You’ve been wanting to bring your cat outside and walk him to a nearby park or quiet area in your neighborhood. However, you’re not sure if you should do it because you would have to place a harness or leash on your pet. Is walking a cat on a leash a bad idea? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because your cat may not be ready to be tied to a leash and may react aggressively especially if you haven’t leash-trained him. No, because it will give your cat a chance to safely explore the outside world and be able to discover and experience various sights and scents.
Benefits of walking your cat on a leash
Cats need all the physical exercise that they can get and walking them on a leash is a good choice. It helps them not get bored especially if your pets have been mostly indoor ones most of the time. It also helps cats to maintain a healthier weight and prevents them from becoming obese. Regular walks trim down the weight and also allow them to strengthen their bones and muscles. Moreover, it boosts their confidence and lets them be more well-adjusted while allowing them to explore the outside world in a supervised manner.
Walking your cat on a leash: What to do
If you want to bring your cat out for a walk so he can enjoy the outdoors then you should make preparations that will benefit both you and your cat.
Here are some things to do to prepare your cat for a walk outside on a leash.
Provide a good and fail-proof harness and leash for your cat.
If you’re bent on taking your cat for a walk to discover the wonderful world of the outdoors then you should invest in a durable and high-quality cat harness and leash. A sturdy harness and leash keeps your cat safe and will prevent him from wriggling and scurrying off to the woods or hills. It’s also highly recommended to start your cat while he’s still young.
Here are some recommended harness and leash brands for you to check out:
- Petsafe Come With Me Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash
- PUPTECK Escape Proof Cat Harness With Leash
- PUPTECK Adjustable Cat Harness With Leash
Find an appropriate walking ground or area.
Just because you want to walk your cat outdoors doesn’t mean you can take him to just about anywhere like the mall, a city park, or along busy sidestreets. Cats are naturally skittish and tend to get surprised easily so it wouldn’t be advisable to bring him to busy areas where there’s a lot of cars and noises. City parks also tend to be crowded and pet owners usually bring their dogs along so it wouldn’t be a preferable place, too, knowing too well that cats and dogs are perennial enemies.
Look for an appropriate place where there aren’t many people, animals, and activities. The back hills of your place may be a great idea or other secluded areas, where there’s much to explore and home to various kinds of plants and birds. Walking your cat in a quiet and secluded area allows him to discover and respond to the stimuli around him such as plants, flowers, birds, and insects. As your cat starts to adjust and become used to the environment then you could eventually try bringing him to other areas as well.
Leash-train your cat before going out on a walk with him.
It would be impossible to walk your cat on a leash if you haven’t leash-trained him yet. It will only result in chaos because your cat likes to be in control and doesn’t actually like the idea of being tied up in a leash that will restrict him from running or walking around to his heart’s content. Putting your cat on a leash will ensure his safety, allows you to take control, to supervise and lead him to the direction where you’ll be going to next.
Here are some helpful steps on how to train your cat to walk with a leash:
1. Choose the right harness and leash for your cat.
As mentioned earlier, you should invest in a good and durable harness and leash to jumpstart your walking adventures with your cat. There are many options that you can find from your local pet store that’s just the right fit and style for your cat.
2. Introduce the leash.
Slowly introduce the leash to your cat by showing it to him and placing it near his favorite areas like his bed or food bowl. Let him get used to the sight and smell of the leash. It’s best to start leash-training him while he’s still a kitten so that everything will become easy later on. Kittens and young cats tend to be more tolerant and willing to learn while older cats may not be too keen on the idea of being tied to a leash.
3. Provide a reward system and positive reinforcement.
Giving your cat positive reinforcement in the form of verbal praises and food treats will make the training a lot easier because cats respond well to it. Since he has already been introduced to the leash, try to hold it and have him inspect and smell it. While doing so, giving him some treats or snacks. Observe his reactions and let him get used to the sound of the Velcro and proceed by giving him another treat for behaving well.
4. Introduce the harness.
After you’ve introduced the leash you can proceed to introduce the harness to your cat. Put it near him and let him inspect it so he can familiarize himself with the smell and its appearance. Then, slowly put it on him and slip it on but don’t fasten it just yet. Have some treats nearby and if he behaves well during the process then reward him with some treats. A good time to slip on the harness is right before his dinner or mealtime so he’ll be distracted and won’t attempt to remove it as he will be busy eating his meal. Try to do this for a couple of days until your cat becomes comfortable with having a harness on his body. This will also give you ample time to check on the right fit and adjust it accordingly.
5. Attach the leash to your cat.
Give it another few days to a week or two, to make sure that your cat is completely comfortable with the harness on. Then, try to attach the leash to your cat and observe him well. Try to walk him around the room and in other areas to your house as well, but try not to hold the leash at first and allow it to just drag behind him. Give him treats as he tries to walk around with the harness and leash. You can have some playtime with him and engage him with toys while eventually encouraging him to walk up and down the stairs or other areas in your home, this time loosely holding the leash in your hands. Continue to offer treats then start applying pressure on the leash and call to your cat and if he listens you may reward him with another treat.
6. Try to walk your cat with the leash on in your backyard.
Once you see that your cat is comfortable with the harness and leash on while walking indoors, you can initially try to walk your cat on a leash in your backyard. Try to observe your cat’s reaction to the surroundings. If he has been mostly an indoor cat he’ll probably become alert and focused and a bit overwhelmed with all the sights and sounds around him. Be sure to take this step slowly since your cat is still adjusting to the stimuli around him. Don’t allow him to walk out of the door, instead pick him up and carry him to your backyard.
7. See to it that your cat is comfortable.
Let your pet cat explore areas just outside your home and at least a few meters from the door so that you can easily take him back indoors if he reacts negatively or becomes nervous. Do this routine at least a few times until he becomes accustomed to the environment around him. Observe your cat as he explores the perimeters and don’t push him too soon. Let him walk around your backyard until he eventually gets used to it.
8. Walk your cat outside your area.
Once you feel that your cat is ready to explore other areas, try to walk your cat outside such as around a few blocks from your home. However, always be on the lookout should there be dogs around, even if they’re with their owners or dog sitters. Always look after your cat and don’t leave him unattended, even if you’re just nearby and you tied the leash to a pole or tree. Your pet cat may get tangled, get stolen, or even escape so always be mindful while going through the activity. Be sure to bring along treats with you to keep him calm should you feel that he becomes nervous or distracted during your walking explorations.
9. Consider a bug repellent.
As your cat gets used to being walked outside on a leash, make sure that you have a bug repellent with you to protect your cat of common bugs like fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks that he may get while you’re outdoors. Also, if you plan to take your cat along with you on a short hike or camping trip make sure to have him checked by the vet first to know if he’s okay to come along and doesn’t have any illness.
10. Set a schedule to walk your cat regularly.
Once your pet cat becomes more accustomed to farther routes for your walks you have to set a specific schedule for your walking routine. You can have it in the morning or in the late afternoon, whichever works best for you, so your cat won’t be pestering you to go out at any given time.
Walking your cat on a leash is a bad idea if you haven’t taken the necessary precautions and preparations. But it can be a good idea and an enriching experience for your pet cat if you’ve properly leash-trained him and gradually prepared him for outside walks. Regular walks with your cat is a great bonding experience for you and your cat while allowing him to explore the world around him.