Walking your cat on a leash gives her safe outdoor access, exercise, and mental stimulation. To be sure, not all indoor cats are candidates for being walked on a leash, but some most certainly are. Here’s how to determine if a leashed walk is a fit for your cat, as well as how to get started!
Will your cat like being walked on a leash?
If your cat is confident, curious, and energetic, a leashed walk may be perfect for you both! Before you head outdoors, here are some steps to ensure a successful walk…
1. Ensure your cat is microchipped and your contact information is current and up to date. You can update your contact details by contacting the pet microchip registry your cat is enrolled with. Visit the company’s website to get their phone number or to update your cat’s info online. Not sure which microchip your cat has? Call your vet and ask. It will be in your cat’s veterinary records.
2. Get a collar—we love Made by Cleo‘s unique designs—with an ID tag that clearly states that your cat is an indoor cat and should be returned to his home if found, like the Pawdentify Pet ID System “If I’m Outside I’m Lost” tag ($25).
3. Make sure your cat is up to date on all shots, and flea and tick treatments. When outdoors, cats can pick up things indoor-only cats simply aren’t exposed to.
The Gear: Select the right harness, collar, and leash
In addition to a collar, you will want a harness, as a harness is much more secure and will keep your cat safe and near you even if he tries to dart or run away. (The collar is for identification purposes only.) Walking cats on leashes is becoming increasingly popular so there are an increasing number of styles as well as fun colours and patterns to choose from!
The best choice is a walking vest. A walking vest provides a more comfortable and secure harness option. Sturdi Product’s durable walking vest is easy to put on, secure, and adjustable for a comfortable fit. It is a particularly good choice for regular walkers or stronger, more determined cats (from $17).
You will also need a lightweight cat leash. Avoid retractable leashes and dog leashes; these are too heavy for a cat. Many cat harnesses come with a cat leash, which is a great place to start, but there are other options, like the PetSafe bungee leash ($16) that will give your cat a little more range once you both are comfortable outside.
The Process: Harness Training in the Home and Beyond
Let your cat get used to simply wearing a harness inside.
As strictly indoor cats, my cats don’t normally wear collars
and harnesses, so getting them used to wearing harnesses was a big first step.
Take it slow: once your harness has been purchased, leave it out on the floor, perhaps with some treats on it to create a positive association and get your cat smelling it so it’s not a completely foreign object. After a couple of days, put the harness on your cat and immediately provide pets and treats. If your cat is visibly uncomfortable, take the harness off. Never leave your cat in visible distress or alone while wearing the harness. Slowly, day by day, increase the amount of time your cat spends in the harness until he doesn’t mind it. Always use the time for attention, playing, love, and treats to ensure that your cat associates harness time with happiness. After the harness is well worn in, attach the leash following the same procedure. Once he is comfortable, take your cat out in a safe space, like a patio, deck or enclosed area where he is protected from other people or animals. Slowly venture further, always taking care via treats and attention to show what a fun time it is to be outside on leash. Any negative experience when walking your cat can set you back, so pay close attention to anything that could spook or harm your cat.
Note that a cat walk will never be like a dog walk. You will likely stay close to home, and the walk will be more of a meander: a slow exploration of the sights and smells nearby, though not without its charms. A cat walk is a chance to slow down, reflect, and bond with your cat, so why not take the time to go outside and smell the flowers with your best furry friend?