Why I’m Leash-Training My Cat

Crazy Cat Lady: Level Eleventy

"Hahaha, look at that cat on a leash!"

“Hahaha, look at that cat on a leash!”

Let me start out by saying I did not set out with the intention of being “The Crazy Cat Lady”, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Vash (short for Vashta Nerada) is currently 10 months old. He’s almost his full adult size, but still thinks he’s a teeny kitten and can careen all over my teeny 2/1 apartment. He’s got boundless amounts of energy that often manifest in destructive ways. I’ve bought, constructed, created and invented new and interesting toys for him to amuse himself with. I’m limited by both my budget and the fact that I rent an apartment, so there’s only so much building I can do.

He would make a great indoor/outdoor cat, but my apartment complex isn’t the safest environment for me to let him outside and feel comfortable that he won’t be run over or abused by a neighbor. Plus he has very few boundaries, so he’s likely to just wander into someone else’s apartment unannounced. “HELLO!”

I’d finally gotten fed up with his shenanigans one afternoon and bought him a cat harness and a simple lightweight leash. In my online research on how to best “wear him out”, I’d briefly run across cat leash training but dismissed it as pretty ridiculous. However, things had gotten to the point where I didn’t care how silly I/we looked. I just wanted him to SETTLE DOWN.

I snapped the harness and leash on him, scooped him up and took him outside and downstairs behind my apartment building where there’s almost no foot traffic. I set him down in the grass and waited to see what he would do.

At first, he crouched and stared. I regularly let both cats out on my balcony/porch, so he’s used to the smells outside. But being down in the dirt, grass and pine needles was a totally new experience for him. Within a few minutes, he was poking around into bushes, scratching pine trees and rolling in the dirt like a dog. I needed to run to the store to pick up cat food anyway, so I scooped him up, got my purse and keys and plopped him in the car with me.

Kitteh Joyride

Kitteh Joyride

I took him to Petco because they allow you to bring your pets in and they’re the closest place I can get Blue Buffalo cat food. (Product placement! Can I get a sponsor??!) Maybe if I fed him the cheap food, he’d get fat and lazy but look at that lustrous SHINE!

Needless to say, he was a rockstar in the store. He rode on my shoulder for a few minutes and then wanted to get down and explore. He even walked with me a little bit, let a little girl pet him and generally was a huge hit. Afterward, I rode him around in the car with me to play Ingress for a bit and when we got home, he SACKED OUT. Tired kitteh FTW!

So now I’ve taken him out a couple times. My son and I took him to the park with us this past weekend. There were a few laughs, but I let him roam around in the bushes and brambles a bit and he did just fine.

"SQUIRREL!"

“SQUIRREL!”

So while it may look odd and eccentric to have a cat outside on a leash, I feel like I’m being responsible for his well-being and also allowing him to get his little senses overstimulated and fry his indoor-kitteh brain a bit so he won’t IRRITATE THE HELL OUT OF ME ALL THE TIME. Win-win!

There’s a great article here about teaching your cat to accept a harness and leash. This is probably the best write-up I’ve found, though just about every Google result gives the same basic steps. You can’t expect a cat to trot alongside you the way a dog will, but you can teach them to slink and meander along with you without freaking out. The big bonus is that Vash loves it. He gets to “roam” outside and take the world in a bit, and I get some peace of mind.

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3 Responses to Why I’m Leash-Training My Cat

  1. Dydan Waters says:

    I am a fellow Crazy Cat Lady who lives in a tiny 1/1 apartment with 3 cats. And a boyfriend. The cats require less maintenance.

    Kudos to you for leash training! I think my fat lazy overlords would have mental breakdowns if I made them go outside. I live in a dead end with a lot of trees and bushes, so there is a pretty sizable feral cat population dwelling just under my balcony. I’ve seen them tear into a possum’s ass for wandering in the wrong area, so I can only imagine what hardened homeless kitties would do to mine. They can’t even hunt down a cockroach in this joint!

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  2. Eva says:

    I wish I could bring mine around to this. I’ve tried it before and he was stiff with the indignity of it all. STIFF.

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    • tgnp says:

      I think the trick is to put it on them and just leave it while they’re inside. They’ll eventually figure out that they actually CAN move.

      Dignity, on the other hand…

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