Cats have a reputation for being stubborn homebodies. They prefer to spend their days catnapping in the sun and snuggling on the couch. Most of us see cats as indoor-only animals, but this isn’t true for all cats. Every cat has a unique personality. While you won’t get some cats to put a single paw outside, others crave a more adventurous life.
Leash training your pet cat is a fantastic way to give your cat the physical activity and mental stimulation they’re looking for. If you want to get your cat outdoors in a safe fashion, you need to learn how to train them to walk on a leash.
About Cat Leash Training
Why train your cat to walk on a leash instead of just letting them explore outside on their own? While some pet owners certainly do this without any problems, we don’t recommend it. Indoor cats live longer and safer lives. When you keep them on a leash on your outdoor adventures, you know that they won’t run off when they get scared, get lost, or become ill or hurt. So, it’s a much safer option to leash train your cat instead of letting them free roam.
Leash training cats is like training a dog. It does require a bit more patience, but cats are still intelligent creatures that pick up on training just like dogs do. With a little bit of effort, your cat could be joining you on your daily walks.
Required Items for Cat Leash Training
Unlike pet dogs, we don’t recommend attaching a leash to a standard collar that wraps around your cat’s neck. Pulling the leash and the neck collar could potentially hurt their head and neck. Plus, regular collars come off way too easily, and a few tugs of the head could allow them to escape. Consider a body harness if you plan to leash train your cat.
The harness should feel snug without being too tight. A good fit test is if you can place two fingers between their body and the harness. Make sure your cat is also up to date on all vaccines on top of flea and tick medication since they could be encountering lots of critters while outside. Get your cat microchipped so that if they do escape, it is much easier to reunite in case someone finds them.
How to Train Your Feline to Walk with a Leash
Training a cat to walk on a leash does take patience. However, it isn’t impossible when you work slowly and go step by step.
1. Allow Your Cat to Adjust to the Harness
Cats are not a fan of new objects or changes. Make sure you allow plenty of time to introduce your cat to their new harness. Do things like snap the harness together or undo the Velcro to get them accustomed to the sounds. Set the leash and harness of their favorite spot and let them approach it on their own. Try giving a couple of treats whenever they interact with the new items. They’ll soon associate the new items with good feelings and be less spooked when you try to put it on them.
2. Fasten the Harness
Only try to put the harness on your cat once they are comfortable being around it. Pay attention to your kitty’s body language, and don’t push them if they are anxious or uncomfortable in any way. Take the harness off when they show signs of discomfort and offer positive reinforcement before trying again.
It is normal for cats to freeze up or refuse to move when you put a harness on them. It could take quite a few sessions before they adjust to it.
3. Practice Inside
The hardest part of the training is now over. Once the cat is comfortable wearing the harness, then you can start to practice inside the house. Keep training sessions short, about 5 minutes long, and encourage them with a treat. If they walk a short distance, give them a treat or pat to encourage them to go even further. Slowly increase the time periods until you feel comfortable enough to move outdoors.
4. Always Put the Cat Harness on Before Going Outside
Do not allow your fur baby to go outside without its harness. Your goal is to have them associate the harness with something fun, like going for a walk. It also keeps them safe because most indoor cats are skittish their first time outside. You may even have to carry them the first few times until they are a bit more comfortable.
5. Slowly Start Exploring
Allow your cat to take the lead once you’ve advanced to outdoor walking sessions. They might enjoy rolling in the grass or simply soaking up the sun. Don’t try to force anything during these first sessions. Encourage their curiosity in a safe way. Keep these beginning adventures short and slowly work your way up to longer sessions.
6. Never Force Them
Cats aren’t going to do anything they don’t want to do. If you force them to walk outside, you’re undoing all the hard work you put into training them. Leash training is a slow and sometimes tedious process. You must understand that their comfort is the most important aspect and forcing them to do things isn’t going to get you very far.
It’s exciting to envision all the fun times that you can have outside with your cat. Some cats adjust better than others, so don’t get too flustered if they aren’t learning as quickly as you’d like. Still, do not ever leave your cat outside unattended. They could become tangled in the leash, injured, or escape without you knowing. Keep their safety in mind above all else and do what makes them comfortable. If you have a courageous cat who longs to be in the outdoors, it won’t take you long to figure it out after some leash training.
Featured Image Credit: Lux Blue, Shutterstock