How To Leash Train A Cat

Walks aren't just for the dogs 😽💅

cat in plaid leash and harness

Ever thought about actually doing it? Actually training your cat to walk outside on a leash? 

It might seem strange, but some cats actually love getting outside and being able to safely explore the big, exciting world that they’re always watching from their window perches.

So in order to get you out of your comfort zone, and get your cat into a harness, The Dodo spoke to Dr. Marci K. Koski, a certified feline behavior and training consultant at Feline Behavior Solutions in Vancouver, for some tips.

“Walking a cat with a harness and leash is a different experience than that with a dog; while dogs will generally head in one direction towards a destination, cats tend to meander and explore their immediate area,” Dr. Koski told The Dodo.

So keep that in mind when you’re gearing up to leash train your cat — you might have to adjust your expectations if you’re used to walking a dog. 

How to leash train your cat

While it’s typically easier to train a younger cat to walk on a leash, cats of any age can be shown how with a little patience and strategy.

“You'll want to do this by pairing the harness and leash with something that your kitty likes — treats, affection, brushing, praise, etc. are all good things,” Dr. Koski said.

You can get a harness like this one from Petco for $9.99

Before starting the harness process, though, it’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t force your cat to do anything that she doesn’t want to do.

“Always give your kitty a choice during this process — you want her to know that if she's not interested, she can always walk away!” Dr. Koski said. 

How to get your cat comfortable in a harness

  • Put the harness on the ground and when your cat goes over to investigate it, give her a treat for sniffing or touching it.
  • Touch your cat with the harness, and then give a treat (or pet her, brush her, etc.).
  • Gradually work up to putting the harness on (but not fastening it), and then fastening it loosely, then making it a proper fit, then leaving it on for longer periods of time. This can take several days or even weeks.
  • When you finally get the harness on her, have her do things that distract her from wearing the harness, like playing with her favorite toy so that she runs and jumps. 
  • When she's comfortable with the harness, then you can clip the leash to it and let her drag it so she gets used to the weight.
  • Once she’s comfortable with it, you can start taking her outside — but remember that walking a cat will usually involve staying in one area to explore rather than walking a distance towards a destination.

“But do pay attention to what your cat is telling you — not all cats will tolerate a harness (even for short periods of time), and not all cats want to go outside,” Dr. Koski explained.

Also keep in mind that if your cat is naturally skittish and shy, your cat might just be too afraid to have a pleasant experience outdoors.

“In that case, focus on other types of indoor enrichment that will bring novelty and enjoyment to her life,” Dr. Koski said.

In that case, make sure you have cat condos , tunnels and plenty of fun toys for your cat to play with inside!

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