It might seem unusual to see a cat walking peacefully at the end of a leash, but with patience and perseverance, it is possible to leash train a cat. But why should cat owners bother?
Why Try Leash Training?
Walking on a leash can be a great experience for a cat. In many areas, it can be illegal to let cats wander outdoors without supervision, and a cat on a leash can happily be outdoors without risking fines or other penalties for the pet owner. A leash-trained cat can safely and comfortably explore outdoors without risk of getting lost, being part of a fight or encountering other dangers, and cat owners can strengthen their bonds with their cats not only through the training process but every time they go for a walk. A leash-trained cat may have better overall manners, and will feel more comfortable whenever it needs to be taken to a new location, such as going to a groomer or veterinarian.
To Leash Train Your Cat
It isn't always easy to train a cat to walk comfortably on a leash, but taking each step carefully can make success more possible. To get your cat used to a leash…
- Choose the Right Harness and Leash
Harnesses are more comfortable and secure for cats, and the fit should be snug but not too tight to ensure the cat cannot struggle out of the harness. Thin, lightweight leashes are best, but should not be too long or else the cat could get tangled or out of the owner's control.
- Let the Cat Get Used to the Harness
Before heading out for a walk, allow the cat to see and smell the harness, even to wear it each day for longer and longer periods to get used to how it feels. Attach the leash to the harness and allow it to drag so the cat will also know how it feels to have something connected to the harness before going for a complete walk.
- Start With Indoor Walks
Keep the cat in a comfortable, indoor, controlled environment for its first few walks so it learns just how the equipment should feel and gets used to how close it should be to its owner while walking on the leash. This will help the cat adjust to this type of walk without being spooked by unfamiliar surroundings or unexpected noises.
- Try Quiet Outdoor Walks
When the cat is used to the harness and leash, take it to safe, quiet locations for its first outdoor walks. Many cats can be nervous the first time they are walked, and a less distracting environment such as the backyard or an empty park can be easier to adjust to than busier, more frantic locations.
- Let the Cat Choose
Watch the cat's body language carefully and allow it to decide how long a walk should be. If the cat starts to show fear, anxiety or nervousness, it is time to go back indoors. Cats do not often talk long, rambling walks like dogs will, but they will appreciate the time spent outdoors.
- Practice Makes Purr-fect
Once a cat is comfortable on a leash, regular walks can provide great exercise and mental stimulation, as well as reinforcing leash training. Change walk locations for more interest, and vary the length of walks to suit the cat's moods and preference.
Not all cats can learn to walk on a leash, but starting with a young kitten may make leash training easier. In time, most cats can learn to at least tolerate a leash, and using a leash is a safe, secure way to help cats enjoy outdoor time.