to convince kitty to perform is through her stomach. A reward marker is a sound or word that tells kitty she has just earned a treat reward. A commonly used device by trainers is called "the clicker". This popular choice makes a very distinctive sound and is not easily confused with anything else we regularly do or say. First start by teaching kitty that the CLICK! means a tasty treat every time she hears it. You'll want to have a large supply of very tasty kitty treats handy. CLICK! and feed kitty a treat, then repeat. Keep doing this until you see kitty start to alert and look for her treat at the sound of the clicker.

2. Acclimate kitty to the harness (indoors). Some cat owners make the tactical error of pouring their cat into a harness, snapping on the leash, and trying to take kitty for a "drag". Big mistake! You can avoid this by giving kitty a chance to become accustomed to the harness before trying to take her for a walk. Show her the harness. When she sniffs it, CLICK! and feed her a treat. This will help her think the harness is a good thing. Keep repeating until she appears to sniff the harness on purpose in order to win CLICK! treats. Now touch her with it gently and CLICK! and treat. Do this several times so she associates the feel of the harness against her fur as being a good thing. Now drape it over her back, CLICK! and treat. Next either encourage her to step into the harness or gently lift a paw and place it through the leg opening. CLICK! and treat. Repeat. Continue this gradual process with lots of CLICKS! and treats at each step until she is comfortable with the process of putting her harness on. Depending on kitty's willingness, you may accomplish all of this in one session, or it may take several days -- or even weeks. So, it is best to kep the sessions short. Your training will progress much more quickly if she is motivated to keep working with you in order to get her to-die-for favorite treats.

3. Teach kitty to walk with you (indoors). While you are desensitizing kitty to her harness, you can concurrently (but in separate training sessions) teach her to walk with you. If you have her favorite treats in your hand and start to walk away, she is quite likely to follow you. CLICK! and treat. You are beginning to teach her that walking with you is a very rewardable behavior. Take a few more steps. If she follows again CLICK! and treat. Now take a few more steps and as she is moving to folow you, say "Let's walk!". Then CLICK! and treat. By using the verbal cue while she is doing the behavior, you are teaching her what the words mean and will eventually be able to elicit the behavior of walking by using the same words. Do this exercise several times a day, in short sessions - maybe a half a dozen repetitions each time. Gradually lengthen the distance before she gets her CLICK! and treat. As soon as she is comfortable wearing her harness, do this exercise sometimes when her harness is on as well (but no leash).

Come back next month for the leash acclimation, and training kitty to heel!