How to leash train your cat
Not at cats are interested in what’s beyond their front window perch, but some curious cats yearn to smell and see what’s beyond their front door. Letting your indoor cat roam outside isn’t a safe option, especially in areas with heavy vehicle traffic. When done properly, leash training is a great compromise, allowing your active and adventurous cat to have new experiences while staying in control of the situation.
Not every cat is right for leash training or outdoor adventures, so build up slowly and listen to what your cat is telling you.
Measure your cat
Not just any harness will be right for your cat. Sizing matters! Before going shopping or looking online, be sure to know your cat’s measurements. Use a tape measure around the front of your cat’s chest, behind his front legs and around his middle.
Do not skip finding a well fitted harness. Leashes cannot be attached directly to your cat’s collar. This puts your pet at risk for neck or throat damage.
Introduce the harness
Even a curious and social cat will need time to get used to a harness. Before trying to place the harness on your cat, give them time to sniff and explore it. Place it somewhere non-threatening, such as by their food, and let them check it out at their own pace. Reward your cat for approaching the harness using treats.
After your cat has had time to check out the harness, try putting it on your cat without attaching the leash. Allow them to wear it around the house. It may take some getting used to, so try a few times until your cat is able to move and explore as normal while wearing it. The more familiar your cat is with the harness, the more positive the experience will be.
Practice walking inside
Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness, attach the leash and practice walking indoors.
Do a test run
Plan your first outdoor excursion carefully. Choose somewhere semi-private with little foot traffic, such as a back yard. This first outdoor trip may be overwhelming to your cat, so reduce over-stimulation as much as possible.
As your cat gains confidence on leash, try longer excursions with new stimuli. Plan your trips in advance so you can be prepared for what your cat may encounter. Be sure to carry a towel or soft-sided carrier in case the situation changes.
Leash walking is not for every cat, so if your cat seems distressed try slowing down the introduction process or find different activities to let them explore. Some cats may prefer a cat backpack or stroller- or be perfectly content staying home in their favorite sunny spot!