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Keeping your cat indoors will protect them from the potential dangers of the outdoor world. However, cats need physical and mental stimulation to stay happy, healthy, and well-behaved. If you're looking for a new activity for your cat to enjoy, try training them to walk on a leash. That's right, just like dogs, you can train a cat to walk on a leash, allowing them to experience new sights and sounds without worrying about safety issues.
Cats don't need to go outside to relieve themselves like dogs, so they'll still use the litter box. However, going outside on a leash can benefit them by ensuring they meet their daily exercise requirement. Leash training a cat takes time and patience, but it will ensure their safety outdoors.
- Gather The Right Equipment
- Help Your Cat Adapt To Their Harness
- Get Your Cat Used To The Leash
- Practice Walking Indoors
- Take Your Cat Outside
- Tips For Leash Training A Cat
- Cat Leash Training: FAQs
- Final Notes
1. Gather The Right Equipment
The first step in learning how to train your cat to walk on a leash is ensuring you have the proper supplies. Every cat needs a leash and a well-fitting harness to keep them safe. A harness is much harder to escape than a collar alone. Additionally, you should have some delicious treats to reward your cat for good behavior and create a positive association with their leash and harness.
2. Help Your Cat Adapt To Their Harness
Harness training a cat is crucial because most cats aren't used to the sensation of wearing anything other than a collar. Always get your cat used to their harness before putting it on them so they'll feel more comfortable. Making your cat wear the harness immediately can cause them to feel stressed or anxious. Instead, let them sniff it and give them treats for interacting with it, specifically when they approach the harness.
Once your cat seems comfortable around their harness, you can put it on them. Some cats will be resistant at first because they're not used to it, but you can slip the harness over their head without fastening it to help them adjust.1 Feed them treats to keep them calm and associate the experience with something positive. If your cat seems comfortable, you can fasten the harness and adjust it to fit your cat.
You can leave the harness on without the leash attached and continue to give them treats, gradually increasing the amount of time your cat wears it over the next several days or weeks.2 If your cat appears stressed at any point, take the harness off and try again the next day with a different, more appealing treat.1
Harnesses can induce cat anxiety, and you want to avoid these feelings since they can make your pet form negative associations with the harness. Instead, take the harness off and try another day if your cat is restless.
Some cats will freeze up or walk strangely when wearing a harness for the first time because it feels different from anything they've experienced.1 Ultimately, it will take time for them to adjust. However, once your cat appears comfortable wearing the harness, you can attach it to the leash.
3. Get Your Cat Used To The Leash
When you're ready to attach the leash, take them to a room with open space so it won't get caught on furniture. You don't have to hold the leash right away. Instead, let them drag it to help them get used to the sensation. You should continue to feed them treats to help them form positive associations.1
Once your cat seems comfortable, you can follow them while holding the leash loose. Don't pull or tug on the leash because it can scare your cat. Instead, give them treats and let them walk around to get used to the feeling.
4. Practice Walking Indoors
It's always best to practice walking on the leash inside since there are fewer distractions and stimuli, and your cat is less likely to experience fear and anxiety. You can apply gentle pressure to the leash and say your cat's name or another command they know that makes them walk towards you. Then, give your cat a treat when they come to you.1
Practice walking inside for a few days to ensure your cat feels comfortable. If they experience any stress, go back to the previous step and let them roam while dragging the leash behind them again. Continue to help them adjust and guide them around the house.
5. Take Your Cat Outside
When your cat is comfortable walking indoors, you can take them outside. Limit the first couple of times to only a few minutes and gradually build their confidence in their new environment. If you live in an apartment, try to find an area that dogs don't frequent because it could be dangerous for them.
What's most important is being in control of your cat at all times. You should never let them off the leash to free-roam in the yard. Instead, you want to minimize stimuli that can cause stress and anxiety.
In addition to walking your cat in the yard, you can use a cat leash while going to the vet. However, you should always have your cat in some type of carrier, such as a cat backpack or traditional carrier, and only allow them out once the leash is attached.
