Getting your furry feline to enjoy a walk with you is no easy task. However, with patience and love your cat will be walking on a leash in no time. While you begin this process, remember to reward and praise your kitty – it will go a long way! Be mindful of your cat’s personality: are they adventurous or timid? Do they shy easily or are they curious? Not all cats will adapt easily to wearing a harness or walking on a leash. This is why we recommend training your cat to wear a harness and walk on a leash from a young age. Kittens will be naturally more accepting of this new experience. However, with patience (and treats!) your senior feline can learn too.
Walking Your Cat on a Leash is Easy (and Fun!) with These 7 Simple Steps:
⇒ First and foremost, invest in a comfortable harness especially fitted for cats or kittens. The first harness we bought for Yoda was slightly too big, but it worked out perfectly. Why? Your kitten will grow rapidly over the course of a few weeks, so investing in a slightly larger harness will allow them to grow into it as they get older. Buying a harness that is a little bigger will also allow them to not feel too tight while they practice getting used to the feel of the harness for the first few weeks.
♥ Tip: When shopping for a harness, I recommend buying one that adjusts around both the neck and waist, and one that has a thick, mesh material that covers the cat more evenly, rather than a harness that has thin straps. For example, in the picture on the right Yoda is wearing the first harness that he grew into. It had no buckle around the neck so it easily slipped over his head and it passed under both his arms and buckled at the back for easy securing and removal. This allowed his neck, shoulders, and legs to be safely and comfortably secured – If ever he tugged, the pull would be distributed evenly on his body and would not strain any particular part or have any thin straps digging into his skin.
⇒ Next, once you have the right equipment, introduce it gently to your cat. Leave it next to their food, cat stand, or somewhere that makes them happy so they can begin associating it with contentment. Give your cat a treat (or two) when letting him/her sniff the harness so he/she knows the harness means a good thing!
⇒ If your cat is used to being held, great! If not, practice for a few days by holding him/her on your lap as if you were going to put on the harness. Reward him/her for good behavior by offering a treat immediately afterwards.
♥ Tip: I always had the treat ready in hand, that way Yoda felt good just remaining on my lap while holding the harness too.
⇒ It’s natural for your cat to resist the harness once you successfully buckle it on. It will feel alien to them and so they will most likely lay down and try to take it off. Distract your cat from doing this at all costs. Offer them treats, throw a jingly ball, or dangle string in front of them. This will help your cat get used to the fact that he/she is wearing something. Leave your cat to walk around on its own with the harness still on. Keep a close eye though, if they try to take it off repeat your distracting tactics. After 15 minutes of wear (more or less, depends on your kitty), gently take your cat into your lap and offer him/her a treat and don’t forget to praise and caress! Then gently unbuckle the harness and remove it slowly. Once successfully removed offer another treat and praise again. Associating praise and treats with the harness will ensure that the next time will be much easier and hassle-free. Repeat this exercise until your cat is comfortable with the harness and is able to walk around comfortably (in the house) for an extended period of time.
⇒ The next big step is to attach the leash to the harness. This is tricky because if they see the leash, they will try and play with it and attack it. That’s why when you attach the leash, offer distractions (again!) Have him/her chase a long string that you are circling around yourself. Once your kitty has mastered this, practice tugging gently and stopping the leash (if you have a retractable leash, which we highly recommend!)
♥ Tip: The Flexi retractable leash will say for “dogs”, but it is exactly the same that you will find for cats. I recommend this one (it’s the one we have) and it is ideal for cats because it extends up to 10 feet, which gives your kitty plenty of room to explore but will allow you to stay within close distance. Also, online is much cheaper than in the store! I bought mine in PetSmart for 3 times the price. :/
⇒ Finally, introduce your kitty to the outside world! Pick a quiet grassy area with interesting shrubs, flowers, or small trees around. Doing this will entice your kitty to explore, which makes walking your cat on a leash so much simpler! In the first stages, never let your kitty wander too far from you, a loud car or barking dog could frighten them easily and they will bolt! Learn more about the Do’s and Don’ts of walking a cat on a leash below.
