How to Train a Cat to Walk on a Leash

how to train a cat to walk on a leash

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I know you’re excited about taking your cat along on your adventures, but before you run you have to learn how to walk.  Same goes for your cat.  The first thing you should do is train your cat to walk on a leash.  It wouldn’t be any fun having to literally drag your cat across mount baldy.  Here is a list of simple steps to have you cat walking on a leash like a dog in no time!

Step 1: Purchase a Harness and Leash to Train Your Cat

The first thing you need to do in order to train your cat to walk on a leash is find him a good harness with a leash.  Here is a small list of the best harness and leashes you can choose for your cat.  Leash walking comes in handy in more ways than just being outside.  When you take your cat to the vet, the leash will be one of your most valuable tools to maintain control of your cat.  You can also tie your cat up to make sure they won’t escape if you were at the beach with your cat or out camping.

It’s also an excellent form of exercise for you and your cat.  Walking your cat a few times a week can be set into a routine.  You never know.  Your cat might really enjoy going out for a walk and even look forward to the event.  Once you have a good leash picked out it’s time to start training.

Step 2: Introduce the Leash to Your Cat

Now that you have a leash and harness picked out, it’s time to start by slowly introducing it to your cat.  Every cat is different.  Some cats will be naturals when it comes to leash walking.  Other cats will have to be taught step by step.

Certain personalities of cats will dictate whether they are accepting of new experiences.  Some cats will like using a harness and walking with a leash.  While other cats will hate it.  The best time to introduce a harness and leash is while they are a kitten.  Introducing anything to a young animal is always better than introducing it to them at a later age.  Usually the saying is you can’t teach an old dog new tricks which can be the case in this instance.

Training your cat to walk on a leash early on will speed up your cats progress for future activities you may have planned.  Things like hiking, going to the beach, or simply walking outside on his leash.

Older cats can still learn how to walk on a leash, but it won’t nearly be as easy of a task.  Older cats tend to not have as much energy or tolerance as a younger cat which can lead to increased training times.

Every cat will have their own level of confidence when they are training. This means that it will come natural to some cats, while other cats may take them more than a few tries to get right.  This is perfectly normal and it’s best to go into this with patience in mind.

Step 3: Promote Positive Reinforcement with the Leash and Harness

The trick to getting your cat used to his new leash and harness is to make it a fun and positive experience.  The best way to do this is with a reward system.  What cat doesn’t like to be rewarded with food?  Start by leaving the harness next to your cat’s food and water bowls.  You can even hold out the harness so he can smell and inspect it while you then feed him his favorite snack or treat.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to reward your cat with any good behavior associated with his harness and leash.

Cats are very skittish animals in general.  Loud noises and new sounds tend to frighten cats.  It’s a good idea to get your cat used to the sound of the Velcro and the snapping of the harness.

Step 4: Introduce the Harness to Your Cat

Now that your cat is familiar with the harness go ahead and slip it on him, but don’t fasten it just yet.  Have his cat treats nearby to use as a distraction and help create a positive and delightful experience.  A good trick is to put his harness on right before he eats his dinner.

His dinner will distract him from the harness which will prevent him from trying to remove it.  Continue to do this for several days until he gets comfortable with it on.  Once your cat is comfortable with the harness being on him you can go ahead and snap it into place.  This is the time when you will start adjusting the harness to make it fit nice and snug.  Remember that snug is key.

There is no need for the harness to be so tight to where it leaves an imprint when you remove it.  A good tip is to be able to fit one to two fingers beneath the harness.  Anymore than that and the harness may be too loose.  You certainly wouldn’t want your cat high tailing it into the thick of the woods while you are out on a hike with him.  Having a harness and leash while hiking with a cat is crucial for your cat’s safety.

Gradually increase the time your cat wears the harness.  As time goes by reward him with a treat to show that he is behaving in an appropriate manner.  Do this step for a few days and pay careful attention to detail on how your cat reacts to the harness.  If he is comfortable with the harness on, leave it on a little bit longer.

If he starts to get upset, provide food or a treat as distraction and remove the harness.  Try again, but this time use a better treat.  Canned tuna or canned food may be used at this point.  Try to remove the harness before your cat starts to have a negative reaction.  Do not worry if your cat tends to freeze up, refuses to walk, or walks in a strange manner for the first few times they wear the harness.

This is completely normal because he has never had the experience of having something fastened to his back before.  It will take some time for him to adjust to it.

