Teach Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

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Yes, you read that right. Cats… walking… on leashes! While it might sound funny, the truth is that taking your cat out for a stroll around the yard or neighborhood can be a great way to get them some exercise, stave off obesity, and reduce boredom.

But how can you get your cat comfortable walking on a leash? Follow these steps.

1. Vaccinate and Protect Your Cat

If you plan to be taking your cat outside for walks, make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and protected from fleas and ticks.

2. Purchase a Harness and Leash

When it comes to walking a cat, a harness is the most popular choice. Harnesses are comfortable, secure, and give you control without putting pressure on your cat’s throat or neck. As for a leash, any type will do, but consider getting one that keeps your cat within 6 feet of you.

3. Familiarize Your Cat With the Harness

Leave the harness on your cat’s bed or near their food for several days. Hold the harness and let your cat sniff it, and offer them a treat when they do. Touch your cat’s back with the harness or gently drape it over their neck and shoulders, then offer a treat.

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4. Fit the Harness

After several days of familiarization, you can try putting the harness on your cat while offering treats and praise. You should be able to fit two fingers (no more, no less) between your cat’s body and the harness. Leave the harness on for only a few minutes at a time, continuing to offer praise and treats. Repeat this training daily for several days. If your cat stays relaxed with the harness on, increase the time that they wear it. If the cat ever gets upset, remove the harness right away and try again later.

5. Attach the Leash

Once your cat is relaxed wearing the harness, you can attach the leash. Let your cat drag it around while you offer treats and praise. Keep an eye on your cat to make sure that the leash doesn’t get stuck or tangled. Repeat this for several days.

6. Walk Around Inside

Once your cat is comfortable dragging around the leash, pick it up and offer a treat. Let your cat guide you around, going wherever they please. Keep the leash loose and offer praise and treats. Practice this for a few days.

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7. Encourage Your Cat to Follow You

This one takes patience, but it will be worth it once you’re outside and your cat is cruising confidently by your side.

  • Encourage your cat to go where you go by using a calm, positive voice.
  • Apply gentle pressure to the leash, but never tug or yank. If and when the cat turns in your direction or follows you, offer treats and praise.
  • Drop a treat on the ground and let your cat eat it, then return to the far end of the leash. When the cat comes to where you are, offer another treat and praise. Repeat this as many times as it takes.

8. Head Outside

You’ve put the work in, and now it’s time to head outside. Always attach the harness and leash before you walk through the door; this will prevent your cat from running away. Start in a quiet spot and let your cat explore with you following behind them. Once your cat seems relaxed, you can start guiding them where you want to go.

9. Regular Walks

Once your cat gets used to walking, chances are they will love it and want to go as often as possible. To avoid your cat pestering you to go outside, walk them at the same time every day, and never take your cat out if they are crying or bothering you. Instead, wait for your cat to quiet down and then take them outside. Your cat will soon learn that being quiet, calm, and patient will earn them a trip to the great outdoors.

Do you walk your cat? Leave a comment and tell us about it, and sign up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more.

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