How to Train Your Cat to Walk on a Lead

Many indoor cats express a desire to go outside; it’s only natural that they would. So, how can you let your cat explore the great outdoors while maintaining peace of mind and keeping your kitty safe? By training them to walk on a cat lead.

Not all cats will take to walking on a lead; some indoor cats are very nervous when it comes to stepping outside but if you have a cat or kitten with a confident, outgoing personality, then training can be fun and mutually beneficial. You get to banish any guilt you’re feeling about keeping your cat indoors, and your feline gets to extend their territory, and enjoy fresh air and excitement as they explore – including some places you may never thought of taking them!

Here’s my five simply steps to training your cat to walk on a lead:

STEP 1:

Buy a kitten or cat harness from your local pet shop, or online.

STEP 2: 

Throw the harness in with your kitty’s toys so they familiarise themselves with it. Play with them and the harnesses everyday for a least two weeks.

STEP 3: 

Without attaching the lead, try putting the harness on your kitten before their main mealtime – this will ensure your kitten forms a positive association about wearing the harness. At first it will feel slightly odd to your cat; start with five minutes a day giving plenty of praise reassurance at every step of the way.

They will soon realise that the harness leads to treats and cuddles and all good things. Eventually, they will play, totally unaware that they are strapped into a strange gizmo and you can give yourself a pat on the back that the hardest part has been conquered!

TIP: Make sure you leave enough space around the neck of the harness so that it is comfortable and not too tight. Test this by putting two fingers between the neck of your kitten and the harness. This applies to the body of the harness too.

STEP 4: 

Once you can see that your kitten has adapted to the harness, attach the lead; do this process slowly. Remember small steps will eventually lead to major leaps! Let your kitten walk along at his leisure with the lead dragging along behind. Don’t attempt to lead the walk as it will never work. Even when you get to the stage where you go out with your kitten on a harness you will never be leading them, they will be leading you!

TIP: NEVER EVER leave your kitten unattended wearing the harness as it could get caught up on anything during playtime and lead to strangulation.

STEP 5:

Choose a quiet time of day to venture outside for the first time. Make sure the harness is on securely and remember to attach the lead BEFORE your cat takes their first steps out into the big world. Be patient and always offer words of encouragement and reassurance.

My kittens made my job easier at this stage as they really enjoyed being outside. Although nervous at first, they were soon having a ball, sniffing the grass, chasing butterflies and climbing trees! If your kitten does go to climb a tree, that’s great but don’t let them go too high; always be in control and hold that lead TIGHT!

TIP: You can opt for a retractable cat lead that attaches easily to a harness, which will give you more freedom on walks and is the best lead for your cat. When you are both relaxed at this you can buy a small puppy extendable lead that will give kitty more freedom to run along and chase things.

DEALING WITH DOGS:

Please be aware of dogs. Most dog owners are conscientious and will cross the road with their dog when they see you have a cat on a lead. Don’t panic as this just strikes fear into your cat; be observant and if you feel uncomfortable about a dog, pick your cat up and turn your back on the approaching dog.

Walking your cat on a lead is never going to be like walking a dog; they go where they want to, when they want, so you just have to let them be cats and enjoy watching them lead YOU all over the place. Happy walking folks!

Anita is an accredited, vet referred cat behaviourist based in Notting Hill and a full member of The Canine and Feline Behaviour Association. She is also a master cat groomer, specialising in working with timid or aggressive cats. She holds a first class honour degree in Feline Behaviour & Psychology (work based studies) and lives with her husband, a successful music producer and two Norwegian Forest cats. Anita writes regular features for Your Cat and The Cats Protection and is on the experts panel of Your Cat magazine.

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