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Living with a cat has many perks: lots of warm cuddles, 5 a.m. wake up calls, soothing purrs, meowing in the middle of the night for no reason … the list goes on. Even with the sometimes annoying attributes, spend just five minutes on the Internet and you’ll see just how devoted cat lovers are to their felines. From elaborate cat trees to only the very best food, automated water bowls, and self-cleaning litter boxes, cat lovers will stop at nothing to make sure their four-legged friends are healthy and loved.

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But there is one thing that dog people have on cat people – being able to walk their dogs on leashes. But why shouldn’t cats also experience the joy of sitting in a park and enjoying the fresh air? It can be done! Many cats can be trained to walk on a leash, and they love it. The idea of training a cat to enjoy a harness and a leash doesn’t have to seem impossible.

Ready for some tips on how to get your cat to walk on a leash? But only if they want to! Don’t ever force a cat (or any animal) to do something they don’t want to do.

Buy the Right Kind of Harness and Leash

It’s ideal to invest in a proper harness designed for cats. There are “Gentle Leader” harnesses and leashes (retractable or bungee leashes are best, less strain on cats and your arm), for instance, that don’t apply any pressure to the throat, and the harness will tighten along the cat’s shoulders when needed to help direct your cat.

Attaching a leash directly to their collar could hurt their small necks if they pull, and it’s possible they could slip out of the collar altogether (if they do slip out, harness or not, always make sure their collar has an up-to-date ID tag and MICROCHIP especially since mentioning collars can easily slip off with your address and phone number). And if your cat runs up a tree? The collar could strangle them.  Carrying your cat’s favorite treats on walks can also help coax them from a hiding place if they do escape.

It’s a good idea to start slowly and fit the harness on your cat while inside to see how your cat reacts. Give them gentle pets to reassure them that they are safe. Also, giving them treats is a great way to train them that the harness and leash are not as scary as they may think. If your cat is scared (hissing, tail twitching, ears back, etc.), remove the harness! Some cats simply do not like harnesses.

If they seem comfortable in the harness, try going outside…

Start Small 

There are lots of smells, sights, and scary things outside. Be patient with your cat and stay close to the house for the first few times when walking them outside. Staying close to the house will allow for a quick escape back inside if your cat becomes scared. If you live in a high-trafficked area, try bringing your cat to an area that is quieter.

It’s important to let your cat take the lead. If they want to lay in the grass, let them. If they want to sniff at one area for fifteen minutes, that’s okay, too. When they are exploring a new area, take a baby step in another new direction. Slowly but surely, they will be enjoying new places!

Other Tips 

  1. Keep an eye on your cat and make sure they don’t pick up anything with their mouth or lick anything.
  2. Setbacks are bound to happen. Loud noises, other animals, cars, etc. may scare them. If they do get scared, go back to the previous place where they were comfortable. A pet stroller can help be a place of refuge for animals who get spooked on walks.
  3. Try not to pick them up if they are scared unless they are in danger of hurting themselves or getting hurt. Cats should also be carried when you take them out and bring them back in. Having them walk freely in and out of the door will teach them it is ok to do so on their own and they will likely run out when not on a harness and leash. Going outside should be associated with a leash and harness and their guardian’s guidance only. You’ll want your kitty to build confidence!
  4. Don’t tie your cat’s leash to something and leave them. Even if you’re gone “only for a minute,” something could spook them and they could become tangled in the leash. In general, don’t leave them outside unattended!
  5. Starting young is easier, so getting kittens accustomed to harnesses is easiest. Older cats can be taught too but it takes more patience.
  6. If you have multiple cats, take one out on a leash at a time. Having more than one cat out on leashes at once can be difficult to manage … they often pull in opposite directions and it increases the risk of escaping or hurting themselves.

Walking your cat on a leash has many benefits for cat lovers, such as bonding time with your feline, exercise, and exposing your cat to fresh air and natural environments. If you live with a cat, have you ever walked them on a leash before? How did the experience go? Do you have any tips of your own? Leave a comment below to share with others!

Lead Image Source: juhansonin/Flickr