Want to know how to train a cat to walk on a leash? How to leash train a cat, so that you can take it out and about, exploring areas that it – otherwise – wouldn’t have been able to go?! Then here’s our key lessons for leash training a cat; including a step-by-step guide for exactly how to do it. (In a week or less!)
That’s right, we’re sharing our strategy – based on successfully leash training our Maine Coon kitten, Cody, in just a matter of days.
And yes, I know, we have an incredibly awesome kitten to make that happen with so much ease, but the way we went about it: 100% works. So, know that if you’re patient and stick with it (as opposed to trying to push it or rush it – every cat / kitten is different, remember!) you really can get the same results too.
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Why You May Want To Leash Train a Cat
There’s many benefits of being able to take a cat on a walk. We’ve been training our Maine Coon Kitten to walk on a leash for all of these, plus because:
- Maine Coon’s are one of the cat breeds that is actually really open to leash training, and enjoys it.
- We live an apartment, which means by being able to train our cat to walk on a leash, it’s adding a whole new element and really enhancing his life, whilst getting an extra boost of exercise! (Because yes, you can have a cat in an apartment, and yes, they can have just as good of a life – if not better – than an indoor-outdoor cat, that’s for sure!)
- It’s not actually safe for Maine Coons to go outside on their own anyway; due to their nature but also because theft is a big issue with this breed. But by leash-training, we’re still able to give him the best of both worlds!
Now I know, walking a cat on a leash is not as common as it is for dogs. But – it is possible, it is beneficial, and it’s well worth looking into (if you haven’t already) as there’s so much your little furry friend will get out of it… Once they’ve gotten used to it, that is!
How To Train a Kitten To Walk on a Leash
Now it’s worth mentioning, of course, that training a kitten to walk on a leash is, undeniably, easier than training a cat to walk on a leash.
So although we trained our cat to walk on a leash in less than 7 days – we did have the advantage of age on our side!
See, the younger you try to train a cat to walk on a leash, the better. After all, they’re still learning and growing; getting used to what the “norm” is, which is why they’re more open to it before they get too set in their ways.
How To Leash Train a Cat To Walk on a Leash
Having said this, training a cat to walk on a leash, is still possible at any age. It’s just likely to take more time and need more groundwork beforehand. Which is where this guide comes in…
Your Guide To Walking a Cat on a Leash
So let’s get stuck in shall we? Here’s the step by step process for how to train a cat to walk on a leash.
Step 1) Get Your Cat Used To Their Harness
So before you look at how to leash train a cat, the step before is cat harness training. The harness is what you clip the leash onto, so it’s pretty essential.
Now, you can have a leash without a harness, and instead, have one that attaches to a collar or is part of the collar. However these really aren’t as safe as they’re far easier to wriggle out of, so I really do recommend a harness leash instead!
With regards to your harness, it’s super important that:
- Your cat is comfortable wearing their harness, so that they don’t try to escape.
- Your cat CAN’T escape their harness. This is absolutely fundamental for keeping them safe!
- Your cat is familiar with their harness and therefore able to happily walk and explore with it on.
Cat Harness Training 101
To achieve all of the above, here’s some essential cat harness training steps:
- Introduce your cat to their harness early on. (The sooner, the better!)
- Attach it to their cat tree or leave it in their cat room – wherever they are, often. Place it within their space. You also want to encourage them to get their scent on it and to get used to it – so that they don’t see it as something to be afraid of and instead, it becomes something they’re familiar with.
- You can also use clicker training to build a positive association for your cat, towards its harness. Essentially, every time they rub into it, you want to click the clicker and reward them with a treat. This helps to further embed it in their mind.
- After that, it’s all about putting it on little and often; choosing your timing wisely for when you put it on them; and both distracting + rewarding them whilst they’re wearing it, to get them used to it. For a complete guide on this however, you want to head over to this post for “How To Get a Cat Used To a Harness.” (Uh huh, we’ve got you covered!)
