How to leash and harness train a cat. Part 1.
Here's a topic I've been meaning to write about for weeks.
I get a lot of people who come up to me and express their surprise that Diamond is so willing to stay calmly on his harness and lead. They often tell me that they tried to leash-train their cat, but that it didn't work.
Leash and harness training a cat isn't that much harder than training a dog, it just takes longer and more patience. Also, while it is possible to train a dog with both a positibve and negative rewards system, in my own experience cats only seem to accept training with the positive rewards system. You can put a collar and lead onto a dog and the dog will accept it more quickly, I believe dogs have been with us longer and have had more time to get aquainted with the lead -- I think -- and that's why cat's don't automatically aclimate to the lead. Most people put the lead on their cat and give up in dismay after the first or second time after their cat throws a tantrum.
Diamond was physically in a harness when I adopted him, and seemed oblivious to its presence. He was only nine months old, so I must assume that he had been harness-trained long before he'd been put up for adoption. But I have personally trained other cats to accept harnesses and leads before Diamond.
The first point is that if at all possible, it is important to begin harness training when the kitten is as young as possible. The second point is that a collar is okay for a cat if you don't intend to leash-train the cat at all, but if you are, a harness with the lead is better for the cat, ergonomically. If you have an older cat it's okay and it is still possible to train him or her to accept a harness and lead, it's just going to take longer.
First, put a collar on the kitten or cat, if you haven't done so already. It needs to be the non-breakaway kind, so that the cat will get used to bieng ina device it can't get out of any time it wants to. If your cat's already used to a collar, you're ready to begin the real fun. ;)
First, I highly recommend that you bring the cat with you to the pet store or vet's office when choosing his or her first harness. This way a professional can help you choose the precise right size for your cat, and show you exactly how the harness is supposed to go onto the cat's body. Remember: You should always be able to fit two fingers in between the neck strap and the body strap, to allow for comfortable breathing, movement, and of course growth.