Leash Training Your Cat

Leash training your cat requires patient repetition and owner supervision to be successful.

In addition to offering regular exercise opportunities for your cat, leash training also offers him an additional safeguard when he visits the veterinarian's office. He can wear his harness and leash in his pet carrier and may be able to explore the waiting room before his examination.

The best time to leash-train your cat is when he's still a kitten, but adult cats can learn to be leash-trained, too!

First, the Harness

The first step in leash training is to get your cat accustomed to wearing a harness. You can find a variety of harnesses at your local pet supply store. Harnesses may be shaped like Hs or 8s, or they may resemble jackets. Harnesses are safer than collars for leashed cats because a harnessed cat is less likely to slip out of the harness or injure itself by pulling against the leash than a collared one.

To get your cat adjusted to his harness, first leave it out where he can see it, smell it and play with it. When he seems content, put the harness on. Let him wear it for a few minutes, then remove it. Praise him and reward him with a treat. If he fights wearing the harness, try putting it on him at a different time. Repeat the process for several days, increasing the amount of time your cat wears the harness until your cat has worn the harness for about 15 minutes.

Next, the Leash

Once your cat is accustomed to the harness, attach the leash. Let it drag behind your cat as he explores your home. Monitor his movements to keep him from becoming tangled up in your furniture. Remove the leash after a few minutes and praise and reward as you did with the harness. Repeat the process for several days, and increase the amount of time you leave on the leash each day.

After your cat is adjusted to the harness and leash, pick up the end of the leash as you follow your cat around. Keep the leash loose and praise and reward your pet. Increase the amount of time you hold the leash each day and begin applying gentle pressure. Your goal is not to lead your cat around by the leash, but vocally encourage him in the direction you want him to go.

Stepping Outside

When your cat follows your gentle directions while walking on the leash, it's time to take your first steps outdoors. Practice walking in your backyard or other safe area. Make sure your cat does not appear stressed by being outdoors before you begin walking around the neighborhood.

As you begin your walks, remember that your cat won't follow obediently like a dog would. He will sometimes lead the walks, while you will lead at other times. You will be able to guide him with voice commands and gentle guidance with the leash as you both enjoy the stroll.

Finally, remember to always supervise your cat whenever he's on a leash. This will help reduce the chances of him becoming entangled in plants, trapped under a car or harmed by another unleashed animal he may encounter.