Leash-Training Your Cat
When you see a dog on a leash, it's hard to stop everything you're doing to give it some lovin'. When you see a cat on a leash, you do a double-take. Can cats even be leashed? Yes, they can, and we will give you some ideas on how we trained our cat to walk on a leash.
Why Leash-Train Your Cat
For us, leash-training our cat would allow us to take her outside with us while we were at camping sites. Many RV, state, and national parks require that pets must be leashed outside. We also wanted to make sure our cat wouldn't bolt and run up a tree if she was startled.
Cats like to explore their territory, so you can take your leash-trained cat to explore around the RV which could ease their anxiety of going to a new place. Other reasons to leash train your cat would be to take them with you when exploring the great outdoors, to allow you to control your cat while in an unfamiliar place, and to allow your cat to exercise outside instead of being restricted indoors.
Our Cat Wearing a Harness for First Time
Tip: Get a Vest-Style Harness
Our cat was never was allowed outside but was always curious, so we used her curiosity to lure her outside. First, we had to get her used to wearing a harness. She only wore a collar and she destroyed 3 before she gave up and accepted that she had to wear one. Getting her used to a harness was going to be interesting. She had a habit of backing out when we put her collar on, so we knew she was going to finagle herself out of a harness.
We got a vest-style harness that would cradle her neck and chest so that it would be harder for her to escape. She did manage to get out of the vest once, but thank goodness it happened inside the house. We put the vest on and she would jump backwards and do all these acrobatic moves to get out—more humorous for us, more annoying for her. After we stopped laughing, we took the harness off and gave her a treat for her troubles.
This went on each week for a few weeks until she got comfortable with the vest. Her prize was to actually go outside, and we practiced in the backyard for a few minutes at a time, gradually getting to about 10 minutes. She still hates the harness, she still fights us when we put it on her, but she knows she gets to go outside so calms afterwards.
Getting Your Cat Used to Walking on a Leash
After our cat got used to the harness, we needed to practice walking inside so that we could understand how she would react to walking on a leash. We took her "walking" to different rooms in the house and see if she would get easily startled. We would add some loud noises, such as slamming a door or dropping something off the counter, to see how she would react. She did bolt a few times, so we knew she had to get used to the new feeling of the harness before we could take her outside.
After a few weeks of training inside, she started to get more comfortable with the harness and started to even nap in it. We knew she was ready for the next big step. When we saw our cat looking intently outside or making cat chirps at critters outside, we knew it was a perfect time for some leash training outside. Because she already wanted to go outside, she wouldn't fight us as much when putting on her harness. Once she heard the leash clipped to the harness, she headed to the door.
At first, your cat may be hesitant to step outside, but with a little encouragement (like a push on its tush), they will start to learn that it is okay. For us, we don't allow her near the door without her harness, so a tip would to be consistent in training and only allow access to the door with a harness only.
Once outside, you will notice that your cat will do want it wants. There is no "walking" your cat—it is more of "following" your cat. Unlike dogs, cats do not respond well to be pulled on a leash. They will start to back out and try to escape from the harness. What works well is, if your cat is heading in the wrong direction, the best option is just to stop moving. Allow your cat to realize it can't go any further on the leash and stand still while they are exploring that direction. Once your cat starts to walk in the direction you want to go, start walking too. This allows your cat to make a decision, rather than being forced to do something.
Sometimes, your cat may lay down to watch birds or get ready to chase a squirrel. If it's a behavior you don't want, you can pick up your cat and move it to another location to continue leash training. If they become more agitated, it's time to go inside! Reward your cat with a treat and lots of attention for a job well done.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.