Getting Nathan and Winnie comfortable with a harness and lead

Getting Nathan & Winnie
Comfortable with a Harness and Lead

Why do Nathan & Winnie need to walk on leads – whats the point?

In the past Rian and I had never owned cats. Both of us grew up with dogs as family pets and I think this really shaped our expectations and the way Nathan and Winnie have been brought up. Before we found our little Nathan in 2017, we had been toying with the idea of rescuing a kitten. When discussing this, one statement from Rian sticks in my mind; he said “I’ve never owned a cat before so I think I’m just going to treat it like a dog”. He wasn’t wrong…

It was a tortuous 5 weeks from the time we decided to adopt Nath till the time we could take her home – our little girl was still dependent on her mother and needed to reach 1kg to be desexed, as per the RSPCA policy. Once getting her home however she immediately claimed our place as her own. She was with us always! It was therefore early on that we decided if she wanted to be with us 24-7, we should bring her out and about also. So began our attempt at training baby Nathan to walk on a lead.

Nathan and Winnie beach cats on leads

Nathan vs the leash

Rian and I are both avid beach goers. The beaches of Elliott Heads are incredibly beautiful, with their perfect white sands and crystal clear, warm waters. The region was often quite secluded and such an expansive area that we could easily separate ourselves from dogs and people – a perfect area for kitty training! We thought it would be a dream to bring her with us to enjoy this lifestyle on a regular basis.

We kept Nathan home for the first few weeks after getting her until her vaccinations were complete. In the meantime, we decided to start harness training her, by having her wear it around the house for a few hours at a time. She took to it like a natural and never seemed bothered by the harness – we were relieved, “this will be easy” we thought – Wrong!

The problem with Nath was never the harness, it was the lead. Nathan the beach cat jumping in the sandNath would run around with the harness on, no problem, but the moment we attached a lead, Nathan refused to walk normally. She would constantly fight the lead, pulling against it and often refuse to walk at all. Nothing we tried would snap her out of it. Perhaps we are going to have our work cut out for us after all. Regardless, we decided to take her to the beach and see how she goes.

Once at the beach we walked her well away from people and dogs, and placed her down on the sand. The lead was attached and true-to-form, Nath was having her little attack – completely refusing to move. This went on for about 15 minutes. We would call her and then carry her for a bit, place her down again, encourage her to walk and even offer her food – all to no avail. It was then, while she laid down, we took her off the lead. We were very cautious and a bit anxious, please don’t run away Nath! We walked 10 or so meters and called her. To our surprise she jumped up, her little tail high in the air and sprinted over to us rubbing her little face and body on our legs while taking in her surroundings – our normal little Nath had returned! We continued our walk another 200 metres to a quiet section of the beach with Nathan following along closely – no lead necessary. She followed us everywhere, came when called and even joined us in the water for her first swim – but that is a topic for another blog 🙂

From this day, we almost never use a lead on Nathan. She is amazingly obedient (without any real training) and so relaxed off the lead, that unless we are near a road or somewhere where she may be in danger, we are very happy to let her walk on her own. It’s been kind of a reverse process with Nath – she started by being perfect off the lead from 12 weeks old, and we have had to gradually get her used to occasionally being on the lead – which is still a work in progress to this day.

The curious case of Winnie’s harness paralysis

With Winnie, we didn’t quite know what to expect. We knew Nathan was a rarity and Winnie has such a different personality. Winnie, although liking to be around us, is completely full of energy – every moment is an opportunity to play. She is at it non-stop until her tied little eyes kick in at about 9pm, where she has a little rest before getting back to play at 4am. Although we didn’t think Winnie would be into swimming, it goes without saying, we wanted her to experience the same lifestyle as Nathan – exploring the great outdoors with her big sister.

Winnie the beach cat on a lead sitting on a lounge chair at homeWe started by following the same process as Nath – putting a harness on for a few weeks leading up to our first outing. This was a problem. The minute the harness went on our little Winnie she would instantly collapse and refuse to move anymore then a stretch out with her front legs. The look on her little face was so sad it tore our hearts out. Nothing we did seemed to make this better. We couldn’t even entice her to stand up with food! We tried distracting her with her toys (as this is her absolute passion in life), still no cure. We weren’t sure how she was going to go at the beach, but we were hopeful – after all we had been surprised by Nath in the past in more ways then one, so decided to give Winnie a shot.

