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Keeping your cat indoors protects them from road traffic and other dangers and keeps bird and wildlife safe, but what should you do if your cat seems to yearn for the great outdoors?
Leash training is the perfect way for your cat to explore the outside world in safety; simply follow these five steps for leash training and your cat can have the best of both worlds.
The Correct Equipment
You’ll need a harness and leash designed specifically for cats; with the leash attachment at the back of the harness, and one that’s fitted correctly to your cat’s size (you should be able to comfortably slip two fingers between the harness and skin). Attaching a leash to a cat collar is a complete no-no – not only could your cat easily slip out of it, you don’t want to pull at their throat. Originally, I used a standard cat harness but these are not as secure as some of the dog harness products available, so we now use Puppia harnesses, small dog size.
Get to Know the Harness
Your cat will need to become accustomed to the harness before you even consider trying to put it on. Leave the harness near your cat’s favourite sleeping spot and other familiar places so that he gets used to it being around. Whenever your cat approaches or sniffs the harness use treats and praise to encourage the behaviour.
Get Used to the Harness
Once your cat is used to the sight and smell of the harness, you can move onto the next stage – letting your cat get used to the feel of the harness. Put the harness on your cat, and immediately distract him with treats, a favourite toy or other activities he associates with good times. Once he’s happy wearing the harness, you can practice wearing it around the house, starting with short periods and gradually increasing the length of time. Continue this stage for a few days until your cat is completely relaxed and comfortable wearing the harness.
Attach the Leash
Now is the time to attach the leash to the harness, and let your cat explore a safe room with the leash dragging around behind. Make sure that you supervise your cat to minimise the risk of the leash getting caught on something and your cat becoming scared. Repeat the leash dragging step for a few days until you’re happy your cat has accepted the leash, then you can start holding the end of the leash and walking with your cat. Don’t hold on to the leash tightly, just let your cat lead you wherever he wants to go – ensure that you praise your cat often and have some treats on hand to reward good behaviour. Work up to gently guiding your cat around on the leash – use a soft encouraging voice and treats to get your cat to follow you and walk in the direction that you choose.
Ready, Set, Explore!
Once your cat is happy and confident wearing a harness and leash it’s time to start exploring outside. To start with, take your cat out in a quiet area of your garden, and just sit quietly letting your cat explore. Cats that are not used to the great outdoors can be nervous and be easily started by new sounds, so it’s important not to rush things. As your cat gets more confident he’ll start to take the lead and choose how far he wants to explore. The Pawesome Cats family, only ever go for walks in the safety of our own garden – there are two many scary sights and sounds on the other side of the fence including cars, dogs and children.
Every cat is different, and although it’s suggested that each step lasts a few days, you may find that your cat takes a longer or shorter time to progress onto the next step. The important thing is to follow your cat’s lead and let him go at his own pace. As always, when training cats – patience is key!
Have you leash trained your cat? What are your experiences and tips for success? If you’re new to leash training – are you ready to train your cat to walk on a leash now?
Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat says
I always mean to do this and then it slips my mind (and the prospect of wrangling Bear isn’t appealing). Thanks for the reminder … no time like the present, right?
Prospector Pups says
I totally needed to see this post. I started to leash train my cat when we first got him and he was SO mad about it haha. This gives me the push to start trying again!
Cathy Armato says
I never walked my cats on a leash but that would have been great! The harness is such a great idea.
Ruth Epstein says
This made me laugh so much as I remember my Mom 25 years ago trying to teach my cat to walk on a leash and the cat just sat watching without walking – it was the funniest I had ever seen, thanks for bringing back such a memory but yes I do think its great for them too
Talent Hounds says
I never tried walking Nala on a leash. She liked following me around the block so it might have been safer but didn’t like wearing things. A few people had cats with them walking around at Pet Expo last weekend. I was nervous dogs might react but no incidents reported.
Bryn Nowell says
The best of both worlds! An indoor cat who is able to safely enjoy the outdoors! Great tips on how to be sure the cat is safe and comfortable. Thanks for sharing.
