How to Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

Reviewed By Kim •  Updated: 09/23/20 •  9 min read
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Have you thought about training your cat to walk on a leash, and then thought no…it’s impossible? You’re not alone. Many cat owners would love to walk their cats on a leash! But cats are known for their independent natures and for not always going along with being trained to do anything, let alone to wear or walk on a leash. It is possible to train your kitty to walk on a leash, but it will take some patience and planning.

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Benefits of Leash Training Your Cat

Why would anyone in their right mind want to train their cat to walk on a leash? Well, there are some very good reasons! Here are some benefits to leash training your cat:

Before taking your precious ball of fluff out for a walk, there are some things you need to keep in mind. Be sure to your purrrfect kitty has all of her vaccinations up to date.

Make sure she’s been microchipped, as this is required in some areas and it helps to identify your cat if she happens to get off the leash and bolt

Collar or Harness?

Many cat owners choose to use a collar when walking their kitties. This can be a problem. While collars are great for identification and attaching vaccination and name tags, a collar isn’t a good option for walking your cat. Cats are escape artists and can quickly twist themselves out of almost anything, including a collar. If your cat pulls, collars can also put too much pressure on your cat’s neck, which could cause muscle strain or other injuries. Most vets recommend using a harness, rather than a collar for your cat. Not only will you keep your cat from injuries, but you’ll have better control with a harness.

Sizing Your Cat’s Harness

Next, you’ll need to consider the proper harness and size for your kitty. First, measure your cat’s chest by placing the tape measure just behind her front legs and measuring completely around (from under her legs, over her back and back to the starting point). This is her chest girth and the size harness you need to buy.

The harness should have a snug fit, but be sure it’s not too tight. If you can get two fingers under her harness (between the harness and your kitty), then the harness should be OK. If you’re buying a harness for a kitten, make sure to retest the harness’ fit every so often. Kittens tend to grow fast and can quickly outgrow their harness!

When it comes to the leash, almost any leash will do. Just make sure it’s not too heavy—your kitty won’t need a logging chain for her walks! You can buy a regular leash or a retractable one—whichever will be best for your walking environment.

Begin Harness Training

Once you’ve found the right cat harness and have the proper fit, it’s time to get your fur baby used to wearing a harness. This may take a little patience. Cats may balk, at first, when wearing something on their backs. Your kitty may try to walk with her belly to the floor, trying to get out of the harness. This is normal.

To get your kitty used to the harness, follow these steps:

1). Leave the harness and leash out where she can smell them, see them and even rub on them. This will help her get used to being around them.

2). Next, try to hold the harness up for your cat to smell. When she comes to smell it, give her a reward—one of her favorite treats or praise her in a way that she prefers. After this, try to put the harness near her body to get her used to the harness touching her.

3). Once your kitty is more accustomed to the harness, you can try to put it on her. On the first try, just let the harness sit on your cat, but don’t tighten the tummy strap yet. Let her get used to the feeling of the harness sitting on her. This process may take longer for some cats—just be patient and try this for a few seconds every day. If you see your cat’s really stressed by the harness, take it off as soon as possible. You don’t want her to associate the harness with anything negative.

4). When your cat’s used to wearing the harness loose, you can then try to fasten the tummy strap(s). Remember to get it snug, but not too tight and be sure to do the two-finger test (see above). Again, if your kitty’s stressed, be sure to remove the harness and try again the next day. Do this until she’s finally OK with wearing the harness with the strap tightened.

5). Now it’s time to try the leash! Attach the leash to the metal D-ring found on the back of the harness. Now let your fur baby drag the leash around to get used to it being attached to her harness. Or you can hold the leash gently—but don’t pull her—if you think this will work better. Again, this may take some patience and time, although some cats quickly adjust to the leash and harness.

As with any training, it’s best to start when a cat’s still in the kitten stage

This way, she’ll “grow up” with the harness and be used to it from a young age. Even so, it’s still possible to train older kitties.

