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How to Leash Train a Cat and Not Make It Stressed

Professional veterinary specialist with 10 years of experience. - Alisa Moor

publication time: 12:38

Walking a cat on a leash has many advantages. Firstly, it helps to sustain the required level of physical activity. Secondly, most domestic cats love walking outdoors: after all, they are born to be wild creatures. Thirdly, this is a great new experience for both you and your kitty. Finally, it comes very handily when you need to take your furry friend to a vet, as a leash-trained pet is easier to control outside the home. 

Table of Contents:

A Harness: the First Encounter
Trying on and Fitting
Leash Training
Outdoor Walks
Important Tips on Leash-Training
Bottom Line

If you’ve made up your mind to walking with your cat, you need several things. First of all, you need a good harness, which is both comfortable and reliable, and a cat leash. But most importantly, you need a lot of patience to leash-train the pet properly. Though almost any cat can be leash-trained, some of them are very stubborn. That is why you should always be slow and patient. Start gradually because if your cat is scared once, it will be hard if not impossible to persuade it to walk on a leash in the future.

Specialists recommend to begin leash training early – when your feline is a kitty. That said, cats of any age can be trained if you apply some effort. Of course, there are some exceptions: some kitties will never feel comfortable outdoors. But the share of such pets is pretty low: most cats have a lot of fun when sniffing grass in summer and rolling in the snow in winter. If you feel that your fluffy friend needs a bit of outdoor adventure, this guide is for you.

A Harness: the First Encounter

Let your cat get used to the smell and sound of a harness. Use positive reinforcement with the help of food or treats. For a starter, simply put a new harness near the food dish to let your feline sniff it. On the next day, try to fasten and unfasten the harness, keeping it near the cat. New sounds can frighten the pet, so give it time to get used to them. Your goal at this stage is to create a positive experience of having a harness around. Your cat should treat it as a friend, not an enemy.

A Harness: the First Encounter

Let your cat get used to the smell and sound of a cat harness. Use positive reinforcement with the help of food or treats. For a starter, simply put a new harness near the food dish to let your feline sniff it. On the next day, try to fasten and unfasten the harness, keeping it near the cat. New sounds can frighten the pet, so give it time to get used to them. Your goal at this stage is to create a positive experience of having a harness around. Your cat should treat it as a friend, not an enemy.

Trying on and Fitting

Encourage Your Cat with Treats

The next stage is trying on the harness. Choose a moment when your feline is relaxed and satisfied. Ideally, make the first attempt just before or during having a meal. You may even offer the pet some treats or something delicious in order to form a positive association. Gently slip the harness over the cat’s head but don’t fasten it. Let the kitty get used to the new sensation. Repeat the procedure several times – for example, before or after every meal, until the cat is completely comfortable with it. Don’t apply force if it is trying to escape or get rid of the harness. Instead, calm it down by giving treats and stroking. Repeat an attempt in a while.

If your cat feels comfortable with a harness on, you may try to fasten it. Put on the harness as recommended and adjust the straps. The harness must fit tight enough to prevent escape but not too tight. You may rely on a simple rule: try to place one finger between a strap and the pet’s body. If there is not enough space for it, loosen the straps a little. If you can place two or more fingers, tighten them.

It’s recommended to repeat the procedure for several days in a row and monitor the cat’s reaction. Typical reactions are freezing, changing of gait, and even laying down on the floor. If a cat doesn’t want to walk or move with a harness on, there’s nothing to worry about. Don’t pull your pet, making it walk. Instead, give it some more treats and try to calm it down. Continue training as long as needed, until your feline can walk around the home in a harness without visible signs of frustration or anxiety.

Leash Training

Now, it’s time to attach a leash and learn how to leash train a cat. Again, you need to be slow and persuasive. Always begin leash training indoors; ideally, in a room with minimum furniture to prevent snagging the leash. Put on the harness as usual and reward your kitty with a treat. After that, quickly attach the leash and let the pet walk. Don’t try to guide it by pulling the leash. Instead, let it drag behind on the floor. Alternatively, (if the kitty is frightened) take the leash in your hand but don’t pull it. Depending on the cat’s reaction, you may repeat the procedure several times.

On the next day (or in several days, depending on the cat’s behavior), try to start guiding. Gently pull the leash, making your kitty follow you. Continue giving it treats for the right behavior. At the same, don’t apply too much pressure on the leash. Also, make sure you don’t cause pain or severe discomfort to the pet. Try to practice guiding every day to form a steady habit.

Outdoor Walks

A Kitten on the Walk

If your cat doesn’t mind wearing a harness and a leash, you can practice some outdoor walking. Put on the harness, attach the leash, and take the pet outdoors, for example, to the backyard. Gently put in on the ground and let it walk. Take the leash in your hand but don’t try to guide the kitty immediately. If the cat has never been outdoors, it may be frightened at first. Chances are it will not want to walk – that’s OK. Let it just sniff around, touch and lick the grass, and roll on the ground (don’t forget to bathe it afterward). Keep in mind that your cat needs time to get accustomed to the new environment, and your primary task is to encourage it.

Some specialists recommend taking a towel on the first walk. If your cat gets panic suddenly, you can quickly wrap it into the towel and take home. Otherwise, you are risking to be scratched and bitten, as frightened cats tend to turn into furious monsters.

Continue your small everyday walks until your feline feels at home. Usually, it takes several days. If you see that the fear has changed to curiosity, you may start guiding. Don’t expect, though, that your kitty will follow you in the same way as dogs do. You know that cats are freedom-loving creatures, so get on with the thought that it is you who will follow your feline, not vice versa.

Another thing to consider is that cats are usually not oriented to long walks, unlike dogs, who readily follow you wherever you go. Instead, they may prefer walking around the home, sniffing the grass and flowers, and watching birds. Some kitties may try climbing trees. If you want your furry friend to get maximum pleasure from the walks, don’t make it leave its comfort zone.

Important Tips on Leash-Training

We’d like to remind you once again that cat walking is different from dog walking. There are some basic things that need to be taken seriously if you care about your kitty’s security. Consider the following tips to take most of your outdoor adventures.

Never Let Your Cat Leave the Home on Its Own

Always carry the cat in your hands when you are walking out the door. No matter whether it is leashed or not – it must not walk through the entrance door on its own. The problem is that cats are very tricky. If the cat is used to cross the threshold when you go walking, it can do it at any moment. To reduce the risk of escaping carry it in your hands every time.

Don’t Respond the Provocations

Some cats may love walking so much that they will cry out for going outside over and over again. Once you respond to the provocation, you will have to do it constantly or listen for desperate crying of your kitty. That is why let your cat know that it’s for you to decide when you will go walking. Ideally, try to keep a certain schedule if possible.

Don’t Leave Your Cat Alone

Even if your feline seems to be well-trained, don’t leave it unattended even for a fraction of second. Firstly, it can escape, and you will have a hard time trying to catch it. Secondly, it can get tangled in a leash and injury itself.

Bottom Line

Outdoor walking with a cat is fun. It can bring a wonderful new experience both to you and your kitty. While leash-training requires a lot of patience, the result is worthy of it. We hope our recommendations will help you to train a cat to walk on a leash with minimum hassle.

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