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How to Walk a Cat (and Live to Tell About It)

 

 

Ever seen a cat out walking on a leash? Most people who have seen one react with astonishment that a cat would be domesticated enough to willingly allow itself to be tethered to a leash and guided around by -- of all things! -- a human companion. But it can, and does happen. After all, why should dogs have all the fun? Everyone knows cats like the outdoors, too. Shouldn’t they get the opportunity to explore the great outdoors along with the rest of us? Shouldn’t they be allowed to maintain their youthful figures with some regular exercise? Learning how to walk a cat may seem impossible, but with proper supervision, patience, and consistency, you too can train your cat to walk on a leash.

 

Does Age Matter?

 

Once a cat has reached the age when she has been fully vaccinated, it is safe for her to go on walks outside. Remember that this is not so much to protect other animals from what she might be carrying, but to protect her from what they might be carrying. It is best to start as early as possible, before your cat has developed a fear of the outdoors or a fear of unusual noises. Older cats are often more reluctant to go outside on a leash -- or to be on a leash at all. It may take months to get her used to accepting a harness, and to being led, but with diligence and a wish to succeed, you can do it.

 

It will help a lot of your cat is already responsive to you. If you can call your cat and she consistently comes to you, you are already on a good track. If you do not have this type of relationship, you will need to start there. Using treats and lots of praise, call your cat to come to you. After some time, your cat will learn that coming when called will be rewarding.

 

Selecting the Proper Harness

 

Because cats are so agile, a simple collar around the neck is not enough to hold them while walking outside -- they can easily pull out of the neck collar, even a well fitted one (and you do not want to make the collar so tight that there is a potential of cutting off air flow). Instead, use a good-quality harness that has been designed especially for cats.

 

A cat harness is typically made with an adjustable neck collar, which is attached to an adjustable body wrap. The harness should fit snug to the body, but not be so tight that air flow will be constricted. You should be able to fit two fingers under the harness at the neck and under the chest.

 

Depending on the harness, the leash should attach at the body strap or between the shoulders instead of at the neck. The clips holding the harness should snap securely -- they should not be the break away type that is commonly found in cat collars.

 

Introducing the Harness

 

It may take some time before your cat gets used to wearing a harness, so start slowly. Set the new harness near your cat’s favorite area and allow her to see it, smell it, and even play with it at first. Offer her some treats and praise if he shows interest in the harness.

 

After a few days of this, hold your cat securely and give her a treat. As she’s eating the treat, drape the harness loosely over her and leave it for a few minutes. You may need to repeat this several times before actually adjusting it, just to get your cat used to the feel of the harness. Once she appears to be comfortable with having the harness on her body, put the harness on and tighten the straps so they fit snugly. Again, offer positive reinforcement and treats for allowing you to put the harness on her. Leave the harness on for a short period of time, a few minutes to start, with gradually more time.

 

Do not force the fitting. If your cat struggles too much, remove the harness and try again later. When she does accept the harness without struggle, give her lots of attention so that she associates wearing the harness with good times.

 

 

Comments  16

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  • My cats love walks
    02/06/2014 04:08am

    I found that the vest type harness works best and that perseverence is the key. Start with only a minute or two and sooner or later they find something in the yard to interest them. The you can go out for longer periods, weather permitting. One of my cats goes to the shed where the chipmunks hide; another goes to the edge of the yard to "mark" territory. Another goes to chew on catmint and yet another just loves to roll on the patio and look up at the sky. I continued to take my cats out each day into November ( for a few minutes each until it became too dark by the time I got home from work. They like it so much they jockey for position in front of the door to try to be the one who gets to go first.

  • Storm 6mths
    02/26/2014 09:03am

    I have a six months old kitten that I hand raised since the age of six days so I could not leave him at home. I did some researched on the internet and found quite a few articles on hand raising kittens and walking them. So I started him off on a harness which he loves. The only time I can remove it with great difficulty is when he takes a bath. I started walking him at about 3 weeks in the house and around the yard. Later I took him to the shop and even walked him down the busy road and it always amazes me how people respond to him. One lady stopped me and told me that I was abusing my kitten and picked him rubbing him, I thought she was going to walk away with him but then I explained to her that he has been walking around for weeks with a lead & harness and there is no harm. She was really surprised and put him down. He started to run around and then when I started to walk he walked right along. He even had a beach walk at Camps Bay beach and turned a lot of heads. My friends tell me that he is not normal or that he is more human than cat. The funny part is that he actually calls my daughter by her name when he wants water as well which by the way he only drinks right from running tap.

  • 01/05/2016 06:32pm

    never let anyone pick up your cat or dog-- it can turn nasty in a heartbeat - either the pet bites the human or the human can easily and quickly abuse and injure the animals. You don't need to explain your actions either-- you are walking your pet and the h with what other people think or say

  • Greycie survived
    11/06/2014 09:36pm

    Greycie was a stray that I took in about a year ago. She was someone else's cat for sure as she jumped into my arms when I was sitting in my yard. Her previous owners must have let her out from time to time but w/ a lot of feral cats in my neighborhood, I was fearful to let her out as she came to me with an eye that required medical attention from a dust up with one of them. She longingly looked out the window and I was afraid she would run out, so I decided to leash train her. The vest was a little cumbersome for her & threw her balance of. The harness is much better for her. It took time but does she ever like to go out. Can't say she is thrilled w/ the harness but when she sees it now, she runs to the door and waits. It took a couple of wks but she is just great out there. Watch carefully, they are escape artists. Stay behind them or to the side. Happy walks.