Tips For Leash Training A Cat
Leash training a cat takes time to ensure they're comfortable with the experience. Indoor cats aren't used to someone else being in control of how they move and where they go, but the last thing you want is for your cat to feel stressed while on a leash. Instead, you want to make the experience positive.
Here are a few tips to help you train your cat to walk on a leash:
- Don't rush the process. Taking it slow is crucial because most cats aren't used to the sensation of a harness or leash. Your cat can easily become stressed if you rush the process, which means it will take longer for them to learn how to walk on a leash.
- Never let go of your cat. You should never let your cat go outside on their own unless you have an outdoor cat enclosure that will prevent them from running away. If you plan on walking your cat on a leash, always hold the strap tightly. Cats can easily be distracted outside, and they're fast and agile, so you don't want to risk your cat's safety by dropping the leash.
- Use positive reinforcement. The best way to reduce and prevent anxiety in cats when teaching them to walk on a leash is to use positive reinforcement. Treats are crucial when trying to train a cat to do anything and can help them associate their harness, the leash, and the experience of being guided via a tether with something positive.
- Inspect the environment. Before taking a cat outside on a leash, always inspect the environment. Cats don't need to go on long walks like dogs. Instead, you can walk them back and forth in the yard or let them sniff. In any case, you should inspect the area where you'll walk them to ensure there are no sharp objects, dangerous plants, or other animals that might frighten them. You should also learn how to care for cat paws to prevent injury.
Cat Leash Training: FAQs
Is leash training a cat beneficial?
An indoor cat's lifespan is drastically higher than an outdoor cat's for several reasons. For example, outdoor cats have a higher risk of diseases and parasites like ticks, fleas, and worms. They could come into contact with poisons and dangerous animals or get struck by cars, and they don't have protection from the elements.
What do all of these things have in common? These cats don't have supervision.
Leash training gives you direct control over your cat to ensure their safety. Since you're next to them, you can see everything they do to guarantee they don't consume any poisonous plants or come into contact with dangerous people or animals. Plus, the activity provides your cat with exercise and mental stimulation.
If you don't plan on leash training your cat or investing in a catio, you should always keep them indoors to protect them. Letting your cat live outdoors is extremely dangerous. Instead, always ensure you have direct control over your cat, whether that means keeping them inside or putting them on a leash.
How long does cat leash training a cat take?
How long it takes to leash train a cat depends on you. If you don't take the time to work with your cat, it will take longer to learn. Aim to spend about five minutes a day training your cat to help them get comfortable wearing the harness and feeling the pressure of the leash. Then, depending on how fast they progress, it may only take a few weeks or months before they can go outside.
Rushing the process can set you back, so you shouldn't force your cat to wear a harness or leash if they're uncomfortable. Instead, consider their temperament and behavior while wearing these items to prevent unnecessary stress.
Is it easy to leash train an indoor cat?
Unfortunately, not all cats will enjoy wearing a harness or leash, so it can take several months to leash train your cat, depending on their temperament.
What's most important is being patient since every cat is different. Some cats are more accepting than others, so it's important to consider how your cat feels.
There's nothing wrong with keeping an indoor cat indoors. Instead of letting them go outside for stimulation, you can give them a cat tree by the window for a similar experience and ensure they have plenty of toys for mental and physical stimulation.
Learning how to leash train a cat can be challenging, but many cats enjoy the experience. However, it's not always necessary. Additionally, if you need to take your cat anywhere, such as the vet, keeping them in a cat carrier is always the safest option.
Anxious cats may be more difficult to train. If your cat experiences anxiety in new situations, let us help. Our vets can provide recommendations for reducing your cat's anxiety, allowing them to feel more comfortable in their surroundings. Try Dutch today.
"Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash." Adventure Cats, 14 May 2018, https://www.adventurecats.org/backcountry-basics/train-your-cat-to-walk-on-a-leash/.
"Leash Training Your Cat." The Anti-Cruelty Society, https://anticruelty.org/pet-library/leash-training-your-cat.