Long time no see! Some questions about leash training

satsumasryummy

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Hi CatSite forum members. I would appreciate some advice on leash training my kitty, Lux. I live in a small apartment building, a walkup, and just outside the front door there is a relatively busy street. Not packed with people but there are cars rolling by mostly all the time, and trucks. I was wondering how I should go about transitioning Lux into going outside. So far he's used to the leash and harness, though cautious with it on in the apartment, and runs at loud noises. The next step I was going to take was leaving my apartment door open and letting him explore the stairway area. I've left it often a couple of times and he does show interest and takes a few steps out of the door. (Today though the cart I put in front of the door to prop it open fell down and he bolted...that was a few steps backward in progress.) There are also two front doors downstairs (where the buzzer is) that are pretty unwieldy and serve as a bit of an obstacle.

I'm a little unsure as to whether it's better to let him progress on his own or to just pick him up and take him outside, or at least into the stairway. And as well if I do the latter, whether I should leave my apartment door open or closed. I was also thinking of taking him into a quiet nearby alleyway in my arms and see how that goes. Please give me your advice if you have any! He used to be an indoor/outdoor kitty and is fascinated by the outdoors. But of course on a leash and harness it's a very different story. I'd love to see him enjoying the outdoors like he used to, but a lot more safe. 
 

handsome kitty

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Is there a back door that would be quieter and safer than the front?  If loud noises startle him, the front door isn't going to work.
 

rosie1979

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I started leash training with Sneezy when I first got him by picking him up in a certain way and ever since then he goes limp when I pick him up this way and does not struggle. He does not enjoy being held but when I pick him up I sort of crook one of my fingers around his left leg while cradling his chest and he seems to understand he can't get away. So then I started opening the door wide and holding him and letting him see. And that was enough for a few weeks. Lots of treats to make it a positive experience. Then I actually walked outside with him. Always wearing his leash and harness. The one thing I did read was that we shouldn't let a cat just walk out the door. We should always carry them out so they don't just try to walk out on their own. 

I never tried to get him "used" to wearing his harness inside because the thrill of the outdoors seems to overcome him wearing his harness. So he does not like wearing a harness but when he gets outside he is distracted enough that he doesn't care. And if he starts focusing on it I just pick him up again and bring him in.

We did have an unfortunate setback where Sneezy got stung by a bee on his tail and he panicked and tangled in his leash and didn't want to go back outside again for the rest of the afternoon. That was really scary. It's NOTHING like walking my dog! I'm learning lots through this process. What I struggle with is that he wants to go outside all the time now and I just don't have time so I am trying to set a routine where I take him out at dusk so he can be a mighty bug hunter and on weekends if I have time I'll take him out with my morning coffee as well so he can watch the birds at the feeder.

I think since every cat is different, different things are going to work for different cats and their personalities.
 

tuxedoontheloos

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When I first started harness training Tuck he was very frightened of the outdoors. I enlisted a friend he was used to and we both sat outside with him for a few hours feeding him treats whenever scary things happened (cars, pedestresians, the wind....) and generally fussing over him until he forgot he was afraid. Now he's very demanding about getting his walkies.
 

mingking

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but does a walk up apartment mean you have a little yard or area at your front door? Or is it those New York style apartments with steps up and a door, then you walk up to your apartment?

If you do have a little yard of your own, I would consider buying some cheap fences and or anything that can block the sight of cars and people walking. It might help visually but sound is still a problem, of course. 
 
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satsumasryummy

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Thanks for all your responses!

I suppose it is what you would call a New York style...there are a few steps up, then there is the front door where the buzzer is, and through that is another door where the stairs to my apartment are. I'm on the second floor.

The problem with taking Lux out back is that the backyard area is just dumpsters. Additionally, my apartment is connected to the restaurant next door, and just before the door to the back area there is a door to their kitchen, which is often open and full of loud people and freaked Lux out when he saw them.

I know he is going to be scared at first and over time this will abate. But I'm trying to figure out a way that he would like better when it comes to training. I've tried taking him just outside the apartment. All I have for in front is a driveway and a cobblestone area with some treas planted in it. The driveway he runs straight into because he seems to feel safer there, it's a corner away-ish from the people walking by. He sits there for a while, pretty much the whole time we are outside if I just leave him to his devices, though from time to time he seems to relax, will stand up from sitting and brush against me or nuzzle me, and look around curiously. But he also seems to want to go back inside. He actually tried jumping over the gate in the driveway and it's taller than I am, and he sticks his face in the area between the bottom of the gate and the cement as if trying to get in. The gate leads to the back area.

Another thing I've tried is taking him onto the sidewalk. He pretty much tries to find places to hide, it seems like. It must be kind of challenging to train a cat to go outside on a harness and leash even if they used to be indoor/outdoor, because when he was indoor/outdoor he would run into people's backyards and dive into bushes and not really be out in the open in this way.