I’ve always admired folks who have their cats just trotting next to them on a leash. We have an adopted feral kitty my daughter worked with, who will now jump on our laps, rub on us, eat from our hands, and even give kisses, but just don’t pick him up! Maybe one day we’ll have a cat we can do this with! Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips!
Tonya Wilhelm says
That’s really neat. When I brought Nutter The Cat in from being stray, I thought I’d need to walk him on leash. We went out a few times, but then he was happy to stay indoors. Great tips!
Tenacious Little Terrier says
We see cats going for walks occasionally in our neighborhood!
Dusty Desert Dogs says
I wish when my old Kitty was alive I leash trained him he loved being outdoors
I’ve always been a little curious how people manage to keep a cat calm in a harness. Good information here.
Sweet Purrfections says
I wish I had leash trained the girls when they were younger, but my job takes too much of my time.
Beth (@dailydogtag) says
We tried this with my cat 13 years ago, but he didn’t like wearing a harness and truthfully I was a little afraid of him. (No previous experience with cats.) I think I’ll try it again this spring. Thanks for giving me some guidance to help him adjust better!
The Daily Pip says
This reminds me …we followed your instructions about teaching a cat to sit and Rosie now does so on command. We are still working on high five. LOL. She loves the extra love and treats she gets when she sits.
Joely Smith says
I need to do this with my cats! Of the three I think Nub kitty would be the easiest he is such a good boy he would not fight it.
It always amazes me when I see cats on leashes going for a walk. I don’t think I could ever get my cats to do this without pulling a fit! Maybe if I started them when they were kittens.
These are great tips. When I trained my Seren-Kitty 20 years ago, I used a figure-8 harness because she’s tiny and slipped out of anything else. My young cat now has a Puppia harness that works great.
Katherine Hogan says
I started cat leash training my kitten when she was small like 3 months roughly. I stopped doing it about 2 months ago and now she is 8 months old and doesn’t like outside noises is it to late to do re-introduce her to leash training? Because I did all the walking inside the house I never took her outside… She’s fine when I put the harness on her but at first she likes to bite (but not hard) my fingers when I am done putting the harness on her, and she’s gets playful with her leash when its clipped on. But what I’m concerned about is the lateness of reintroducing her to leash training…
You can train a cat at any age. It may take longer for adults but certainly she can learn. *s*
Jobi and Fisher says
I have leash trained my cats in the past, but have not yet started with the new crowd. I do plan on it, though. Your instructions are perfect. I want to mention one of our Tampa Bay rescues – the Cat Depot in Sarasota, FL. We went to a leash training they do for their volunteers. Some cats will just refuse to be trained, but many of their cats are. The neatest thing I learned is that there is a 100% adoption rate for cats that are leash trained!
Great tips. Our cats are indoor-only, but Moosey is a little curious about outside … maybe we’ll give this a try! 🙂
Kitty Cat Chronicles says
These are all great tips! I have one cat that loves going out on adventures on her harness. We take her to PetSmart almost every time we go. She loves going outside too, but most of the time we don’t keep her on her harness for outside trips – she has cerebellar hypoplasia, so she can’t run very fast or climb, which means she can’t get away. We take her out in the backyard and play fetch – we call her our dog-cat. haha. My other cats aren’t too fond of the outside. They love watching through the window, but actually going outside is scary. I might just have to try your advice for leash training them – see if I can get them used to it, because I think they really would enjoy it if they could overcome their fear.
Cody-Cat Chat (@CatChatCaren) says
My Angel Bobo used to LOVE going out on his leash. Ready for this? I did NOT use a harness. Didn’t like them. I bought him a leather dog collar (yep, dog collar) I find the dog items to be made much stronger and better than the cat items, and I bought him a heavy chain leash. None of the cat items seemed secure enough for me. He used the leash and collar the entire 18 years of his life, that’s how well made they were. It only took me about two days to leash train him. I put it on him, took him in the back yard, watched him walk crouching down as if he were a soldier in the war lol, and the next day he was off to the races. He primarily liked walking on his leash because he enjoyed eating grass. My ex and I used to take him to parks too….he loved it. Cody, has no interest whatsoever and I don’t push him.