Can Cats Walk on a Leash?
Cats are loved by so many, and some would argue they are some of the most clever animals on planet Earth. But some would also argue that it is difficult to train them, and people shouldn’t even bother trying. But I am here to tell you that it is actually very easy to train them if you have patience and the ability to get into their heads a little bit.
I have some tips for you that will help you train your cat, at any age, to walk on a leash in six months or less. Why six months? They are 100% trainable just like dogs, but they are also a hundred times more stubborn than your average happy-go-lucky dog. They do not want to do what you want to do. And that is the first thing you need to know if you want to train them to walk on a leash like a dog.
1. You Need to Get a Good Harness
Everyone will tell you to get an “H-style” harness. Everyone. You can get these for dogs and cats at your local pet store or online. The pro to these harnesses is they are secure if you get the right one.
Do not get an “H-style” dog harness for your cat because dogs and cats have different shaped bodies and they just will not work. They will reverse their body out of it and get loose, so it is very important to get the appropriate fitting harness.
The con is that putting this kind of harness on your cat will be difficult. Like I said above, they already don’t want to do what you want them to do so when you are trying to get their head through the harness hole and fitting it around the legs and bodies, there will be a struggle and your pet will not be happy.
How To Get Your Cat Used To The Harness
- Lay the harness next to or on top of your cat.
- Put a couple of treats on the harness and have your them eat them off of it.
- Pet them with the harness.
- Put the harness around their neck (use treats to lure their head through the head hole if you go with the standard H harness.
- Strap your cat into the harness and let them wear it around the house for a few days before taking them outside
2. Have Patience
When you bring your cat outside for the first time, you need to keep them near the house and in a place that they are familiar with (is there a window they like to look out of? Take them outside there!)
When you first take them out, they will probably be pretty timid and unsure of themselves. Sit outside with them and give them a treat. If they lay down, just sit with them patiently and let them be scared. Pet them and comfort them and tell them they are doing a good job because they will soon recognize that they are safe when they are with you. I firmly believe in using words and phrases to train your cat.
You should be saying:
- “Good boy/good girl” while petting them and using the right tone.
- “No” in a stern voice if they try to go somewhere they shouldn’t go.
- “Walk” or “Outside”
- “Treat” and “home”
- “Come” “Stop” and “Stay”
All of these steps will take several weeks to get through, so don’t be disappointed when a week has gone by and you are still sitting with your cat on the front porch.
3. Your Cat Should Explore First
Yes, you are the master of your pet, but your poor cat is very new to being outside. You shouldn’t pick them up and walk all the way across your yard and set them down. That is very terrifying for such timid and observant animals.
In the beginning, you need to allow your cat to explore the area first. The smoothest way to get through training is by going at their pace. Of course, if they are going near something they shouldn’t you definitely need to protect them at all costs, so a light tug and saying “no” is fine. But they need to start off going where they feel comfortable and safe.
4. Keep Your Cat up and Walking
The number one benefit to walking your cat, if the exercise. Yes, you want them to explore, have fun, and have a generally good life but indoor cats are notorious for being lazy and often gain weight and become obese. If this is your main reason to walk them, then you know it is important to keep them moving and walking while they’re outside.
After several weeks or possibly months, your cat is probably going to be getting a lot better getting their harness on and going outside easily. However, I bet your cat will be stopping a lot on your walks and you will be saying “This is definitely not like walking a dog”.
When I first started talking Layla out on walks, she would stop every couple of feet to smell a leaf, turn her head and stare, or just stand in place which was problematic because she needed to walk and get her exercise. The thing that helped me with this issue was allowing the leash to tug the harness just slightly while I stood in place and kept the foot motion and walking sounds going. This sort of tricked her into thinking I was going on without her and it continued the walk.
Another issue cats have when they start walking on leashes, is every once in a while they just decide it’s time to lay down, which is also problematic for the cats that need the continuity of exercise. When this happens, the solution that worked for me was using the tip of my foot to give her a very gentle tap on her bottom. She would pop right up and start the walk again after a hiss or two. But let’s be honest, if someone was forcing me to work out, I would be hissing too.
5. The Last Steps
Inevitably, your cat will stop walking. They will lay down, stop listening to commands, and hiss. Maybe they are worn out and maybe they just got to the point where they are tired of listening, but either way, no matter how hard you try, they are done.
In these situations I tell my cat we are going home and then I pick her up and take her home. Make sure you hold your their base (legs and butt) securely, hold their chest area close to you as well so they feel safe in your embrace. you can make sure to tell them “time to go home” and “you are a good boy/girl”. When you get them home it is very important you give them a treat or two, praise them, pet them, and love on them as much as possible. They need to know that home is where love and treats are so they don’t want to be outside forever.