How to teach your cat to walk on a leash
Kitties on leashes is something that you don't see often when you are walking down the street. Would your cat run away and not come back if you let them outside on their own? Walking your cat on a leash is a perfect way to give your kitty extra mental stimulation during the day without taking risks that your kitty will encounter outside such as cars, bad people, or bad animals. Keep reading to discover how to acclimate and teach your cat to walk on a leash!
1. Getting your kitty acclimated to a harness.
Your first step is to choose a harness for your kitty to wear. Did you know that there are harnesses made specifically for cats? Sara Ventiera with AARP says, “There are two kinds of harnesses for cats. The thinner and lighter figure-eight style harness that loops around a feline's necks and shoulders…[and]...the wider, vest-style versions that tightly Velcro around the back and chest” (Ventiera 2021). If you are having trouble choosing a single harness for your kitty, we recommend the Puppia harness. The harness in the link is made for dogs, but you can buy a small and fit it to your kitty. (Puppia Authentic RiteFit Harness ).You should slowly get your kitty used to the idea of the leash being in their space. Ventiera recommends, “leaving it in the same room and then gently placing it on his neck, before attempting to snap or Velcro it on” (Ventiera 2021).
2. Allow your kitty to walk around with the harness inside your home.
At this point, your kitty will wear the harness for a couple of minutes at a time without becoming annoyed or distressed. Adrienne Kruzer with The Spruce Pets.com has a great suggestion for advancing your kitty past wearing the harness for a few minutes, to moving around with the harness on their back. “Allow your cat to drag the leash around to get used to being attached to it. If your cat is easily spooked, you may want to instead attach the leash and hold it while still allowing your cat to move about freely” (Kruzer 2019). This will allow your kitty to realize that they don't have to freeze and that they are able to walk around freely with the harness on. Lily Feinn with The Dodo shares that, “while spending time with or in the harness, give him plenty of treats and wet food to reinforce positive associations” (Feinn 2017).
3. Slowly transition from harness acclimation to walks outside.
Once your kitty accepts the weight of the harness on their back as they are moving around without trying to immediately escape, it is time to transition to walks outside. Ventiera suggests to “take the cat to a quiet, peaceful place outside — no city streets — on a loose leash and let your cat guide the walk. You may initially want to stay in an enclosed space, like a fenced backyard, in case your cat gets loose” (Ventiera 2021). Some cats will want to walk like a dog, while others may only want to sit down and observe what is going on around them. Don't treat your cat like a dog, and make sure to accept what they want to do. Repeat this process until you can trust your furry feline to not wiggle out mid adventure. When you feel like you can trust your kitty in the real world, it is time to adventure out in the wild.
4. Congratulations! You’ve taught your kitty to walk on a leash!
Depending on how accepting your kitty was of this process, this may have taken days, weeks, or even months. Don't become impatient! Not every cat will want to become an adventure kitty instantly, or sometimes even at all. If you have found that your kitty does not enjoy having a harness buckled to their body, and wont acclimate to it, another wonderful alternative to leash walking is installing a catio on your home. Catio’s allow kitties to wander safely outside in a contained area where there is little risk of them coming into contact with the many dangers of the outside world. Thank you for reading!
This article is the opinion of the author. Sugar House Pet Care is an Amazon Affiliate member. Sugar House Pet Care will be paid a commission for qualified purchases made through this blog post
Feinn, Lily. 2017. “How To Train Your Cat To Walk On A Leash.” The Dodo. 20 Oct. 2017. www.thedodo.com/close-to-home/cat-harness-and-leash-training.
Kruzer, Adrienne. 2019. “Yes, You Can Walk Your Cat on a Leash.” The Spruce Pets. 10 Dec. 2019. www.thesprucepets.com/how-to-leash-train-cats-551823.
Ventiera, Sara. 2021. “How to Get Your Cat to Walk on a Leash.” 5 Mar. 2021. www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2021/leash-training-cat.html.