Train a Cat to Use a Leash

Edited by Yuliya, Grimm, Dougie, Dougie-1 and 3 others

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Can cats walk on a leash?

You may be used to seeing dogs walking comfortably on a leash, but have you ever seen a cat on a leash? Many people train their cats to walk on leashes for a number of reasons. You might want your cat to go outdoors without being allowed to run free. Or maybe you want him to get more exercise than he would indoors.

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Cats are proud and stubborn animals, and not all cats will be willing to let you put a leash or harness on them. If your cat has a good temperament though, you may be able to teach him to wear a leash outdoors.

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Before you start

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Before you can teach your cat to walk on a leash, take a moment to read these points:

  • Make sure your cat is up to date on his vaccinations. Taking him outside will expose him to other cats, and potential health problems if he's not protected.
  • Kittens are more open to new experiences than adult cats are. Training an older cat may take more patience and time.
  • A harness is more comfortable than a leash, since it supports the entire body and doesn't just pull on the neck. Find a harness that is especially made for cats, for a more comfortable fit that your cat won't slip out of.
  • Putting on a harness takes a bit of handling, so if your cat is uncomfortable with being touched, you may need to work on that before you can even start leash training.

Getting your cat used to a harness

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The first part to taking your cat outside is actually getting the harness on him. This is often also the hardest part. Here are some tips on getting your cat to accept and welcome the harness:

  1. 1
    Get your cat used to the harness.
    Place it in a spot that your cat associates with positive feelings, like his food bowl or favorite napping spot. Try holding out the harness to your cat and letting him smell it. Place it against your cat's body for a moment and praise him if he remains calm.{
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  2. 2
    Reward positive behavior.
    If your cat smells the harness calmly, give him a treat. Doesn't mind the feel of it on his neck? Another treat. Rewarding your cat for positive responses to the harness will help him see it as a good thing.
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  3. 3
    Increase contact little by little.
    Start by just touching the harness to your cat's neck. Move on to draping it over his back. If he seems comfortable with this, try putting his front paws into the harness, the removing them right away. Reward the entire time for any positive behavior. This process can take days or months. Be patient.
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  4. 4
    Distract from negative behavior.
    If your cat becomes upset at any point, distract him and remove the harness. Don't try training again that day. The next time you try leash training, start a step back in the training process.
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  5. 5
    Gradually get parts of the harness on.
    You may need to take two steps forward and one step back to get to the point where you can put a harness on your cat easily and without stress for either of you. Put your cats paws through the harness then remove them. Repeat with other parts of the harness. If your cat seems fine with it, continue on!
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Getting your cat to love the leash

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Once you have your cat used to wearing a harness, you can move on to actual leash training.

  1. 1
    Attach the leash to the harness.
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  2. 2
    Let your cat drag it around on the floor at first.
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  3. 3
    Pick up the leash and hold it very loosely.
    Watch your cat's reaction. If he seems comfortable, you can move on to the next step. If he's showing negative signs of stress or anxiety, take a step back in the training.
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  4. 4
    Hold the leash taught.
    Try letting your cat walk around the house while you hold on to the leash. Gently direct your cat where you want him to go, without pulling too hard.
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  5. 5
    Repeat a few times, then venture outside!
    Make sure both you and your cat are comfortable with the leash and harness. Stay close to home on your first walk - the backyard works best. Your cat may want to run everywhere, or he may want to stay by the door and take everything in first. Take things at your cat's pace.
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Safety Tips for Leash Training a Cat

  • Expect setbacks. Your cat may be fine one day, and suddenly not fine another day. Always take the training at your cat's pace. Go back to the last place your cat felt comfortable. If that doesn't help, end the training for the day and distract your cat with something he likes.
  • Know how to deal with freak out. Some things outside may spook your cat. He might react by freezing in place, or clawing his way up to your head. Be prepared to deal with your cat's nerves and claws, without getting freaked out yourself. Stay calm and remove your cat from the negative situation. If possible, place your cat on the ground - this will help him feel more confident.
  • If you can, learn what calms your cat down when something scares him before you even step outside.
  • Don't tie your cat's leash to anything or leave him alone. Don't leave your cat unattended, even for a minute. He may get tangled in the leash, or won't be able to escape from a bad situation (like a threatening dog).
  • Take your time and be patient!

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Categories : Cats

Recent edits by: Eng, Anonymous, Dougie-1

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