How to Get Your Cat Used to Walking on a Leash

While dogs may do things like walking on a leash to please their person, a cat is more apt to wonder, “What’s in it for me?”

Once he sees the benefits, he’ll be eager to leash up and head out the door.

The outdoors can be a dangerous place for a cat with traffic, larger animals, and iffy weather. The view out the window is boring. A good compromise is teaching the cat to walk on a leash for shared outings.

photo courtesy of Koshkah Koh in Boston, MA

photo courtesy of Koshkah Koh from Boston

Get Him Used to the Harness

Most cats will resist a harness at first. When it goes on, Kitty is instantly “paralyzed” and can’t walk or even stand, at least according to him. “At first, Daisy would just stiff leg fall on his side because the harness felt so strange,” says Carrie Aulenbacher, author of The Early Bird Café, in Erie, Pennsylvania. “I used a small dog harness so that I’d have more control over him, plus it would be harder for him to slip out of it.” Yes, Daisy is a he—a case of early-on mistaken identity.

Remove the harness after a few minutes and he’ll be instantly cured. Do this once or twice a day, increasing the time limits, until he’s used to having it on and figures out he can move around with it on.

Then Comes the Leash

At first, just leave the leash where he can see and inspect it. Once he’s used to it popping up around the food bowl, water dish, his bed and the couch, it’s time for a test run. Attach it to the harness. He may revert back to his frozen state but that shouldn’t last long. Proceed with the harness, a few minutes on to get accustomed to it, then off, increasing time as he’s willing.

photo courtesy of Koshkah Koh in Boston, MA

photo courtesy of Koshkah Koh from Boston

Not Quite Ready for Outdoors Yet

For an indoor cat, the outside is bigger than it looks from his window. He’s liable to spook even if he’s anxious to go out. With harness and leash on, stand at the door and let him think it over. Of course, he’ll have to sniff, take a step, reconsider and then decide outdoors is overrated the first couple of tries, but he’ll soon overcome his hesitation. “We started on our patio to keep Daisy confined in a small area,” says Carrie. “Once he saw the freedom of sitting outside, he was eager to explore.”

Ready for Bigger and Better Things?

Some cats will always be satisfied with their own yard. For the more adventurous, check out the foot traffic in the neighborhood before heading out the gate. Are there skateboarders, loose dogs, a lot of cars going by, delivery trucks and more? In that case, the safest thing to do is take a little road trip to the pet supply store for a catnip mouse or two. Your cat can ride safely in the cart, see birds, hamsters and guinea pigs without harm or letting curious dogs see him up close and personal.

photo courtesy of Carrie Aulenbacher in Erie, PA

photo courtesy of Carrie Aulenbacher from Erie, PA

Into the Wild

A city park makes a great outing if the human on the walk pays attention to the surroundings at all times. This isn’t a time to check email or text, listen to music or make phone calls. For the bravest of cats, hiking in the woods can be the best adventure of them all. “I keep Daisy safe by only going where I know there are trails,” says Carrie. “Take a peek at Daisy’s Facebook page to see our adventures.”

Remember, your cat can come home with fleas or ticks. Be sure to check him over as soon as the walk is done—once they’re in the house, it’s harder to get rid of them.

The Benefits

Michelle Warfle, manager at the Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, says, “We average over 600 cats here on any given day. We train as many cats as possible to leash walk.” It makes them more adoptable, is good exercise and gives the cats an enriched lifestyle. It’s fun for both ends of the leash.

photo courtesy of Carrie Aulenbacher in Erie, PA

photo courtesy of Carrie Aulenbacher from Erie, PA

Meet the Author: Sandra Murphy

Sandra Murphy writes magazine articles about all kinds of animals, pets or exotics, marine life too, eco-friendly living and weird topics that catch her fancy. In her spare time, she writes fiction, mostly mysteries with a twist. With all the research, her browser history is intriguing to say the least. She lives in St. Louis with two bossy cats and Ozzie, a very tolerant dog.

My puppy is biting! What do I do?
6 Tips to Teach Your Cat to Enjoy Brushing