A Guide to Training Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

October 31, 2022

By: Albert from OutdoorBengal
Mia outside with her cat harness

It’s a common belief that cats are born to be homebodies. Many consider their cats strictly indoor pets; most cats spend so much time sleeping, lounging, and cuddling with their owners but they also need and want more enrichment in their lives.

Leash training a cat might be a great way to encourage their adventurous instincts safely! 

Here’s all you need to know about training a cat to walk on a leash so you can let your adventurous friend take a walk on the wild side:

Mia wearing her cat harness and leash in a tree
Source: OutdoorBengal

Should you walk your cat on a leash?

Walking your cat on a leash is excellent because it gives them an extra burst of activity; moreover, while outdoors, all of their senses are stimulated, leaving them exhausted when they return home. 

Along with regular engaging playtime, this is a fantastic way to switch things up, prevent “play boredom,” and add some much-needed fun to their lives.

If you want to give your cat some exercise and mental stimulation, leash training is an excellent option. It keeps your cat and the wildlife safe while offering opportunities to explore and play hunt. Consider taking a look at the pros and cons of walking a cat.

When should you start walking your cat on a leash?

Cats should ideally begin learning how to walk on a leash and harness as kittens, but cats of any breed and age can learn and enjoy walking on a leash.

To ease them into being restricted, it’s best to start the process inside and utilize rewards like food and praise. We’ll review the process later in this article. Visits outdoors are best started in confined environments, free from noises, dogs, and people. Take your cat to public parks only if you are confident they can’t escape their cat harness and have built enough confidence to be further socialized.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION: Before going outside, felines should be fully vaccinated against contagious diseases and treated for parasites like fleas, ticks, and worms. A microchip is required to increase the chances of finding them if they try to escape.

How do you train a cat to walk on a leash?

Step 1: Gradually introduce your cat to the harness indoors

Put it on first without the leash. Asking your cat to sit and stay is the best way to put a harness on a cat.

Treat her while she’s wearing the harness, then remove it carefully. Carry on with the procedure, but this time have your cat wear the harness for more extended periods.

Step 2: Practice leash walking inside

Once your cat is used to wearing the harness, you can attach the leash. To get started, loosen the leash and just follow your cat around. Keep doing this for a few days until your cat is at ease and walks around without trouble.

Step 3: Practice leash tension with your cat indoors

You may let your cat roam freely about the house while you keep an eye on them by dragging the leash behind them. This way, your cat will be able to experience the leash tension and learn to adapt to it.

Step 4: Walk your cat inside

Harness and leash your cat and follow them. Gently guide your cat in a different direction after it has strolled about for a while. You may drop snacks on the floor or hold them between your fingers to tempt your cat. Mark behavior and reward when your cat walks by your side.

Step 5: Go outside

To get your cat used to going outdoors, allow them to decide when it’s a perfect moment to take a step outside, either from the carrier, the car, or your home. You can aid with this process with food or toys on the other side of the line you are hoping to cross.

Later on, when your cat is confident, it is a good idea to teach them to sit and stay before leaving the house to prevent door dashing.

Mia outside with a cat leash
Source: OutdoorBengal

How to measure a cat to ensure the right harness fit?

The fit of a cat harness is the most crucial component in ensuring your cat’s safety and comfort while wearing it.

You can quickly get the correct measurements for a harness by measuring your cat in one of two ways: You should measure your cat’s circumference with a tape measure up against her hair and add two to three inches for a good fit.

Take accurate measurements of your cat’s neck and chest using a fabric measuring tape. The product’s sizing instructions will tell you how to combine these two numbers to get the correct harness size.

Make sure the harness is snuggly fit but not painfully so. You can ensure the harness fits correctly if you can slide two fingers between the harness and the cat. Your cat should be able to walk freely and comfortably in the harness, but she should not be able to escape.

Cat harnesses should be light, comfortable, and hard to escape from

When taking your cat outside on a harness, there are a few key elements to look for to ensure your cat has a pleasant and safe outing.

There are three main characteristics it should have:

  1. Lightweight – your cat should have plenty of freedom of movement in the harness.
  1. It should be comfortable – we walk our cats to help improve their lives, and a harness shouldn’t get in the way of how much fun they can have.
  1. It should be escape-proof – your cat will have difficulty escaping from a perfect-fit harness. A harness must be reliable and safe.

We recommend you take a look at this escape-proof harness from OutdoorBengal.

Mia wearing her OutdoorBengal Cat Harness
Source: OutdoorBengal

How long does it take to habituate a cat to walk on a leash?

It may take a few days or weeks for your cat to grow accustomed to the harness, but if they can move easily while wearing it, you can start walking them on a leash.

Put the leash on your cat in a room where he won’t be able to get tangled up in any of the furniture. To get your cat used to the leash, go about the house with her while holding the leash loosely. Continue to treat and praise throughout.

When should you start walking a cat on a leash outdoors?

If your cat’s only experience with the outdoors is via a window, they will likely be on high alert the first time you take him outside.

You should begin in your backyard, which is ideal if it is enclosed by fencing.

When outdoors, stick close to her and let her lead the way in exploring. Leash your cat loosely and walk behind her, but don’t push her to go places she isn’t comfortable going.

Keep sessions short and sweet as your cat is adjusting to the outdoors. The intent is that they create a positive association with the harness and going on walks. If you can achieve that, you are moving forward in the right direction.

Final considerations to walk a cat on a leash

Follow your cat’s lead from here on. She will decide how long she wants to stay outdoors.

Keep in mind the importance of being patient. All your cat may want to run about on the grass and soak up the sun. Something that helps us understand how to treat this process is we are doing this for our cat’s enrichment, not our own. If you feel like your cat is not enjoying the process, you are moving too fast, too soon!

Stay Wild, Stay Safe; we’ll see you outdoors!

Albert & Mia