Harness training your serval

Harness/Leash Training

Written by MeChel Whitaker


Your Serval must be harness and leash trained if you want to take him on outdoor adventures.  Leash training is important and comes in handy when you and your serval are traveling, exercising, doing educational programs and visiting the vet.  Exercising and taking your serval on walks, runs and short trips is a good way to keep him social and helps alleviate behavior problems related to boredom.   There are also a broad range of pet strollers available that work great when accompanied with a harness and leash.  


You should start training your serval at a young age while they are more accepting of new things.  You can still train your older serval if done the right way, although this can be quite hard depending on the servals personality. Professional animal trainers can be hired to help you with your training.  Servals are very smart and highly trainable.


Purchase a specially fitted harness for your serval.  It should be comfortable and fit snug. There are several websites that specialize at making fitted harnesses.  The harness should be made from sturdy materials. Make sure your serval is not able to wiggle out of or back out of the harness.  Pick a harness that is easily put on and taken off.


You should start harness training your serval by first introducing the harness to your kitten.  Let the harness sit by his food dish and in his crate or bed.  Let him sniff it and offer a treat at the same time.  Begin putting the harness on for short periods of time and during this time play with him and feed him lots of treats.  Get him used to you putting the harness on and taking it off.  At first, the best time to put the harness on is while he is eating.  


After your kitten becomes comfortable with you putting the harness on and off and is comfortable moving around the house with it on,  start introducing the leash the same way you introduced the harness.  Let the leash lay near his food dish and let him sniff it and play with it.  After a few days of getting used to the leash take your serval to a room or area indoors where the leash want snag and attach it while offering more treats and play.  Let the kitten move around the room while you loosely hold the leash.  Repeat this everyday for a few days or until your kitten is comfortably moving around the room with the leash and harness attached. Once he seems comfortable with the leash attached let him wander out of the room and around the house while you loosely hold the leash.  Encourage him to move forward by using toys and treats.


After he has become comfortable with wearing the harness and leash you can start to apply tension to the leash.  Do this by slightly putting pressure on the leash and calling your kitten to you.  Offer him a treat if he comes to encourage good behavior.   If you're familiar with clicker training you can apply it to reinforce this training.  Practice taking him on walks in the house until he is not freaking out and pulling on the leash.  You don't want him to wiggle out of his harness when he goes outside.  Playing fetch with your serval is a good way to get him used to the feel of the tension. You can do this while using an extendable, retracting leash.


Before going outside attach the harness and leash indoors and carry him outside to a quiet area free of loud noises, animals and people. The first time you take your serval outside on the leash you should be inside a contained area like a fenced in area or an enclosure.  Repeat the indoor training by letting your serval roam while you hold the leash. Let him explore at will. Keep the leash loose and follow him.  Do not put any pressure on the leash until he is calm.   The first few times you take him outside make sure to stay close to a door back into your house.  Your serval is going to be spooked by his surroundings and on high alert so move slow and carry a towel that can be quickly placed over him if he panics and tries to bolt. The towel will protect you from scratches.  During a freak out episode, quickly wrap your serval in the towel and immediately return him to the house.  


Cats are different than dogs on walks, they may choose just to sniff around and lounge in the sun. Your serval will not cooperate at first and it will require a lot of patience and practice, but eventually they will learn to enjoy their outdoor excursions.


A few very important tips is to never let your cat walk out of the house on his own.  Always carry him in order to reduce the habit of dashing out the door.  Do not leave your cat outside on a leash unattended, not even for a minute.


Last but not least, it is highly recommended to purchase a radio collar or some other type of gps collar for tracking your serval if he gets loose.  The Cat Loc8tor collar or the Marco Polo system are only two of the many radio collars available now on the market.  I prefer radio collar over gps because gps does not work everywhere and if your serval goes into a hole, under a tin roof or out of your cellular area you will not be able to track him.  A few things to consider when buying a tracking device is size of collar attachment, distance of covered radius, battery life and cost.  It's a good idea to stick with the same brand that your neighbors and friends  use,  that way you can help each other track your animals.  Also consider more than one type.  Maybe a small gps tracker and a radio collar.  The prices vary and some are very affordable.