Leash training can be a powerful way to facilitate outdoor adventures with your indoor cat! There's no question that the great outdoors poses many safety risks for cats, but going outside is a great way to encourage your cat to exercise while offering mental stimulation. And walking on a leash enables your cat to enjoy time outdoors while keeping them safely under control.
But it may take some preparation before your cat feels comfortable walking on a leash. Here's how to help them adjust.
Start with a harness indoors
Harness training is the first step to teaching your cat how to walk on a leash. A well-fitting harness will prevent your cat from wriggling loose and getting lost outside, and testing it indoors ensures you get the fit right while your cat is in a safe space.
It may take time to adjust if your cat has never worn a harness before. Start by letting your cat inspect the harness. Once they've had a chance to analyze it, put the harness on and adjust it until it fits securely.
You should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and your cat's body.
Use positive reinforcement
Your cat will probably feel uncomfortable and unhappy about wearing the harness at first. Offer lots of positive reinforcement in the form of treats and praise to help them adjust.
Try distracting them by engaging them with one of their favourite toys. In time, they'll realize the harness isn't, in fact, a torture device and stop trying to wriggle out of it.
Try having your cat wear the harness for a few minutes at a time, several days in a row.
Take short walks indoors
Once your cat seems to be accepting the harness, attach a leash and try taking short walks with your cat indoors. At first, they may be resistant to being guided on the leash— experiment with clipping the leash to the harness and letting your cat wander with the leash loose.
When your cat starts to accept the leash, try holding it and gently guiding them through your home. Again, offer lots of positive reinforcement to help get your kitty accustomed to walking on a leash.
Again, it may take several indoor walks before your cat adapts to leash training.
Begin venturing outdoors
The next phase is leash training your cat is to begin venturing outdoors. Remember, if your cat has yet to spend much time outdoors, going outside may be overwhelming at first. Choose a quiet area (ideally, your backyard) and let your cat check out the new sights and sounds.
Watch your cat's body language and take them back inside if they appear distressed. Most cats will be nervous at first and gradually relax as they realize there are no immediate threats. Eventually, curiosity will take over, and your cat will be thrilled to spend time outdoors!
Remember to offer lots of praise, treats, and comforting pats to help your cat make a positive experience out of this stressful situation!
The Bottom Line
Leash training cats may be a slow process, but with patience, persistence, and lots of positive reinforcement, you will likely be able to help your cat adapt to walking on a leash. Many cats learn to love taking outdoor walks on a leash. It's typically easier to leash train a kitten than an older cat, so if this is something you hope to accomplish, start your cat young!