  • Going on 12 years.....
    01/05/2016 04:11pm

    I've been walking my cat Ty for over 12 years now (he's 13 years old). Other than days where I'm out of town, we haven't missed a day yet. We go out in the rain, the snow, and even when it's really cold. We always take our walk after the sun goes down--that's what he prefers--and we generally walk for about 20 minutes. I look forward to it as much as he does. This is a good article, but I also put together a detailed instruction manual here: http://catswithanaltitude.com/was-that-a-cat-on-a-leash.html
    My article takes a slightly different approach to harnessing, and offers a few more suggestions for introducing your cat to the routine, and what to do once you step outside. Hope it's helpful to others who wish to give this a try!

  • Careful with the harness,
    01/05/2016 06:31pm

    make sure the cat cannot back out of our pull out of it. Collars can choke, and harnesses are safer.

    While walking with the cat watch out for - Drunks - mean people -- dogs, on or off leash. Even if you are holding the cat in your arms, the dog(s) and even free-roaming territorial cats may try to attack both of you.

  • 09/14/2016 01:37pm

    I have walked my feral cat Toby everyday for the past 2 years. Azar is absolutely right. Toby doesn't need a leash when we are in fields and the woods - he walks with me side by side. But sometimes I do use one when we get near streets with a lot of traffic. Most of the time there is no problem. But sometimes things don't work out so well. I learned the hard way and so now i always carry pepper spray and an oak walking stick. We have been attacked by leashed and unleashed dogs (individual and in a pack), a feral male cat, possums and raccoons, a snake and one mean person.

  • Retractable leashes
    01/05/2016 06:36pm

    can break and your pet can run into traffic and be killed or lost in a heartbeat. The retractor may stick and there you are with a cat 10 feet away from you and a dog or car or someone on a bicycle bearing down on your pet. Leashes are long enough and can easily be bunched up to rein in the pet.

  • writer credit
    01/06/2016 10:03pm

    I'd like to quote from this piece for publication and therefore need the writer's name. Thank you.

  • No harness for my cat
    09/11/2016 03:18am

    My cat is large (16 lbs. and not fat) and it was too easy for him to break out of a harness. So I resorted to a choke chain from my days as a dog trainer, but the collar was too big. I found and bought a smaller collar and a 14' lead.
    At first, it was me dragging him around and him resisting. Then, as if someone turned on a light, it dawned him the benefits of being tethered. He got to go outside and take me where he wanted to go. He got to eat grass, and he got to lie in the grass. You'd think he was in heaven the way he acted.
    I keep the collar and lead on top of a rolltop desk and, when he wants to go out, he jumps there and meows loudly to make he wishes known.
    We get a lot of double-takes and even people wanting to take pictures because they'd never seen a cat on a leash.

  • Walking Cats Are Fun
    09/14/2016 01:27pm

    I have a feral cat named Toby that I found under my bushes and adopted 2 years ago. We walk 3 miles a day early in the morning - no matter what the weather. I learned by trial and error. People love Toby and often stop us to ask how to teach their cats to walk on a leash. There is a lot to explain. Here are the most important secrets: 1) You don't have to teach a feral cat how to walk on a leash. 2) People don't walk cats - cats walk people. It's not unusual for 3 - 5 feral cats to walk with Toby. Some of them wait for us at the front door. Walking cats are fun!

  • 09/28/2016 06:45am

    i'm not sure I would say walking my cat is fun, but he likes to go out so much I do it anyway. He's a one year old ragdoll who looks forward to going out each and every day.

    Alot of people stop us because they never saw a cat being walked on a leash or to say how pretty he is. Here's a link of him out in a vacant corporate center with no leash at all.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLsdMBMNU5k

  • Pick harness with care
    09/24/2016 02:39am

    If the cat can get all the slack out, they can back out of most harnesses. Their heads, of course, are smaller than their chests. Caution.

  • Trying to decide to walk
    10/06/2016 10:16pm

    I have 2 new kittens and would like to train them to walk on a leash. I'm just concerned that allowing them to experience the outdoors may make them want to be out more than if I did not allow them out at all - even on a leash. I will not let them roam free because i just lost my 2 older cats unexpectedly and it broke my heart. So can you successfully have an indoor cat that is only allowed out for walks or is it better not to take walks?

  • 10/06/2016 10:26pm

    I have had a lot of cats and I can tell you that, if the cat can put tension on the leash, it can back out of it. Gone in 60 seconds. I use a cat harness and a heavy retractable leash (for BIG dogs). I put the harness on the cat, attach the leash, pull it out however long I want it, and use the locking mechanism. I then place the cat in the grass and let it explore. The base is too heavy for the cat to run away with no notice but the cat slide it some (my neighbor ties a half-brick to the base of hers because hers is a light weight leash). I pull up a lawn chair and the cat and I enjoy our time. I would suggest that, in the beginning, you train one cat at a time. Good luck.

  • Vet Visits
    10/25/2016 09:21pm

    My cats have always walked on a harness and leash. What is unusual is I walk my cats into the vet office for their visits. The staff is always amazed at how we do this. I have done it with cats we have raised from kittens and from young adults we have adopted.

    Is there anyone else who has this experience?


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