In so many ways owning a cat is much simpler than owning a dog. Cats use litter boxes, know how to be independent, they entertain themselves, and they do not require hour-long hikes every day to stay mentally and physically fit.  However, when it comes to outdoor activities, dogs have the leg up on cats. Training your dog to use a leash, is literally a walk in the park. You snap the leash on the collar, grab a handful of treats, and practice how to “heel” all the way there.  Cats are a little trickier, since they usually prefer to meander where they please, at their own speed. However, here are some helpful tips for people who want to get their kitty used to leash-walking with them.

Walking Your Cat on a Leash

Microchip your cat:  Before you even think about taking your cat out for regular outings, make sure he has the right ID.  Put on a collar with your contact information as well as his name. Additionally, choosing to microchip your cat will help protect him and enable him to be tracked if any accident should happen, if you get separated, or he accidentally escape.  It is better to be safe than sorry!

Get the right leash:  Before you begin, make sure you buy a cat harness or walking jacket that will fit securely around his belly without restricting his movement.  Using a neck-circling leash will be easy for the cat to escape from, and could strangle the cat if it were to get caught on anything.

man in the park with cat on leash

Start gradually: To smoothly transition to the outdoor walking adventures in your future, you have to work incrementally. First, leave the harness out where your cat can smell it, and check it out without pressure. A day or two later, snap the jacket on the cat and let him wander around the house and become at ease with it.  Then, follow this by clipping the leash onto the jacket or harness, and walk around the house with the cat. Practice doing this for a few days, for 10-15 minutes at a time.  Whenever you go to clip the leash on, give your cat a treat so she will start looking forward to the experience.

Work on walk-training:  Holding the leash in one hand and a treat in the other, guide your cat to walk along with you by tempting her with the treat. When you stop, if cat stops,  feed her the treat.  With the leash and harness on, the cat might suddenly get overwhelmed and drop on her side, or paw at the harness hoping to get it off.  Be patient, and offer a tasty morsel, and try to reengage with her.  The more often you practice this, the more comfortable your cat will become with walking at your pace in the leash.

Practicing outside: When you and your cat decide to go on your first outing, be aware that this may be a huge adjustment.  Chose a small area, close to home, and let the cat become accustomed to her surroundings. Try allowing her to wearing a calming collar before you go outside, or rubbing some catnip on the jacket to ease any nerves.  Lead her around the small area, rewarding her with treats from time to time until she gets more comfortable being ‘walked’ by you.  The easier this gets, the longer your walks can become!