Just when you thought you had heard of everything, we’re now learning how training techniques can be applied to our feline friends, and how those techniques can provide them with numerous benefits to their health, safety, and fun. One of these important training techniques involves leashing training, which allows cat lovers everywhere to enjoy what dog owners have been doing for decades!

But if you have doubts about how to train your cat to walk on a leash, never fear! The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital have you covered.

Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash: Preparation and Gear

Before you grab a leash and call Fluffy, the first place to start is to ensure your pet is in good health and ready for the big task ahead. Because being outside increases your cat’s risk of exposure to other animals, parasites, and illnesses, make sure your cat is in good physical health and is current on vaccinations and parasite prevention.

It’s also important to assess your cat for behavioral readiness. If he or she freaks out when the doorbell rings or has anxiety issues, walking on a leash may not be the safest way to provide exercise.

Making sure you have the appropriate gear on hand is essential too. Do not just use a leash and collar, since cats can easily slip these. Instead, purchase a comfortable yet secure harness or walking jacket designed for kitties. You’ll also want to keep the leash length no longer than 4-6 feet for safety, especially during training.

(A few catnip treats may prove promising too!)

Tips for a Better Leash Training Experience

Once you have a good sense of readiness for your cat walking experience, remember that, just as with training dogs, training a cat requires patience, practice, and positive reward.

  • Get your cat used to the feel and look of the harness/jacket and leash by waiting until he or she is interested in being outside and is generally relaxed. You may even want to use the harness and leash during mealtimes or when petting your cat for reinforced positive association.
  • Practice for several days or weeks simply by walking around in a fenced or secure area, such as backyard. Continue to work on backyard leash acclimation until your cat seems comfortable and ready for wider roaming.
  • At this point, graduate to a more open area, such as walking in the front yard and up the block and back. If your cat seems reluctant, or reacts to something in the environment by hunching down or trying to get away, stop and reassure your cat. If he or she wants to continue walking, reward this with a treat or stroke of the head.
  • If, on the other hand, your cat appears to be in fear, return home and try again another time when he or she is calm and interested in being outside.
  • Once your cat adjusts to short neighborhood walks, and depending on your cat’s temperament, you could try a favorite spot in nature or a small park area where dogs are not as likely. Of course, some felines don’t mind the presence of dogs and vice-versa, but err on the side of caution when in public places. The important thing is to always supervise your cat, never letting him or her off leash and avoiding any potential risks, including other animals and toxic plants or substances.

Although leash walking isn’t for every cat, it can certainly be fun for socialized fur friends who love to explore. And even if more intrepid outdoor adventures aren’t in the works, short walks can have wonderful benefit to health.

Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll start to see cat parks become more popular!