We didn’t have access to the beautiful Elliot Heads Beach, so we took the girls to Tugun Beach on the Gold Coast. Just like we did with Nath, once arriving at the beach we carried the girls across the sand and away from anything dangerous. We put Nath down (no lead necessary) and then did the same with Winnie, lead attached. Her eyes never left Nath for a moment. To our surprise, in the new environment, Winnie’s paralysis was completely resolved. It’s as if she forgot all about her hate for the harness and was more interested in the new sights and smells, as well as keeping up with Nath. She was perfect on the lead here. She came when called, walked/ran beside us and never tried to run away – like a perfectly trained dog! We couldn’t believe our eyes!

This has continued ever since – she is actually so good that when at Elliot Heads Beach (a place that is safe and familiar) we take her off the lead completely. She is just as good as Nath in this setting.

So why is Nath off in the lead in our videos & Winnie remains on?

When on the Gold Coast beaches (where we now live) or in parks we take them to regularly, we keep Winnie on a lead (despite Nathan being off the lead). This is really due to the way each of them reacts to being scared. On a few occasions when a dog or another person has unexpectedly appeared, Winnie gets spooked and tries to run as a reflex. This is in contrast to Nath who either jumps up into our arms to be carried or crouches down behind us. As a result we trust Nathan will remain with us under all circumstances – she has proven this for a year and a half. With Winnie on the other hand, anytime we are close to a bush or road we prefer to leave her on the lead. We generally don’t hold the lead however, we just let it drag a few metres behind her as she runs around as an added safety measure. Thankfully we have not yet had to use it!

Two beach cats soaked in water after a swim in the water

 

Tips for training your cat to walk on a lead and in public

As we are new cat owners, we aren’t sure whether we have just been really lucky or our techniques are actually effective. We did discuss the best approach with the RSPCA when adopting Nathan, and got some great tips. We also googled an awful lot to see what had been successful for others – I have listed a few of the sites we used below. What is clear however is cats absolutely have a mind of their own and nothing you do will convince them otherwise. You therefore need to be patient, encourage them and give lots of love. We found putting the harness on for a few weeks to get them used to it seemed to help (especially with Nathan). Trying to distract them once its on with play or encouraging them to move for food was also useful. I think consistency and persistence is probably the most important thing. Its important for your cats to see this as “normal”, and therefore not have an adverse reaction to the harness or lead being put on.

This is our story. We hope you enjoyed reading it and found it somewhat useful. Let us know your experience.

Don’t forget to join Nath and Winnie’s Wolfpack by subscribing.

Also, we have launched a Youtube Channel for Nathan and Winnie! It will include more information and stories about our little girls – please check it out!

Some useful links:
Train your cat to walk on a leash
Cat harness and leash training
Video: How to teach a cat to walk on a leash

Love Nathan, Winnie and family.

Why do Nathan & Winnie need to walk on leads – whats the point?

In the past Rian and I had never owned cats. Both of us grew up with dogs as family pets and I think this really shaped the expectations and the way Nathan and Winnie have been brought up. Before we found our little Nathan in 2017, we had been toying with the idea of rescuing a kitten. When discussing this, one statement from Rian sticks in my mind; he said “I’ve never owned a cat before so I think I’m just going to treat it like a dog”. He wasn’t wrong…

It was a tortuous 5 weeks from the time we decided to adopt Nath till the time we could take her home – our little girl was still dependent on her mother and needed to reach 1kg to be desexed, as per the RSPCA policy. Once getting her home however she immediately claimed our place as her own. She was with us always! It was therefore early on that we decided if she wanted to be with us 24-7, we should bring her out and about also. So began our attempt at training baby Nathan to walk on a lead.

