Many cat owners might not think about leash training; after all, it's not a common sight to see people walking their cats. However, there are times when walking your curious kitty on a leash is beneficial, especially if you're attempting a road trip together. While it might not be the norm, it is possible to leash train your cat with some patience, positive reinforcement, and consistency.
Why Leash Train Your Cat?
If you don't already have a good reason, you're likely wondering why on earth you would need to leash train your cat? Well, truth be told, it's a good idea for several reasons. First, it enables you to take your feline friend with you on more outdoor adventures. This can open up the door to a whole host of new experiences for both of you, not to mention help ease your cat’s potential boredom.
Teaching your cat to walk on a leash is also helpful for situations like road trips and traveling. It certainly will make bathroom breaks a lot simpler (unless you really plan to keep a usable litter box and scoop in your car).
Plus, taking your cat on a walk is an excellent way for both of you to squeeze some beneficial exercise into your day. It’s also a great way for you and your kitty to bond.
Leash Training Your Cat: A Step-by-Step Guide
Of course, the sooner you can introduce your cat to the whole concept of walking on a leash, the better. Young kittens are likely to be more accepting of the idea than older cats who are already set in their ways. However, even older cats can learn and end up enjoying the experience.
While leash training won’t be a great fit for every cat, it’s certainly more possible than you might have thought. Especially since you'll be practicing inside at first. You will be able to sense early on how your cat feels about this situation before taking them outside. You’ll likely find that your cat not only can walk on a leash but actually enjoy it too. However, to have any hope of success, you need to be patient and approach the process thoughtfully. It’s essential to get prepared.
Gather Your Supplies
First things first, make sure you have everything you need. Don’t worry; it isn’t much. You need a comfortable harness or walking vest that will fit your cat well, a durable 4-to-6-foot long leash, and some treats. Preferably, you should use treats that your cat finds absolutely irresistible.
It’s better to use a harness or vest for your cat than a regular collar. Typically, cat collars are breakaway collars and any light tug can cause the collar to break. Non-breakaway collars can also be dangerous and can lead to choking since cats have delicate throats compared to most pups. The most essential factor when choosing your cat’s harness is fit. Basically, you want it to be snug, so your cat doesn’t walk out of it, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable.
Measure your cat’s girth around the broadest part of the chest. Then, add about two to three inches to it. Compare the resulting figure to the size chart for various harnesses and vests to find the right size for your pet.
Ideally, when your cat has the harness on, you should be able to fit two fingers beneath it, but that’s it. Any bigger, and your cat is likely to wriggle out of it.
Introduce Your Cat to the Harness and Leash
Before you attempt to put a harness or walking vest on your cat, you need to introduce it slowly. Otherwise, you risk ending up with one freaked-out feline.
Associating the harness with something positive is a must, and food is a great option. You can place the harness near your cat’s food dish and even put a few treats with it. Let your cat sniff and investigate the harness, and offer plenty of rewards.
Another good idea is to desensitize your cat to the noises the harness makes. For example, clips, velcro, and other elements can make some startling sounds for cats. Fasten and unfasten these parts of the harness while your cat is nearby, offer treats, and show your cat that it’s no big deal. Your pet will soon get used to the sounds, so when you attempt to use the harness, they’re nothing new.
Do similar practices with the leash, so your cat can also get used to it. Then, once you feel your kitty is ready, it’s time to try on the harness. But, you’re not ready for a walk yet. It’s all about your cat getting used to this strange thing. Cats generally get confused when stuff is on their back, so it’s going to take your cat time to adjust.
Place the harness on, but don’t fasten it at first. Give your cat a treat. You can also try putting the harness on your kitty right before mealtime, using the bowl full of kibble as a welcome distraction.
Let your cat keep the harness on for a few minutes, then remove it. If your cat starts to get antsy, quickly remove the harness and give your cat a treat. You want to try and keep the whole experience as positive as possible. Do this for a few days before even attempting to add the leash into the mix.
Leash Training Process
Once your cat has mastered wearing a harness, it’s time to introduce the leash. You can allow your pet to get used to the leash, similar to how you did the harness. Place it near the food dish, let your cat sniff and explore, and give them a treat.
Next, you can clip the leash onto the harness and gently hold it as you let your cat wander freely around the house. Give your kitty a treat and praise while walking on the leash.
Eventually, start to apply very slight pressure on the leash and gently guide your kitty. Use your cat’s name and reward responses with praise and treats. Do this inside for several days, and once your cat seems comfortable, you can take the training outside. Since your cat will be spending more time outdoors, ensure you have taken the proper precautions against things like heartworms and fleas.
Pick up and carry your cat (on the leash) outside into your backyard. Starting in a familiar (fenced-in) area is always ideal. Let your cat take the lead at first. Unlike dogs, who are eager to go on long adventures, your cat may simply enjoy roaming around the yard. Read your pet’s cues and let your cat’s reactions be your guide.
Once again, start small, doing this for several days before expanding to new territory. If your cat ever seems nervous or agitated, back up to the previous step. You never want to force the issue, as doing so will undoubtedly doom the process.
Always have treats at the ready, and it’s helpful to have a towel too. If your cat does start to get anxious, the towel will help you scoop up your panicked pet without getting an arm full of scratches.
Overall, patience, positivity, and consistency are key to successfully leash training your cat. Most cats can learn to walk on a leash, but if your pet isn’t a fan, you can create some fun indoor adventures together instead. For more helpful tips on how to up your pet-parent game, check out the rest of our blog. You’ll find all sorts of tips and resources to help you get to know your furry friends better.