BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

How to Teach a Cat to Walk on a Leash: It Might Come in Handy

Close-up image of a cat walking in a leash
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Some pets are easier to teach than others. Dogs, for example, make better students than cats. Cats are prideful creatures; they see themselves as the master while we are the slave in this relationship—so why would a master allow himself to be pulled around by the slave? But felines can still be taught—as long as you make it clear early on that there is something in it for them and that you will do it on their terms. The same rule applies when it comes to how to teach a cat to walk on a leash.

You will agree that there are situations that warrant having your cat on a leash. Perhaps he seems unhappy as an indoor cat, and you’d like to give him a taste of the outdoors in a safe and controlled way. Perhaps you need to bring him places that oblige pet owners to put their pet on a leash.

a person training a cat to walk on leash

Your cat won’t let himself be leashed willingly at first, but with some patience, careful consideration, and proven methods, you and your cat will soon be able to enjoy activities and take walks while he is on a leash without it being a traumatic experience for either of you.

We will enumerate reasons why you may need to use a leash on your cat, list the important factors to consider before teaching your cat to walk on a leash, and explain the steps to achieving a successful leash-walking session with your cat. We understand that it is not going to be a piece of cake to achieve this goal, but it can be done if you follow some reasonable steps which we will outline in this article.

Benefits of Having a Cat on a Leash

Cats, unlike dogs, are rarely seen with a leash on. You will probably get stares from people if you go around with your cat on a leash in some places, but it is actually a smart way to improve your cat’s quality of life due to the many benefits that it offers:

For Safety

Cats are independent by nature—unlike dogs that love to follow their owners around. Therefore you should use a leash on your cat so he wouldn’t run off and get himself into trouble. You may wonder why you should walk your cat like a dog when you often see your neighbor’s cat wandering around by himself without anyone to supervise him.

a fluffy cat walking on a leash side by side her owner

True, it’s more convenient to give your cat as much freedom as he wants by letting him wander alone outdoors rather than having to walk him on a leash, but did you know that outdoor cats have a much shorter average lifespan than indoor cats?

Indoor cats can live for as much as seven years longer compared to outdoor cats. That’s because the outdoors is full of dangerous things that could cut your kitty’s adventures short—cars, dogs, bad humans, etc. So your kitty wouldn’t encounter any of these misfortunes, you should guide his adventures with a leash.

To Exercise Your Cat

Using a leash can you help you enjoy the benefits of walking with your cat. Walking serves as a form of exercise for your cat, particularly for a homebody—that cat that likes to sleep in for hours.

Kitten walking in a leash

Not just your cat, you will also become healthier as you walk or run alongside your furry friend every day.

To Entertain Your Cat

Walking your cat on a leash is a great way to stimulate your cat. He can smell the roses, listen to the chirping birds, enjoy the outdoors, and all that it has to offer to a feline. It will also help build the companionship between you and your cat.

To Promote Good Behavior

Sometimes in a bid to get your cat to behave properly, you may need to use the leash to train your cat. Even if you think that it is better to have your cat professionally trained, you will still see the professional trainer making use of leashes—so best get your cat used to it as early on as possible.

Owner taking a walk with her cat in a leash

Another reason why you may need a leash on your cat is to get him positioned for a haircut and body shave. If you are grooming your cat with an electric razor, you will need to have him on a leash to restrict movement and prevent injury.

Factors to Consider

More and more people are starting to realize that putting their cat on a leash is beneficial these days. But there are some factors to consider before choosing to teach your cat to walk on a leash because not all cats are prime candidates for leash-walking.

The Cat’s Personality

It is not right to force your cat to do what he is not interested in doing. Some cats are introverts and scared of going outdoors; it will be wrong to put a leash on a cat with this personality.

cat wearing harness and leash indoor

If your cat is curious, outgoing, and adventurous, then you may consider teaching him how to walk on a leash so that you can unleash (pun intended) his true potentials.

The Cat’s Breed

Some breeds are more suited to walk on a leash than others. Those who are closer in lineage to their wild cat ancestors will find it thrilling to walk outdoors because of their DNA. They will be happier to be out and about on any condition rather than if they were locked up in the house—even the house is nice and comfy. These adventurous breeds include Bengal, Japanese bobtail, Abyssinian, American short hair, Maine Coon, Siamese, and others.

The Cat’s Age

Age is nothing but a number—that saying may not apply here because age matters when training your cat to walk on a leash. Kittens are easier to train than a senior or adult cat.

Ragdoll Kitten walking in a leash

If you plan on walking your cat, start teaching him at a young age so that it will become natural for him as an adult to walk with a leash on.

How to Get Your Cat Used to the Leash

Below are several practical steps that will help you get your cat walking on a leash. Follow them carefully, adjust when necessary, and most important of all, have fun with your cat. A walk is supposed to be fun after all.