Step 5: Attach the Leash to Your Cat

It can take several days or even a few weeks until your cat becomes comfortable with his harness.  Next it’s time to go ahead and attach the leash to the harness.  The best place to start walking him is inside the house.  Take him into a room where he wont snag his leash on a table or anything else.

At first you may want to just let the leash drag behind him as you feed him treats.  Try keeping him engaged with toys as well.  Once he is comfortable with the feel of the leash take a few practice runs around the house.  Walk him into different rooms.  If you have stairs in your house go ahead and try to take him up the steps.

Once you both have had a little practice with walking around, start trying to guide him.  Keep the leash loosely in your hand and continue to praise him with treats or food.    To guide him, start by applying pressure on the leash  and call to your cat.  When he listens, reward him with a treat.

Step 6: Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash in the Backyard

The last place you should venture to is the backyard.  This will be the closest environment he can encounter before actually going out for a walk with you.  Monitor your cat and see how he reacts to his surroundings.  If he is an indoor cat, it’s likely that he is going to be very alert and focused once he is outside for the first time.

Do not rush this step.  Take it slow.  Start by picking up your harnessed cat and carry him to your backyard.  Do not let him walk out the door on his own or he may get accustomed to doing it alone when he is not on a leash.  Always stay next to him and do not let him stray off on his own.

It’s fine to let him explore his surroundings.  Be prepared for a possible freak out episode from your cat where he becomes very frightened.  This will be normal and it’s a good idea to be prepared for it until you are sure that he is comfortable outside.

Step 7: Get Your Cat Comfortable

Your first few trips outside should be close to the door.  This is in case you need to take him back in the house to calm down or to get him away from danger.  Your cat will now be exposed to all outside stimuli like bugs, birds, mosquitoes, fleas, and many other types of bugs.  After awhile your cat will be accustomed to a spot that he deems safe.  He will most likely run towards the door if he is frightened in the future.

Remember that walking a cat is vastly different than walking a dog.  Dogs are usually more obedient and respond better to outside stimuli.  Pay close attention to what your cat is comfortable doing and don’t push too much too soon.  If you think you may be moving too fast with your cat then you are.  If you have to revisit a step to make sure your cat is proficient then go ahead and do that.

Step 8: Walk Your Cat Outside

Once your cat is comfortable with walking in your backyard you can start taking him around the block.  Be sure to carry plenty of treats with you.  Use these treats  to help keep him calm since he will be encountering a lot of different stimuli.

Your cat may be very skittish at first if this his first time being away from your home and backyard.  Your cat may react negatively to loud noises like cars, construction workers, other animals, and anything else you might run into while outside.

Try to steer clear of other people walking their dogs.  Not everybody is aware of their surroundings and it would be a devastating experience for your cat if a dog were to get loose.  Never leave your cat unattended.  Even if you tie him to a tree or a pole he may hurt himself, get tangled in the leash, escape, or get stolen.  I would also avoid going to parks.  Parks are usually populated with dogs in one form or another.

Step 9: Look into a Good Bug Repellent

Continue to exercise walking your cat with his harness and leash.  You can now start to plan for a hike or a trip that will take your cat to the next level.  You could plan a short hike or a camping trip.  Before you do anything make sure you visit the vet and make sure he is cleared of any types of illness or disease.

It is also a good idea to start looking into different bug repellents.  The most common types of bugs are fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.  I recommend this bug repellent from amazon.  Using a bug repellent will save you a headache of having to treat fleas if they were to make it back home with you.

If your cat is currently suffering from fleas be sure to treat them before taking them outside.  There are many different home remedies for for flea treatment that you can check out before resorting to chemical treatments.

Step 10: Set a Schedule to Walk Your Cat on His Leash Regularly

If you have made it this far that means your cat is accustomed to wearing his harness and leash.  Continue praising him for his good behavior with treats and food.  Set a routine schedule on when you take him for a walk so he doesn’t pester you to go out.  Using your cat harness and leash shouldn’t be limited to only using it around your block or when you go to the vet.

Go ahead and start planning different trips or adventures for you and your cat.

Final Thoughts

Training your cat to walk on a leash may be a controversial subject to many people, but I see it as getting your cat ready for adventuring.  Remember to train your cat slowly.  Revisit any steps that you deem necessary.  If you approach this type of training with patience then you will have a trained cat in no time.