Tuesday 17 August 2021

Amusing but disastrous attempts to get cats to walk on a leash

There is a funny side to trying to get your cat to walk on a leash and there's a disastrous side to it because it can be so damn stressful for the owner; as one of the ladies in the video makes clear. Perhaps an important aspect of this video is that it shows cats being put in a harness and taken for a walk for the first time. Things change.

Bushwah an F1 male Chausie on a leash. Photo: Helmi Flick.
Bushwah an F1 male Chausie on a leash. Photo: Helmi Flick.

These are typical reactions. One guy in the video does take his cat for a walk. He's a 'cat-man'. He is completely correct in saying that if you want to get a cat to do something you have to trick them into believing that they want to do it. You can't force a cat to do something.

It takes 2 women to get this harness on their cat
It takes 2 women to get this harness on their cat. Screenshot.

But he is very patient and he has got his cat to walk on a lead through that patience. And that is the point, domestic cats will get used to a lead if you are patient enough. The initial reaction is rejection both in attaching the lead to them and then trying to walk on the lead.

The whole thing can be fraught with difficulties and indeed dangers. In the video you see the black and white cat trying to get out of the harness. They are obviously outside the home. If the cat succeeds, he or she may run away in terror. That can present some really big issues for a cat owner. This is a put off to trying to take your cat for a walk on a lead.

Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

What if a dog arrives and your cat panics and breaks free of the lead and disappears? These are the reasons why people don't take their cats for a walk on a lead even though it is really an excellent idea especially for full-time indoor cats. It gets them out safely; great stimulation but great stress for the caregiver.

Perhaps the biggest barrier with trying to get your cat to walk on a leash is that they tend to flop to the ground as if paralysed. This is one of the great mysteries of the feline world. Whereas dogs love to be taken out on a lead, cats tend to rollover, belly-up and have to be dragged along.

Thundershirt. Pic in public domain.

I don't think that I have seen a satisfactory reason for this feline response. I have proposed that it is very similar to the response that cats have to the cat product called the 'Thundershirt' (see above) which you can buy online. It is a harness-like product which envelopes the cat or dog and calms them. It does so by the pressure on their bodies. It is effective but I don't recall anybody explaining why! Clearly pressure on the body calms a cat and dog. In the case of a cat, it calms them so much they become almost comatose and paralysed.

Although individual cats respond in different ways. Some will accept the harness much more readily than others. This paralysis response is the initial response. They get used to it and they stop falling over and they start walking. And then gradually, little by little, you will end up taking your cat for a walk on a leash. You just have to go through these barriers.

There is an alternative to the leash, which is the cat stroller. This is also an unusual product. I have both a harness and they cat stroller in my home. I like them both. Anything that helps to make a cat's life more enjoyable through new experiences and stimulation should be the objective of all cat caregivers.

Culkin walking his cat in a stroller. Photo: Reddit.
Culkin walking his cat in a stroller. Photo: Reddit.

The only problem with the cat stroller is getting the cat into it! It's a bit like getting them into a cat carrier when taken them to a vet. Although this will vary tremendously because cats should learn to enjoy being in the cat stroller and when that happens, they will not object to being put inside. At least, that's the theory. 


Incidentally, cat strollers are great ways to meet people because passers-by invariably want to talk about it. They initially see a baby in a pram and then in the Eureka moment that follows they see the cat which prompts spontaneous conversation.

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