Leash Training Your Cat Outside

Your kitty’s finally accepted the harness and leash! Congratulations! You and kitty have come a long way and are now ready to start walking outside! Remember patience, especially if your cat’s new to the leash and harness, and/or hasn’t been outside very much. These are all new experiences for her and you want her to enjoy it.

Here are the steps you can follow to teach your kitty to walk outside:

1). If your precious ball of fur hasn’t been outside before, it might be a good idea to start in a quiet, small area such as a backyard. This way, you and kitty won’t have to deal with other pets and people, and kitty will be able to explore at her own pace.

2). Next, you can start directing where kitty walks. Use a calm, quiet voice and encourage your kitty to follow you. When she walks where you want, give her a treat and praise her. Keep this up until she understands she should follow you for a walk.

3). As you’re getting your fur baby used to walking with you, gently apply pressure to the leash to get her going in the direction you’d like. Avoid pulling, popping or jerking the leash in a harsh manner, as these will scare your cat and could even cause spine injuries. When kitty goes in the right direction, ease the tension off the leash and she’ll get the idea of how the leash works and what’s expected of her.

4). Once your kitty’s relaxed and used to being out and walking on the leash, you take her for a walk. Once your precious kitty’s used to walking with a leash and harness, it’s a good idea to keep to a regular walking schedule, so your fur baby stays used to the routine of the harness, leash and walking with you.

If your cat shows any fear or walks along crouching near the ground, she may be scared. Don’t force her to do anything—use patience to get her used to wearing the harness and leash, as well as walking outside. Some cats don’t adapt to walking on a leash. If this seems to be the case with your kitty, then stop the training process. You want a happy and relaxed kitty, not one that’s fearful and unhappy!

Cat Breeds More Apt to Enjoy Walking on a Leash

Certain cat breeds are more likely to enjoy learning to walk on a leash. Here’s a short list of breeds that may be happier to learn to walk with you:

Siamese: these cats fall somewhere in between cats and dogs. They’re loyal, playful and want to be a part of the family. Siamese can be trained to do many things, including to play fetch, etc. They can also be trained to walk on a leash with a harness. Be aware this breed is very independent and may only participate if she desires.

Bengal: this breed is extremely intelligent, and is a cross between the Asian leopard and domestic cats. They’re beautiful and make wonderful pets. This breed often enjoys being trained and may even like to walk on a leash at your side.

Chausies: also known as “stone cougars,” this breed is a mix of a wild cat (Felix chaus) and a domestic cat. These cats are a bit larger and taller than other breeds; they’re also quite intelligent and playful. They’re also trainable and may take to leash training quite readily.

Ocicat: these cats are purely domestic cats that have been bred specially to achieve the appearance of a wild cat—the ocelot. Some say this breed strongly resembles Bengal cat breed. You’ll find these cats act like normal house cats and may or may not enjoy leash training.

Savannah: this cat breed is thought to be the smartest, while also sporting a good sense of humor. This breed is happy to climb stairs and bridges around your home, play games and interact with you. Teaching her to walk on a leash is excellent exercise for her mind and body.

American Shorthair: this pedigreed breed is known for being adaptable, to be tolerant, patient, agile and clever. They are fast learners, too, and can be successfully leash trained.

Abyssinia: this breed combines intelligence with a bold nature and an acrobatic body. They’re quick to learn and are highly sociable. Your Abyssinia will enjoy releasing her energy with a good walk on the leash!

We hope this guide will help you in training your precious cat companion to walk on a leash. The two of you will enjoy many hours spent together on fun adventures! Not only that, but you’ll also both enjoy some wonderful exercise time outside!

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Kim is a talented author, who loves animals especially dogs. She engaged in writing books and articles relating to animals a decade ago. Kim resides in Chicago with her husband and son. The family is the proud owner of a dog and a parrot (Jack and Lily). Kim wanted more than these two pets, but her husband put his foot down... She often visits elementary schools to talk to the kids about what she learned about pets and how they could learn from them.

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