Nathan and Winnie beach cats on leads

Nathan vs the lead

Rian and I are both avid beach goers. The beaches of Elliott Heads are incredibly beautiful, with their perfect white sands and crystal clear, warm waters. The region was often quite secluded and such an expansive area that we could easily separate ourselves from dogs and people – a perfect area for kitty training! We thought it would be a dream to bring her with us to enjoy this lifestyle on a regular basis.

We kept Nathan home for the first few weeks after getting her until her vaccinations were complete. In the meantime, we decided to start harness training her, by having her wear it around the house for a few hours at a time. She took to it like a natural and never seemed bothered by the harness – we were relieved, “this will be easy” we thought – Wrong!

The problem with Nath was never the harness, it was the lead. 

Nathan the beach cat jumping in the sand

Nath would run around with the harness on, no problem, but the moment we attached a lead, Nathan refused to walk normally. She would constantly fight the lead, pulling against it and often refuse to walk at all. Nothing we tried would snap her out of it. Perhaps we are going to have our work cut out for us after all. Regardless, we decided to take her to the beach and see how she goes.

Once at the beach we walked her well away from people and dogs, and placed her down on the sand. The lead was attached and true-to-form, Nath was having her little attack – completely refusing to move. This went on for about 15 minutes. We would call her and then carry her for a bit, place her down again, encourage her to walk and even offer her food – all to no avail. It was then, while she laid down, we took her off the lead. We were very cautious and a bit anxious, please don’t run away Nath! We walked 10 or so meters and called her. To our surprise she jumped up, her little tail high in the air and sprinted over to us rubbing her little face and body on our legs while taking in her surroundings – our normal little Nath had returned! We continued our walk another 200 metres to a quiet section of the beach with Nathan following along closely – no lead necessary. She followed us everywhere, came when called and even joined us in the water for her first swim – but that is a topic for another blog 🙂

From this day, we almost never use a lead on Nathan. She is amazingly obedient (without any real training) and so relaxed off the lead, that unless we are near a road or somewhere where she may be in danger, we are very happy to let her walk on her own. It’s been kind of a reverse process with Nath – she started by being perfect off the lead from 12 weeks old, and we have had to gradually get her used to occasionally being on the lead – which is still a work in progress to this day.

The curious case of Winnie’s harness paralysis

With Winnie, we didn’t quite know what to expect. We knew Nathan was a rarity and Winnie has such a different personality. Winnie, although liking to be around us, is completely full of energy – every moment is an opportunity to play. She is at it non-stop until her tied little eyes kick in at about 9pm, where she has a little rest before getting back to play at 4am. Although we didn’t think Winnie would be into swimming, it goes without saying, we wanted her to experience the same lifestyle as Nathan – exploring the great outdoors with her big sister.

Winnie the beach cat on a lead sitting on a lounge chair at home

We started by following the same process as Nath – putting a harness on for a few weeks leading up to our first outing. This was a problem. The minute the harness went on our little Winnie she would instantly collapse and refuse to move anymore then a stretch out with her front legs. The look on her little face was so sad it tore our hearts out. Nothing we did seemed to make this better. We couldn’t even entice her to stand up with food! We tried distracting her with her toys (as this is her absolute passion in life), still no cure. We weren’t sure how she was going to go at the beach, but we were hopeful – after all we had been surprised by Nath in the past in more ways then one, so decided to give Winnie a shot.

We didn’t have access to the beautiful Elliot Heads Beach, so we took the girls to Tugun Beach on the Gold Coast. Just like we did with Nath, once arriving at the beach we carried the girls across the sand and away from anything dangerous. We put Nath down (no lead necessary) and then did the same with Winnie, lead attached. Her eyes never left Nath for a moment. To our surprise, in the new environment, Winnie’s paralysis was completely resolved. It’s as if she forgot all about her hate for the harness and was more interested in the new sights and smells, as well as keeping up with Nath. She was perfect on the lead here. She came when called, walked/ran beside us and never tried to run away – like a perfectly trained dog! We couldn’t believe our eyes!

This has continued ever since – she is actually so good that when at Elliot Heads Beach (a place that is safe and familiar) we take her off the lead completely. She is just as good as Nath in this setting.

