If you find your cat gazing longingly out the window, or tearing around your home with seemingly boundless energy, it may be time to consider taking your indoor cat for a walk on a leash.
Leashed walks aren’t just for dogs. Many cats enjoy the opportunity to explore the great outdoors, and a leashed walk can be a great way for you and your indoor cat to spend more fun, quality time together. We all love getting out for a walk once in a while, and your cat may feel the same way!
6 Tips for Training Your Cat to Walk on a Leash
Believe it or not, most cats can readily learn to walk on a leash with the proper training and accessories. Once you get the basics down, you and your cat will be ready for an exciting walk outside!
1. Get the right harness. The harness is important because it ensures they won’t slip out of their collar during the walk. Find a harness that is the correct size for your cat, and be sure to hook the leash to the back, not near the neck. It should be snug but loose enough to fit two fingers between the harness and your cat.
2. Train indoors first. Before taking your cat for a walk outside, get them comfortable using the harness and leash in the familiarity of their indoor surroundings. This step is especially important if your cat isn’t a fan of being held or restrained. Repeat for a short time each day until your cat seems adjusted to the harness and leash.
3. Reward with treats. Give your cat positive reinforcement while they’re experiencing the harness and leash for the first time. They will be distracted by the treats, as well as positively associate the feeling of the harness and leash with a tasty reward.
4. Start small. When you’re ready to venture outside, start by letting your cat sniff just outside the door. Choose a small or fenced-in area for your first exploration. If you live in a city, consider crating your cat and driving to a different location. Ensure your cat can become used to the outdoors without any unforeseen distractions such as other people or neighborhood dogs out for a walk.
5. Be a gentle leader. Whether practicing around the house or walking outside, always lead your cat gently and be respectful of his or her desires; your cat may want to walk slowly, sniffing and exploring, or they may opt for a brisk stroll. Additionally, be mindful of your cat’s behavior. If they appear stressed or anxious, it may be time to head back indoors.
6. Set a schedule. Pets like consistency in their schedules, and if your cat enjoys walks, he or she will come to rely on a regular walk at a certain time of day. Setting a schedule also helps keep your cat from pestering you to take a walk at a time when you might not be able.
Remember, not all cats like taking walks. If a walk on a leash doesn’t seem like your indoor cat’s cup of tea, there are other ways to let your cat experience something new. Consider a catio—an enclosed outdoor space where your cat can roam safely and securely. Of course, your cat will be a happy camper any time they are spending quality time with their human.