We know that our feline friends love to explore, and for many indoor cats they often express a desire to go outside. So, how can you let your cat explore the great outdoors whilst keeping your kitty safe? By training them to walk on a lead! Not all cats will take to walking on a lead, some 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 for both of you. So here's our simple guide to training your cat how to walk on a lead.
Firstly, you will need to buy a suitable harness and lead for your cat. There are many different types available so it might be best to take your cat into a pet shop so you are able to look at your options and decide what would be best suited for them. We also recommend your cat wears a collar with an ID tag on it whilst you are walking them, just in case there are any accidents and they slip free so that your contact details are readily available. A collar with a bell also makes it easier to keep track of where your cat is as well as warns nearby birds there is a predator in the vicinity.
Put the harness in with your cats toys or blankets so that they can familiarise themselves with it. Allow them to play with it if they want to so that it doesn't seem threatening or strange to them anymore. It will also then pick up their scent, making them more relaxed around it. The longer you do this step, the better, we recommend around 2 weeks. Patience is absolutely key when training your cat to walk on a lead, so the longer you allow your cat to get used to each step, the better.
Next, try putting the harness on your cat before each main meal time. This makes sure your cat forms a positive association with wearing the harness as they get food straight after. At first the harness will feel strange to your cat, so expect them to possibly chew on it or try to wiggle out. As long as your cat doesn't appear distressed, these behaviours are fine. Leave the harness on for around 5 minutes at a time at first, gradually increasing as your cat becomes more used to the feeling of wearing it. Also make sure you offer plenty of praise, reassurance and treats! Playing with your cat whilst they are wearing their harness is also a great way to distract them from the strange feeling and help them get used to it quicker.
Once you see your cat has become comfortable with the harness, you can attach the lead. Be sure to do this process slowly. Let your cat walk around the house at their own 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 cat on a harness you will never be leading them, they will be leading you! Always monitor your cat when they are wearing their lead and harness as they could easily get caught up on something and without supervision this could lead to injury. Once your cat is comfortable with the lead, start holding the lead and allow them to walk you around the house.
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 goes outside. Be patient and always offer words of encouragement and reassurance and take some treats along with you too. The first time you take your cat outside, try using your garden or if you don't have a garden, ask a friend or family member if you could use theirs. We also recommend taking a carrier or cat backpack with you so that you have somewhere safe to put your cat should things go awry. Make sure you are always in control of your cat and remember to hold the lead tightly.
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 thrive! You can read our interview with our friend Loki the Adventure Cat here to see what life can be like for a harness trained kitty, as well as to get some top tips and tricks directly from the most adventurous feline we know.
Images via @l0ki.the.cat on Instagram.