Caturday felid: cat on a leash!

December 31, 2011 • 5:51 am

Perhaps some readers have trained their cat to walk on a leash (if so, please comment below).  In a New York Times piece published three days ago, writer Stephanie Clifford recounts her travails trying to train Mac, her orange tabby, to walk on a leash in New York City.  Will she succeed? Read about it in her piece, Nine lives, one leash,” and watch the NYT video below. (If the video doesn’t play, watch it at the top of Clifford’s article.)

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Stephanie had the expert help of Jason Galaxy, the Cat Whisperer from the Animal Planet series, “My cat from HELL.” Galaxy worked in a cat shelter for nine years, and believe me, the guy really knows the psychology of the felid. He’s amazing.  Watch an episode or two to see how this guy can tame even the fiercest hellcats in just a few hours.

Some of Mr. Galaxy’s amusing advice for leash-training your kitteh:

We started by settling on Mac’s reward: his favorite treats, meat-flavored biscuits called Greenies. From now on, “the only time you’re ever going to give that treat is when you’re working the harness,” he said.

I also had to make sure Mac was hungry when we started each session, so he would respond to the treats. Cats will not do what you want just to please you, unlike dogs, Mr. Galaxy said. “As soon as he’s full, it’s over.”

That’s why I like cats: their priorities are higher than yours, and if you think differently, you’re just being tricked.

h/t: Grania, Matt

21 thoughts on “Caturday felid: cat on a leash!

  1. We had a cat that could walk on a leash pretty well as a kitten. We started him at 10 weeks, and were pretty consistent for a year or so. And he was pretty good. After a long hiatus though, he would pretty much just lay down and not want to move. This was better than our other cats, who freaked out for the most part when on a leash.

    This cat was trained to tolerate baths too, by constantly putting him in water as a kitten. Sometimes we’d put him in the bath with toys or in rivers on walks. As an adult, he just kind of stands there while being bathed. So that worked out pretty well.

  2. My cat walks on a leash. Sort of. He wants to go outside so badly, he will put up with it so he can go outside. There was no training involved. I put on a collar, attached a leash, took him right outside, and followed him around to wherever he wanted to go. And now, to thank me, he sits at the front door, mooing like a cow to go outside, night and day. He changes this behavior only in the middle of the night, when he sits on the pillow I’m not using, moos like a cow, while popping me on the lips with one of his paws.

  3. One of my two walks happily on a leash. It didn’t take much in the way of training, once he was used to the harness. He puts his ears back and rushes along the sidewalk like it’s the most normal thing to do. Does tend to get distracted by parked cars, hedges, and telegraph poles, though, so it takes some patience and we have only ever gone a block or two. Since it’s a bit embarrassing standing in the street with a cat on a leash who has decided to stop and sit down, though, I tend to go out only after dark.
    I tried to walk my other cat since she gets jealous and wails in the window while we’re out – but she’s too nervous and skittish, and just as we were making some progress an idiot in a nearby apartment block let off a firework. That was the end of that experiment.
    So, usually we all play in the yard instead.

  4. My cat, Lloyd, walks on a leash. I didn’t train him, though. He was three years old when I found him at a shelter, so I don’t know if his previous owner trained him or if he’s just a natural. He seems to love it – provided there are no garden hoses around. (Big dogs? No problem. Fireworks? No problem. Fighter planes overhead? No problem. Garden hoses? GETMEOUTTAHERE!!!!) He gets to nibble on the grass and chase crickets.

  5. All my cats (Keeshu, Fifi, and Merlyn) can walk on a leash, but the only time we actually use a leash anymore is if we go to the forest preserves, where they are required. Merlyn wears a harness, because he’s still young and rambunctious, but the other two are fine with normal break-away collars.

    At home, we go for walks out front on a daily basis, without a leash. They come when called or whistled for, no cat whisperer needed.

    I was amazed at first, but the spousal unit has always done this with her cats, and we started with Keeshu and Bryxie 14 years ago and have never looked back.

