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Tips for Leash-Training Your Cat

We quit the traditional lifestyle to roam the US in our travel trailer, the Intech Sol, and we leash-trained our cat while on the road.


When you see a dog on a leash, it's hard to stop everything you're doing to give it some lovin'. When you see a cat on a leash, you do a double-take. Can cats even be leashed? Yes, they can, and we will give you some ideas on how we trained our cat to walk on a leash.

Why Should You Leash-Train Your Cat?

For us, leash-training our cat would allow us to take her outside with us while we were at camping sites. Many RV, state, and national parks require that pets must be leashed outside. We also wanted to make sure our cat wouldn't bolt and run up a tree if she was startled.

Cats like to explore their territory, so you can take your leash-trained cat to explore around the RV, which could ease their anxiety of going to a new place. Other reasons to leash train your cat would be to take them with you when exploring the great outdoors, to allow you to control your cat while in an unfamiliar place, and to allow your cat to exercise outside instead of being restricted indoors.

Our Cat Wearing a Harness for First Time

Tip: Get a Vest-Style Harness

Our cat was never was allowed outside but was always curious, so we used her curiosity to lure her outside. First, we had to get her used to wearing a harness. She only wore a collar, and she destroyed three before she gave up and accepted that she had to wear one. Getting her used to a harness was going to be interesting. She had a habit of backing out when we put her collar on, so we knew she was going to finagle herself out of a harness.

We got a vest-style harness that would cradle her neck and chest so that it would be harder for her to escape. She did manage to get out of the vest once, but thank goodness it happened inside the house. We put the vest on, and she would jump backward and do all these acrobatic moves to get out—more humorous for us, more annoying for her. After we stopped laughing, we took the harness off and gave her a treat for her troubles.

This went on each week for a few weeks until she got comfortable with the vest. Her prize was to actually go outside, and we practiced in the backyard for a few minutes at a time, gradually getting to about 10 minutes. She still hates the harness, she still fights us when we put it on her, but she knows she gets to go outside so calms afterward.

How to Get Your Cat Used to Walking on a Leash

After our cat got used to the harness, we needed to practice walking inside so that we could understand how she would react to walking on a leash. We took her "walking" to different rooms in the house to see if she would get easily startled. We would add some loud noises, such as slamming a door or dropping something off the counter, to see how she would react. She did bolt a few times, so we knew she had to get used to the new feeling of the harness before we could take her outside.

After a few weeks of training inside, she started to get more comfortable with the harness and started to even nap in it. We knew she was ready for the next big step. When we saw our cat looking intently outside or making cat chirps at critters outside, we knew it was a perfect time for some leash training outside. Because she already wanted to go outside, she wouldn't fight us as much when putting on her harness. Once she heard the leash clipped to the harness, she headed to the door.

Tips for Leash-Training Outside

Always Put the Harness on Before Going Outside

At first, your cat may be hesitant to step outside, but with a little encouragement (like a push on its tush), they will start to learn that it is okay. For us, we don't allow her near the door without her harness, so a tip would to be consistent in training and only allow access to the door with a harness only.

Let Your Cat Take the Lead

Once outside, you will notice that your cat will do want it wants. There is no "walking" your cat—it is more of "following" your cat. Unlike dogs, cats do not respond well to be pulled on a leash. They will start to back out and try to escape from the harness. What works well is, if your cat is heading in the wrong direction, the best option is just to stop moving. Allow your cat to realize it can't go any further on the leash and stand still while they are exploring that direction. Once your cat starts to walk in the direction you want to go, start walking too. This allows your cat to make a decision, rather than being forced to do something.

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Pick Up Your Cat If You Need to Go

Sometimes, your cat may lay down to watch birds or get ready to chase a squirrel. If it's a behavior you don't want, you can pick up your cat and move it to another location to continue leash training. If they become more agitated, it's time to go inside! Reward your cat with a treat and lots of attention for a job well done.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Sol Perspectives (author) on October 04, 2019:

Thank you Linda for sharing stories of your kitties and their reaction to the leash. Love it

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 02, 2019:

You're right, the leash isn't for all cats; we've had one of each. Pumpkin will simply NOT tolerate it and our little girl Kyla absolutely LOVED going out on the leash. If she heard us outside (without her) she would hop up to the nearest window to where we were and cry mournfully.

And, when we were all indoors, if she was in the mood to go for a stroll she would yowl and warble. When we ignored her pleas (how could we be so heartless?) she would dramatically throw herself on her back at the door and kick the door with her rear feet--a real toddler-in-the-grocery-store I'm mad at the world (and you) temper tantrum.

Thank you for loving your kitty as you do and sharing your experience with others. (By the way, where I live we could NEVER let our kitty out unattended. Too many raccoons and coyotes.)

Sol Perspectives (author) on September 24, 2019:

Yeap, setting a cat or a rabbit on a leash seems abnormal but it shouldn't be. I've even seen a leashed snake!

Liz Westwood from UK on September 22, 2019:

I once saw a rabbit on a leash, which was very unusual. I can understand why, in your circumstances, a leash is a good idea.

Tori Leumas on September 21, 2019:

This is very interesting. We once put a cat on a leash. He was an outside cat had got hit by a car and broke his back leg, so we had him in the house to heal and took him outside on a leash until his leg healed up. He actually was pretty good about it.

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