by (Livin' La Vida) Mocha
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.
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.
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
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!