Let’s go walkies: Training your cat on a leash

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It’s an old myth that cats can’t be trained to walk on a leash. Not only is it very possible, and comfortable (if approached correctly), it opens a new set of opportunities for your cat to get active, and spend quality time with you in a safe, controlled way.

Here are five steps to help you start training your cat to walk on a leash:

1. Make sure your cat is comfortable

The most important part of the training process is getting your cat used to the harness. Placing the harness somewhere visible is key – so that your cat can observe it, examine it and play with it.

It’s best to keep the leash around the house for a few days so when you attempt to put it on, your cat is already used to it. It is best to try putting the harness on just before mealtime, or when you offer your cat a treat, to create a positive association.

2. Take it slow

Don’t try and attach a leash to the harness in the first few days. Only once your cat is fully comfortable walking around with the harness on, attach the leash and let your cat walk around the house as usual. At this point, hold the leash loosely and let your cat walk around with you behind them for short periods (don’t push it!).

3. Praise your cat for progress

When your cat seems comfortable with the leash, start to practice walking together. Place your cat down in one spot and slowly walk to the end of the leash. If they start to follow you, reward them with a treat.

If they don’t respond, pull extremely gently on the leash and wait patiently for your cat to start following. Every time your cat follows you, stop to reward them with some stroking, and a treat if necessary.

This process can be a long one, so just have patience – and lots of treats.

4. Practice consistently

Before you consider taking your cat for a walk, practice consistently indoors, and gradually move to the garden or outside area. Keep repeating the process, extending the distance bit by bit. Make sure your cat is not tired, hungry or irritable when you attempt a practice session, as they will lose interest and start to view walks as a chore rather than a fun, bonding experience.

5. Time to head outdoors

If you’re sure your cat is comfortable walking on a leash, try taking them beyond the house and garden. At first, there may be some hesitation as you head into uncharted territory, and your cat might seem uneasy or distracted so it’s very important to be patient and give them the time they need to feel comfortable.

Start your walks in a quiet area where your cat can explore without feeling rushed or threatened by anything around them. While they may never be as obedient on walks as dogs, walking your cat can be a great bonding experience – and a safe, supervised adventure for cats who spend most of their time indoors.

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