Once your cat is happy wearing their harness, you can then move on to attach the leash…
Step 2) Attach The Leash
Now if you want to train a cat to walk on a leash, you have to be flexible.
For some cats / kittens, once they’re used to the harness, it could then be smooth sailing. After all, getting them used to the harness is usually the hardest part (hence why we needed an entire separate guide for it!)
However, the leash too, can be a little distracting for your little furry friend, so take it one step at a time.
See, when you first attach the leash to your cat’s harness, you shouldn’t do anything else with it. Simply let your cat walk around your home with the leash dragging behind them, before thinking about picking it up and trying to guide them.
Just to warn you: sometimes, trying to train a cat to walk on a leash inside, can be harder than outside.
This is because inside they’re used to their familiar space in their typical way. To suddenly then have this big long thing following them everywhere – they’re likely to want to play with it… Or beat it up!
However, when you go outside, they’re distracted by everything around them. So it tends to work better when they’re outside.
Despite this, it’s still worth starting your leash training indoors where it’s safe. You can then see how well they act and respond to it, before taking the next step! (Eek!)
Step 3) Let Your Cat “Walk You!”
So you’ve got your cat used to their harness, you’ve also now been able to attach the leash and it hasn’t seemed to have scared them or stressed them out. (Woohoo.)
Remember, if you’re struggling with either of these stages – be patient, reward good behaviour with treats, and do it little and often until they become more and more comfortable.
You’re now at the exciting point where you’re able to walk with your cat on the leash. Here, you want to:
- Let them lead you to begin with. Don’t try to influence their direction. Don’t pull on the lead at all. Instead, stay as close to them as you can, so they barely even feel it, and can walk freely.
- Be kind and encourage them – especially if you’ve ventured outside for the first time. You want to keep them as calm as possible. So stroke them, interact with them and – again – you guessed it, use treats for positive associations!
Step 4) Encourage Their Direction
When you want to get them moving a little more, or better influence where your cat is going – consider using one of their toys and dragging it across the floor.
Here, watch how we did it during Cody’s first time out on his leash. (This video is insanely cute by the way, so well worth a watch anyway!)
Another alternative, is to use treats or create a trail of treats to guide their path. You can also get your loved one / a family member who they know and love themselves too, to go ahead and call them on. Or, if you’ve trained your cat to move on commands, this of course then comes in handy when walking your cat on a leash too!
Every time your cat heads in the direction you want them to, or walks nicely on their own, reward them! (Especially early on when it’s still in the training stage.) It’s all about building them up, you see. As cats are clever things!
Step 5) Take It Step By Step
Once you’ve reached this point, you will have (mostly!) mastered how to train a cat to walk on a leash. However:
- Keep it up, little and often! Keep that familiarity there for your cat / kitten, by regularly taking them out – especially if they enjoy it. Remember why you wanted to do this in the first place. It’s not a novelty. It’s a way to enhance their life. So training a cat to walk on a leash is just the first step – you then want to stick with it!
- The more you take your cat out on a leash, the easier and better they learn to walk on it. Initially there may be a lot of stopping and starting, or stopping for AGES in one place. However, you can actually get to the point where you’ve not just trained a cat to walk on a leash, but can actually then take your cat on a walk… like a proper walk! (Not just a walk around the house or garden!) Here, have a read of our next guide for this:
How To Leash Train a Cat (In a Week or Less!)
As mentioned, training a cat to walk on a leash in a week or less, is indeed possible. After all, it’s what we did! However, it will depend on your cat, their breed, their personality and how much time you put into this.
Want to train your cat to walk on a leash, faster and easier? Then do harness training and leash training more regularly to get them there sooner… Whilst still remaining patient and not pushing them beyond their limits.
Sound good? Awesome. Then you’re all set!
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Thanks for reading. And good luck with leash training your cat / kitten! Be sure to browse our other articles for more helpful tips, tricks and guidance!