How to train your cat to walk on a leash!

by Maggie
(Hobart, Tasmania)

Chilli inspects the stairs!

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Chilli inspects the stairs!

Chilli inspects the stairs! Having a snack while walking 15-week-old Chilli going for one of his first walks 18-week-old Chilli hunting for lizards

As Spring draws closer, the weather is warming up and the many different flowers are coming in to bloom. So often do I see cats of all kinds lying in the sun, on the soft grass, enjoying the sweet Spring smells.

However, with the beautiful weather, comes a feeling of guilt. While everyone is outside enjoying the pleasant weather, indoors only cats are, obviously, stuck indoors, missing out on such a beautiful time of year. But what is even worse, is the fact that they don't have to be inside, indoors only cats can enjoy the pleasant weather too!

Training your cat to walk on a lead is very simple and straight forward. However, it requires a lot of patience on the carer's part. And, as with any animal, you must be consistent in your training.

The first part is to choose what kind of walking item you wish to use. I started Chilli off on a harness. But he has also walked on a walking jacket, and a collar. I would not suggest training your cat on a collar. Chilli's collar isn't really a collar, it is rather the neck piece of a harness.

Collars can be dangerous to train your cat on, if the cat is spooked, he can easily squirm out of the collar and run away. Or, if he manages to get away with the collar on, he can risk getting caught on something (a tree branch, for example) and strangling himself.

Next, get your cat used to the walking item. Have the cat wear it around the house, expect squirming and attempts to get out of the item. Especially if your cat is an adult. You need to make wearing the item a positive experience, so while your cat is wearing it, give him lots of praise and treats. Good treat ideas include peanut butter on a spoon, or pieces of your cat's favourite kibble.

Do not expect your cat to accept the walking item straight away. It may take several days, or even weeks, before your cat is comfortable in it.

When your cat is comfortable in the item, and shows no signs of disliking the item, you can proceed to the great outdoors! Here, you have two choices, if your cat is a kitten, you can teach him to walk a bit like a dog, but if your cat is an adult, you may prefer to just allow him to wander, and take things at his own pace.

If you're happy for your cat to wander, and go where he wants with you holding the lead, then there's not much more you need to do. Some cats like to sit in one place and not really move at all, whereas others like explore their surroundings. Either way, all you have to do is hold the lead, and let kitty do his stuff!

If you'd like your cat to walk a bit like a dog, then you need to encourage your cat with treats. When your cat walks to get the treat, give him plenty of praise.
It's best to develop a route, Chilli's route was walking around the house. I would give him a treat to get him walking, this can be tedious, but you must remain consistent.

Try and walk your cat every day, treats and praise are the most important part of this step. Treats will get your cat walking, and reward him for walking. Praise will let him know that what he's just done pleases you, and is what you expected of him.
After just a few days, Chilli got to know the route so well that I only had to give him a treat when we got to the front door step.

Some cats pick it up quicker than others. If your cat does not pick it up straight away, don't be disappointed, and most certainly do not give up! It may take several days or even several weeks before your cat picks it up. But with plenty of treats, praise and consistence, you and your cat will get there!

Here is a video of Chilli after just over a few days of leash training, we followed the above steps, and quickly achieved this result.

When you think your cat is confident with his route, and you are satisfied with his walking ability, then you may decide to (and I would encourage you to do so) walk somewhere new.

All cats are different, some like crowded areas and some don't. I take Chilli in non-crowded areas, because he isn't great around a lot of people, but other people I know have successfully taken their cats to shopping malls and supermarkets. Even on camping trips!

I took Chilli walking in the bush for his 'new location'. He deeply enjoyed it, and displayed how great he is at walking.
Here's the video of his walk.

I remember the first day I took Chilli outside, it was the second day I had him (he was only 14 weeks old, so he learned extremely quickly) and the first thing he did was scramble into my lap in what was a mixture of fright, excitement and affection. This is why I suggest taking your time with training. Be patient. There's no rush to get your cat walking straight away.

So, if you have an indoors only cat, and you don't want him to miss out on the lovely weather, or just any outdoors experience. Then consider following the above steps and training your cat to walk on a leash. It may take time, but it is extremely rewarding for both cat and carer!


Comments for
How to train your cat to walk on a leash!

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Aug 26, 2011 Great video!
by: Gail (Boston, USA)

Love the videos, Maggie, especially the 1st one where Chili kept turning back to you as if to say, "C'mon now..hurry up!" In the 2nd video, you can see how excited Chili is to be outdoors. Without that leash, you know he'd be in the bush somewhere by now - gone!

Abby hasn't been out yet on leash since I haven't been able to find one big enough to fit around her ample body, but I'm trying. I ordered one from a specialty shop and, hopefully, it's come in by now.

Maybe Chili can have a blog, something like "The Adventures of Chili!"

Aug 17, 2011 Well done Maggie
by: Ruth

Chilli certainly looks to enjoy his walks Maggie and you were very patient from the start letting him get used to what really is un-natural for a cat.
I hope anyone else is as patient as you and also understanding that not all cats would like to walk on a leash.
I'm so glad too you mentioned not using a collar, a panicking cat could so easily strangle himself.
My blood ran cold at a question I recently answered, someone wanted to know if it was OK to tie a length of rope to a collar on their cat and fasten it to the clothes line.
A nasty death for that cat, just waiting to happen ! Worse still she already had some replies saying what a good idea.
I thank my lucky stars every day that we live in a safe cat friendly place where cats can have their freedom.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Aug 16, 2011 WOW!
by: Michael

Great article and Chilli looks so at home in his mauve harness and leash. He also looks very glamorous and handsome.

I think you are going to meet people!

I really think leash walking is very practical and workable.

I would hope more Americans take up the idea. I mention Americans because it is the country where full-time indoor cats are almost the norm.

Thanks for posting Maggie. Hope you are well. Chilli looks really happy outside exploring safely. I love to see that. And as you say, it is good for the person too.

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