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How to Leash Train Your Cat

Petmate Academy

May 19, 2022

Leash training your cat can seem like a daunting task, but with patience and perseverance, it can be accomplished. In this article, we will outline the steps you need to take to leash train your cat, as well as provide some tips to make the process easier. So, if you’re ready to have your feline friend by your side on walks around the neighborhood, keep reading!

Why Do We Walk Dogs, But Not Cats?

If you’ve ever wondered why cats on leashes seem to be few and far between, the answer seems to lie in their behavior and history. Cats tend to be more independent than dogs. Dogs have been bred for centuries to work closely with humans, while cats have evolved to become notoriously independent creatures.

This doesn’t mean your cat doesn’t enjoy human interaction, however. Many cats form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy spending time with them. Leash training can give your cat the opportunity to explore the outdoors while remaining safe and under your control.

Can My Cat Be Leash Trained?

Not every cat will take to the leash or harness training, and that’s okay. It’s best to start when your cat is a kitten, but there are plenty of leash-training success stories involving older cats.

You know your cat’s temperament and personality best, and if your cat is easily scared or skittish, it may be wise to work through any behavioral issues first.

What You’ll Need

  • A high-quality harness. You’ll need a harness that’s made specifically for cats, not just a small harness that’s made for dogs. Harnesses provide more security than collars and are more gentle on your cat’s neck.
  • A sturdy leash. We recommend opting for a shorter leash so it’s easier to keep your cat close by. Retractable leashes aren’t recommended, as your cat can wander too far. Two-in-one harness and leash combinations designed for cats are also available.
  • Positive reinforcement. This one’s a given. Have reinforcers such as treats, a favorite toy, or cuddles (or all three!) on hand to help make the process more enjoyable. Be generous with praise and reinforcement whenever progress is made!

Your cat may run into other cats or creatures while outside, so it’s also a good idea to make sure your cat is up to date on their vaccines (especially their rabies and feline leukemia vaccines), as well as their flea and tick prevention regimen.

Leash Training a Cat: Step by Step

1. Introduce the Harness

Before you even attempt to fasten the harness onto your cat, give them a chance to get acquainted with it. Unfamiliar items can be scary, and giving your cat the extra time to get used to the harness can set you up for success down the road. The unfamiliar sounds of the harness caused by snaps and Velcro can be alarming to your cat as well, so exposing your cat to those sounds in your “practice sessions” can help mitigate stress.

Once your cat begins to show familiarity or comfort around their harness, try putting it on. Be sure not to force anything. If your cat shows signs of discomfort or stress, it may need a little more time to get to know the harness.

2. Practice Inside the House

Don’t let your cat’s first trial run happen in the hustle and bustle of the outdoors. Practicing around the house allows your cat’s first walk to happen in a safe, familiar, and controlled environment. If you have a yard, you can level up to short walks outdoors in an enclosed space.

3. Slowly Venture into the Outdoors

Make sure your cat is already leashed and harnessed before stepping outside. Pick them up and carry them outside, as opposed to letting them take the lead. It’s important to set a precedent that your cat is only allowed outside with you when leashed.

Once you’re outside, let your cat take the lead. Forcing your cat in a certain direction will most likely just sour the experience for them. If your cat decides to plop down and chill, let them. Some cats will also need a moment to reorient themselves to unfamiliar surroundings. Once your cat grows more comfortable, you can begin to slowly increase the distance of your walks.


If you’re looking for a new way to get some exercise and fresh air with your cat, training them to talk on a leash might be the perfect solution. It can take some time for your cat to get comfortable with outdoor walks, but with practice, patience, and extra love, you’ll soon be on your way to plenty of fun experiences together.

Check out Petmate’s selection of cat products including collars, travel gear, and more.

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