Walking a cat on a leash is no easy trick

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press - Skeezix takes a walk in Castro Valley, California, with owner Karen Nichols. Training a cat to accept a leash takes patience and dedication, Nichols says.

Just about everyone has seen a dog being walked around the neighborhood, but what about a cat? Karen Nichols likes to stroll through her California neighborhood on a nice day with her cat Skeezix on a leash.

Some cats behave badly because they’re bored, experts say. One way to eliminate the boredom is to get cats outside and involved in activities.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press) - Karen Nichols pets Skeezix before a walk through their neighborhood. “You must be patient and devote time to the training every day, but if it’s apparent after a week or so that your cat detests it, you need to give it up,” she says.

“You must be patient and devote time to the training every day,” Nichols said. Still, some cats will never like it. If that’s the case, you probably need to give up your dream of strolling with your feline.

The United States is home to more than 74 million pet cats, according to the American Pet Products Association. Although most probably have never been on a leash, every cat should be comfortable on a leash, in a carrier and traveling in a car, Nichols said.

Training a cat involves patience, repetition and food or treats while getting it used to wearing a snug harness, being leashed and walking. The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have instructions on their Web sites.

Whether a cat is ready for a walk depends on its personality. Friendly, curious, mellow and confident cats are good candidates, while scaredy-cats are usually happier to stay inside, said Nancy Peterson, the Humane Society’s cat programs manager and a registered veterinarian technician.

Unlike dogs, cats should be kept on a tight leash. With a longer lead — anything more than six feet — a frightened cat might shimmy under a car, jump over a fence or dive around a corner.

“You always want your cat in sight and within grabbing distance,” Peterson said.

JaneA Kelley, a cat owner in Maine, said she gave her cat Siouxsie leash training because she wanted to see if the cat would be interested. “I was surprised to find out that she was actually pretty into it,” she said.

Whether or not a cat can go for a walk, teaching it to wear a harness is a good idea, said Lisa-Maria Padilla, who breeds cats in Reston.

“It’s not just to go to the vet. It increases the cat’s sensory experiences and enriches the cat,” Padilla said. “It makes it safer when we have company and easier to get the cat in case of emergency. The cat becomes more portable.”

Ultimately, though, the decision to walk a cat is up to the owner — and, of course, the cat.

— Associated Press

 
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