    1. I am amazed as well. You really need to have Debra write down her secrets! (Methinks she’s the cat whisperer…)

  6. I’m waiting for the video ads to stop but in the meantime – I’m hoping they mean harness, not a leash. Only dog’s necks are strong enough to support a leash. Cats must have something around their midsection as well.

    I adopted Ives from the shelter where I worked at 2 years old, and I simply spent time training him indoors to get used to the leash, and now he loves it. He goes crazy when I ask him “do you want to go for a walk”?

    It’s wholly different from walking a dog, but then again most people these days have such poorly trained dogs that it’s a wash with the comparison.

    Walking cats or having a netted back yard is so much better than allowing them free rein outdoors. Allows exercise while keeping them “indoor only” cats. You’ll save a fortune in vet bills.

  7. My last cat did alright on a harness, but it wasn’t like walking a dog. It was more like me following my cat randomly meander. And when he got spooked by the sound of a diesel engine, he’d dash for the shrubbery around houses, with me running to keep up lest I lose him.

    So, a question of etiquette. Polite dog walkers clean up after their dogs, but when your cat on a leash digs a hole and burys their poo while you are standing there, what should one do? Dig it up? It only happened once but I do wonder…

    1. That’s just what our cats do, they meander. My cat heads for our side or back porches when they are scared, I consider that a good thing, lest they ever get out on their own.

      The law says we must pick up after our pets, even if it’s on our own property. I never understood dog owners allowing their pets to do so on someone else’s lawn, though. It’s not their property, therefore it’s trespassing. Why can’t they do it on their own lawns?

  8. Not all cats need a leash to be led around the neighborhood. I was surprised to discover that there are three cats within a block of me who follow their humans around when they go for walks. One actually begs (well, politely insists) at the door for his human to go on a walk and be followed. The other two follow their humans at a pace or two behind when they walk their dogs. (Dogs on leashes, of course, with the unleashed cat following the human.)

  9. My cat Rocky trained me to walk him on a leash, and my other cat Paddy caught on and will walk on a leash as well. Both are terrible scaredy-cats, though, and at home in the suburbs we only walk late in the evening when cars passing by are few — and even then, I have to hold a cat until the car goes by. (I can only walk one at a time.) We wander from bush to bush along the block; each one needs to be thoroughly sniffed.

    I sometimes walk the cats during the day at our vacation house in the mountains, but that’s a dicey proposition; they can get VERY upset by smells up there. Deer smells in particular are very scary to Rocky. Both cats have seen (and smelled) deer through the windows; they fascinate Paddy and terrify Rocky.

    Still, waving a harness about gets them excited for a walk.

  10. I was surprised to discover that there are three cats within a block of me who follow their humans around when they go for walks.

    My two old cats did that.

    Every night at sundown, when the weather was OK, we would go for a walk. Around the yard and down the driveway and back.

    They really liked it and would get upset if it didn’t happen.

    1. That is so cute 🙂

      I still don’t understand cat behavior enough to get why they do that. Is it like a kitten following its mother around? I know that with dogs much of the behavior we like is juvenile behavior (isn’t there a fancy word for that?). I wonder how true that is for cats?

  11. Perhaps some readers have trained their cat to walk on a leash (if so, please comment below).

    Paging Ben Goren . . .

  12. Late to the party, as always, but I have to add our Lucy as a leash-walking cat. When we lived in a quieter area we routinely walked her to the beautiful grounds of Government House in Victoria, BC, where she enjoyed the rose garden and other lovely areas. The dogs would occasionally look a bit miffed at the sight of her but Lucy would not even give them a second glance.

    As we had to walk down some street with occasional traffic, we taught her to crouch down when a car was going by. She still does that now, although most of her walking now is done in the backyard, still on a leash though. She’s our Desperate Housecat with the walks being a treat.

    I have to admit I really enjoy the weird looks people give us, especially when we walk her at the ferry terminal. She travels with us frequently since we have not been able to leave her in the care of others, seeing as she hates pretty much everyone other than the immediate family. We have not been on a trip/holiday as a family (without Lucy) since 2006 and we probably won’t for a long time yet.

    All hail Lucy.

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