Pick the Right Leash

A leash is a rope, cord, line, strap, or tether attached to the neck or body of an animal to restrain, control, or lead the animal. Although the word “leash” is commonly associated with dogs because of their aggressive or happy go lucky nature and the chasing frenzy they like to indulge in once in a while, cats sometimes need to be leashed too (for reasons already explained above).

Kitten wearing a harness

However, cats can’t use the same leash as a dog. There are leashes specially designed for cats.

  • Buy the ones that will fit your cat snugly and prevent your cat from backing out from the leash.

  • You also need to be careful that it is not too tight to strangle your cat when you tug on the leash.

  • The standard in knowing that the leash fits just right is to be able to fit a thumb right between the leash and your cat’s skin.

  • It is also recommended that you use a retractable leash, thereby giving your cat more room to move around in.

If you have a kitten, it is advisable to use harnesses so that you can better lead them. Harnesses cover a wider body area than the leash. A harness is a looped restraint or support that fits around the whole of your cat’s body instead of only their neck. Harnesses come in knitted fabrics, cotton, nylon, and linen. Pick the one that will make your cat comfortable and not irritate her skin. You can also keep your feline fashionable with the varying options available on colors and patterns.

A Persian cat wearing a leash

It is recommended that you use an H-type harness which will fit around your cat or a vest-like harness which covers the neck and back area for equal distribution of pressure. Harnesses also come in full or partial jackets and cuts.

Distract Your Cat as You Put the Leash On

The best time to start leash-training your cat is when he is hungry. Nothing can motivate or distract like food. When he is busy biting down, that is the right time to slip the harness on. The treats will keep him from focusing on the leash and harness and suppress any violent reaction.

Cute, orange tabby cat looks alert and wants to play, in an older, urban, city apartment with wood floors.

After food, you can play with him and see if he is his usual self with the harness on him. If his attention returns to the harness and he is balking or trying to get out of it, quickly remove it so that you don’t scare him to a point where he can’t stand the sight of the harness anymore.

Get Him Used to the Harness

Place the harness on the cat and let him get used to the feel of it around his body. Don’t buckle up yet because the sound might startle him. After he is used to the feel, you can buckle up the leash.

Cat walking outside in a leash

Make sure to reward him. This will make him associate the sound of the buckled leash with a treat. Keep the harness on for a while before removing it. When he has gotten used to the feel and sound of the harness and is comfortable with having the restraint on, you can move on to the next step.

Start Indoors

Taking your cat outdoors immediately may overwhelm him; it is better to start indoors, where he would not be startled and distracted by what the outdoors has to offer. That way he can concentrate on getting his work right.

A cat sniffing harness

It is better to have your cat learn in his own territory. In a familiar environment, he will grow confident quickly and prance around like he is in control even with the leash on. While indoors, leave the leash buckled to the harness and let him get used to it following him around and even during playtimes. This will make him comfortable with his walking gear.

Let Your Feline Lead

The dynamics of using a leash on a dog is different from with a cat. Dogs love to follow their owners, but cats like to do things independently, so you need to allow your cat to lead in your first few walks while you hold the leash.

Kitten walking outside while is wearing a coat and a leash

If you have a backyard, garden, or an enclosed place outside, take your walks there. Let him explore and be free. Don’t forget to compliment him. Gradually you can begin to guide him and take charge in readiness for your big adventure outside.

Go On an Adventure

Your cat is ready to go outside now. Take it slow, and see how he reacts to the sounds of automobile and modern smells. Take him around your block and then go to the park.

Cat walking with a leash

You must remain observant and focused on your cat’s movements and reactions. The park is usually full of kids and dogs, and you know the natural relationship between cats and dogs is not cordial. Therefore, hold the leash firmly and take charge. It may take anywhere from two days up to a month before your cat can walk on a leash like a pro. Give them all the time they need.

Wrap Up

It is important to consider your environment before teaching your cat to walk on a leash. Some areas are more dangerous than others to a cat. If you live in such an area, you might want to think twice about walking your cat even if you’ll be there to supervise him.

Consider whether you can keep him amused indoors instead. If you can’t, realize that ideally the outdoors should not be one that is filled with moving traffic, fast automobiles, and people. A preferable choice is a quiet, calm, and serene neighborhood. Walking is supposed to be beneficial and not injurious to your cat.

Cat walking with his owner on an autmn day

If you live in a big city where you have no access to parks and gardens, or you are homebound because of health reasons, then your cat may be destined for the indoors. However, if your environment is conducive and your cat has a deep yearning for the outdoors, we believe that you will find the above guide really useful.

Pick the steps one after the other. Do it at your feline’s pace. No need to get impatient or hasty. You know your cat, his personality, breed, routine, and what pleases him. Use that to get him walking on a leash in no time. It is a brighter world of sounds, sights and smells that you are offering to your cat when you can both take walks outdoors in safety. Your cat will surely thank you for the experience.

Is your cat the type that can’t stay still indoors? Have you tried to take him out for a walk before? Or perhaps you’re letting him wander alone in the neighborhood as an independent, outdoor cat? Share your thoughts and opinions on giving cats the freedom they crave in the comment box below.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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