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Walking your feline friend on a leash is a superb way to cure your cat's boredom and get them some exercise without having to worry about them freely roaming around your neighborhood. Training a cat to do anything is no easy task, and most of the time, your cat will do their own thing whether you've trained them or not. That being said, training your cat to walk on a leash is easier than most training exercises, especially if your little lion loves to explore the great outdoors.
The most important part of training your cat to walk on a leash to get them comfortable wearing a harness. It's unlikely your cat will take to their harness straight away, so it's essential you get them used to it over time.
First, you'll want to purchase a harness specially for cats and not a small dog harness, as a small dog harness won't fit your cat correctly and may cause discomfort. You should also ensure your chosen harness is lightweight and doesn't feature any heavy chains that may limit movement.
As well as getting your cat used to wearing a harness, it's integral your cat gets used to being outside with a leash and harness. Easing your cat into walking on a leash will help prevent them from feeling threatened or scared while outside. Start with walks around your garden (if possible) or just a short walk around the block in an area they're familiar with.
Once you've trained your cat to wear a leash, you should avoid rewarding bad behavior. For example, your excitable feline may cry at the door begging you to take them for a walk. You shouldn't walk your cat when they're crying, as they'll see this as a way of getting walks in the future. You should also carry your cat outside when it's time for a walk and not let them walk out of the house on their own. The reason for this is your cat may take to dashing out the front door, whether they're on a leash or not.
You should begin training your cat from a young age — just make sure your cat's harness isn't too small and they aren't able to slip it off during your walk. By training your cat from a kitten, they'll be more accepting of their leash; however, it's possible to train older cats. It's also worth considering your cat's breed, as some cats will be more accepting of harnesses than others. For example, Ragdolls are notoriously easy to handle and adapt well to walking on a leash.
The Harness Method
Allow your cat to get used to the harness
Gently put the harness on your cat, initially for just a few minutes at a time. If you have trouble getting the harness on, try distracting your cat with treats or a toy. When you've put the harness on, try to keep your cat entertained so they don't focus on trying to remove the harness.
Increase the time
Over the course of a few days to a week, slowly increase the amount of time your cat is wearing their harness. Start with a couple of minutes before leaving the harness on for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
Attach the leash
Once your cat has adjusted to wearing a harness, attach a leash and allow your cat to roam around your home freely with it attached. Ensure the leash is lightweight, and keep an eye on your cat in case they seem uncomfortable. Attach the leash to the harness and not the collar.
Get your cat used to walking on a leash
Walk your cat around your house for a few minutes. If your cat is pulling on the leash, wait patiently without pulling your cat until there's no tension. Reward your cat with a treat when there's no tension. Walking a cat is different from walking a dog, and sometimes you'll have to let your cat take the lead.
Start with short walks outdoors and increase the duration gradually
Take your cat for short, quiet walks in your neighborhood, slowly increasing the duration of the walk. You should aim to walk a cat for around 10 to 15 minutes at a time. If your cat seems unhappy, return home to avoid them becoming fearful of future walks.
By Adam Lee-Smith
Published: 02/03/2021, edited: 03/16/2021