I tried taking him to a park nearby as well. I carried him part of the way and let him walk part of the way. He seemed to be having fun there, though he did keep trying to climb under the fence bordering it. But I'm not sure about the park because that was in the evening, where there weren't many people there. I think there are often kids and dogs there. 

Lux is really fascinated by the outdoors, he sits on my windowsill outside and looks so happy. The downstairs area I know is not perfectly ideal for outdoor training but I want to look at this not so much as an unsurmountable roadblock but as a challenge to overcome. I think I might try with letting him roam just outside the apartment for now. 
 
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satsumasryummy

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Also when I take him outside, he pays no attention at all to treats, and he is usually a food-motivated cat.
 

mingking

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As you describe the outside of your apartment, I'm leaning more towards taking him to the park rather than training him on the sidewalk. It does seem a hassle and dogs and kids sound scary too. But there seems to be more wildlife there and sounds like a less frightening place to train (aside from the dogs!)

I've heard evenings/dusk is a great time to bring your cat out, especially when the bugs come out and he can chase them!

What kind of leash do you have? is it those retractable ones with a button you can press to stop it from unravelling? (I hope I described that correctly.) I find that type of leash is easier to handle and to stop my cat from going under the fence and bushes. Now, he knows the fence is off limits and hardly ventures there. 
 
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satsumasryummy

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That's a good point! If either place is scary then a place with actual wildlife might be a lot more worthwhile for him. I've read suggestions before about bringing your kitty to the park in a carrier. This way they have a safe place to retreat to outside. I wonder though if this would only make it more stressful. But I'm not sure because he also seems stressed at being carried outside. Though when I carry him he wants to go down sometimes and walks for a little bit, and then I pick him up and carry him in the direction we need to go in, and repeat.

Cool! I read somewhere that it's not good to bring your cat out when it's late. Didn't make much sense to me. You make a good point.

I have an I strap harness with a bungee type leash that has a hook in it for me to put my hand in. The bungee makes it easy for me to pull him back from crevices. If he's trying to climb into one I pull gently and say no Luxy, and he gets it. Tries again but does get it for a moment and stops.
 

mingking

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The carrier idea seems interesting. Although, I believe you would need to do some prior training a home with it. So that means putting his meals inside the carrier, putting treats inside the carrier, etc. Associating all nice things in the carrier. 

I just had a funny image in my head with getting a play pen and bringing it to the park, treating it as a safe retreat for your cat. Haha! It sounds doable but I'm not sure about the effectiveness of it. It just seems less scary than the closed off tiny space of a carrier. Maybe a giant box would do... now that I think about it. A box on its side and placed against a quiet blocked off area might work.
 
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satsumasryummy

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Ha. I dunno. I think maybe the carrying and letting him walk part of the way will be the least complicated and so maybe the best way. He should just eventually get used to being carried outside. I notice that even though he seems to get nervous when things happen outside he is also noting my supportive attitude and how sweet I am to him and he is affectionate even outdoors. 
 

mingking

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That's great! I love that your cat is able to feel how supportive you are. 


Yes, I agree. Carrying him just seems easier. And like you said, overtime it won't be a big deal anymore and he'll probably walk out before you can even open the door fully! 

Maybe you can bring a favourite toy to the park and sort of distract him when he's getting scared or is hiding, since he won't take treats. 
 
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satsumasryummy

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Me too, it is a relief when he does that cause sometimes I feel like a horrible person when he gets so scared outside.

I'll try the toy. I'm wondering too how often to bring him out. I read daily routine before but it can be hard for me because of work, weather, etc. Maybe a few times a week would be easier on him too.
 

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When I take my cat out on a leash, there are times he wants to wander but other times when he just wants to sit and enjoy the day.  He sniffs the air and looks around.  BTW we have a 6ft privacy fence and he can get to the top of it.  Sometimes he sits up there and watches the birds.

You could try a pet stroller for going to and from the park.
 
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satsumasryummy

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Hmm I don't think I'd get a pet stroller. That seems like even more hassle than a carrier or makeshift play pen.
 

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Maybe on the stairs.  I use one instead of a carrier to take my cat to the vet. I was just thinking if your kitty needed to get away it would give him  a little height and not leave the cat on the ground and in the open since the sides of most strollers are mostly fabric it's like a cave.
 
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satsumasryummy

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Yeah but I think it would be better to just let him get used to being out on the ground so he isn't always having an escape.
 

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How is the leash training coming along?  Just in case you are unaware, the cats can back out of the leash.  So if your kitty becomes startled make sure you stay behind or keep the leash behind the cat.
 
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satsumasryummy

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Yes I'm aware, Lux has flopped in the air like a fish before and wiggled out. I've put the training on hold for now because I have a lot going on in June in particular, and I hurt my arm a week ago and want to let it recover before I do much cat carrying.
 
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