⇒ Depending on how your cat responds to the leash and the outdoors, continue extending the amount of time outside, eventually reducing the amount of treats to only one or two (for start and finish).
♥ Tip: If your cat feels safe and comfortable enough to walk a little here and there on their own, purrfect! You did a great job training your cat to walk on a leash. Don’t let your expectations soar too high though, they are not dogs and will not easily follow your command. Take your kitty out on nice days so he/she can enjoy the fresh air. They will thank you for it! Yoda always gets annoyed when time’s up and we have to go back inside – but once he’s back he runs to his scratching post, races through the house, and rolls around on the carpet, so he definitely shows us how happy he is from our little walk together!
♦ So, can YOU walk a cat on a leash? Hopefully after this article you will be able to say, “Yes!”
If you have any questions about how to train a cat to walk on a leash, please feel free to ask us! We would be very happy to offer more detailed advice that is tailored to your cat’s personality. Also, if you capture a great photo of your cat on a leash, please do send it to us! We would love to feature your cat’s accomplishments on our blog! Happy training! ♦
The 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Walking a Cat on a Leash
|Always praise your cat for trying||Never forcibly put on the harness|
|Always allow your cat to lead you – stay behind your cat||Never tug on the leash if your cat is backing up and you are in front – this reverse pull can allow your cat to slip out of the harness|
|Always keep your eyes on your cat’s movements||Never leave your cat unattended even for 2 seconds – your cat can bolt in less than 1 !|
|Always be aware of your surroundings||Never underestimate your cat or the reactions from other people’s animals|
|Always make sure your cat is comfy and secure – the last thing you want is your kitty to accidentally escape or get hurt!||Never endanger your cat. Sounds obvious, but if you see something that could hurt him/her, avoid that area and stay alert|
CAN YOU WALK A CAT ON A LEASH: OUR EXPERIENCE
We began training Yoda to wear a harness and walk on a leash from a very young age (about 10-11 weeks). At first he wanted to play with it, get it off at all costs, but then we introduced treats and distracted him. We often took him outside (without leash) and would just let him sit in our laps with the harness on. This was a great way for him to get used to wearing the harness because he was distracted by looking at the birds flying by, our dogs on the porch, or anything else. It was also just a great way to get him used to seeing outdoors. Little by little Yoda was becoming more and more comfortable with his harness. We decided to take him outside one day at my mom’s house, but I did not have a retractable leash – I just improvised and use my mom’s dog leash that had one length of a few feet. My first mistake! A gust of wind came and blew around all the leaves and in less than a second Yoda was free from my hold – he bolted and it snatched the leash right out of my hand! He began running around, free, and went into the woods and jumped on the trunk of a tree. I was able to grab hold of his leash and take him into my arms. I was so scared! It was not his fault, however. So I let him calm down in my lap, still outside, and then offered him a treat.
Lesson Learned – always be alert!
When Yoda was still young (about 13 weeks) Paul and I packed up and left for Greensboro, NC since I was about to start my senior year at UNCG. We went and bought a Flexi retractable leash and decided one day to take Yoda to the park / lake. I carried him in my arms across the field to our spot under a shady tree. I walked Yoda around a bit, treat bag in hand, everything seemed fine! Next big mistake! I sat down, thinking Yoda would just walk around us, no problem. Instead he ventured far enough below me to where the retractable leash ran out of cord (so, it was as if I had put on the brakes). Yoda felt this tug, and he was facing me so as it tugged as there was no more cord, he pulled backwards while the cord was pulling him towards me – in two seconds he slipped free from his harness and went off sprinting towards the trees about 50 feet below where we were. Paul starts running after him (barefoot!) and I grab the treat bag and run after them. Yoda was happily adventuring freely in the bushes amidst the tall trees. He was excited – and we were scared silly. Brilliantly I shook the treat bag, calmly calling his name, Yoda. He knew that familiar sound of yummy treats so he came to me! The second he was close, I pounced on him!
Lesson Learned – Never allow your kitty to pull in the opposite direction, and never let your kitty venture far enough away from you to where the leash locks.
Hope you’ve enjoyed another one of #YodaStories! Thanks for reading!