So why is Nath off in the lead in our videos & Winnie remains on?

When on the Gold Coast beaches (where we now live) or in parks we take them to regularly, we keep Winnie on a lead (despite Nathan being off the lead). This is really due to the way each of them reacts to being scared. On a few occasions when a dog or another person has unexpectedly appeared, Winnie gets spooked and tries to run as a reflex. This is in contrast to Nath who either jumps up into our arms to be carried or crouches down behind us. As a result we trust Nathan will remain with us under all circumstances – she has proven this for a year and a half. With Winnie on the other hand, anytime we are close to a bush or road we prefer to leave her on the lead. We generally don’t hold the lead however, we just let it drag a few metres behind her as she runs around as an added safety measure. Thankfully we have not yet had to use it!

Two beach cats soaked in water after a swim in the water

 

Tips for training your cat to walk on a lead and in public

As we are new cat owners, we aren’t sure whether we have just been really lucky or our techniques used are actually effective. We did discuss the best approach with the RSPCA when adopting Nathan, and got some great tips. We also googled an awful lot to see what had been successful for others – I have listed a few of the sites we used below. What is clear however is cats absolutely have a mind of their own and nothing you do will convince them otherwise. You therefore need to be patient, encourage them and give lots of love. We found putting the harness on for a few weeks to get them used to it seemed to help (especially with Nathan). Trying to distract them once its on with play or encouraging them to move for food was also useful. I think consistency and persistence is probably the most important thing. Its important for your cats to see this as “normal”, and therefore not have an adverse reaction to the harness or lead being put on.

This is our story. We hope you enjoyed reading it and found it somewhat useful. Let us know your experience.

Don’t forget to join Nath and Winnie’s Wolfpack by subscribing.

Also, we have launched a Youtube Channel for Nathan and Winnie! It will include more information and stories about our little girls – please check it out!

Some useful links:
Train your cat to walk on a leash
Cat harness and leash training
Video: How to teach a cat to walk on a leash

Love Nathan, Winnie and family

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10 thoughts on “Getting Nathan and Winnie comfortable with a harness and lead”

  1. I have found that putting the harness on for a very short period to begin with, then gradually adding time, works well. Thank you very much for your article and posts – they are inspiring!

  2. I think it’s great that you have your girls on leads etc. our first 🐈 we trained from young to go on a lead. Didn’t want to come home & find them road kill. Our Cat, Jasper is 71/2 & has been on a rope in back yard since 6 months.
    We used to walk first cat 🐈 “Horse” on the Tannum Sands beach on a lead. He thought he was king pin. We’ve had a few cats over the years & we’ve always put them on leads. Neighbors appreciated it. They weren’t annoying them. Keep up the good work. I enjoy your posts.

  3. Patty Collins @4cats1human

    Great post! Interesting how they each reacted differently. We use a harness/lead with our guys and I’m SO happy we do (despite the sometimes odd looks) – our guys LOVE exploring the outdoors. Keep up the good work with the blog!

  4. DANA A MCDONALD

    It always amazes me how they are all such individuals. I bet 100 different cats would still be different in their approaches. You guys are amazingly sensitive and do such a great job with the girls. I had a cat like Nath once, who relied on me for protection, but I think it’s a rare thing. I think most are more like Winnie. I’m glad you get to experience one like her, she is a very rare and special gift. Which doesn’t make Winnie any less!

  5. Jennifer Marquardt

    All four of mine walk on a harness and leash and never go outside without me. (We now go out one at a time since four is a lot.) Squeaker is the most comfortable and has some notoriety around the neighborhood. Everyone knows her as ‘the-cat-on-a-leash’. Cars slow down and ask, “Is that a cat?” “No, it’s a rhinoceros.”

    With all of them I did the wear-around-the-house-first. Isis, Nephthys, and Valkyrie all took right to it because they saw Squeaker enjoy it. To them it is ‘normal’. I wish we had beach near us, I’m sure they would all enjoy playing in the sand. Valkyrie might even swim with Nathan and Winnie!

    I’m glad to see we’re not the only cats on leashes. Keep exploring, girls!

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