Leash Walking

You feel great after a stroll.
Imagine what it can do for your cat.

  1. Leash walking is a great way for you and your cat to stay connected to nature by exploring your world together.

    Because of the risks associated with injury or illness, we feel it’s a responsible choice to keep your cat indoors. However, we recognize that safe exposure to the world outside should be a routine part of your cat’s life. 

    Why? Cats in the wild are active hunters and territorial by nature. This means they have to keep tabs on every sight, smell and sound in their immediate environment.

    Your cat at home is just as equipped to stay in tune with the surroundings as his or her wild counterparts. So how can you help exercise these traits? 

    Try leash walking. But before you jump right in, it’s important to recognize this is far different than walking a dog. Whereas dog walking is about covering distances and cardiovascular activity, leash walking a cat is about sensory experience and exploration. Secondly, while aspects of leash walking are meant to represent certain hunting behaviors, this activity should never turn into an owner-guided hunt – be it birds, rodents or insects.

    Teaching this skill is a process that requires a great deal of patience. But it’s one we consider to be highly worthwhile. Give it a try as it can help your cat actively explore territory beyond the walls of your home. And experience all that nature offers. 

  2. Getting Acquainted

    After you’ve selected a fitted harness and leash for your cat (your veterinarian or associate at a pet store can help you with your choice), it’s time to get your cat comfortable with the equipment.

    Start by keeping them out where your cat can smell and investigate them.

    Then attach the harness to the leash and use them to play with your cat.  Entice your cat to swat at or pounce on it.

    This will create positive associations with these items as training continues.

    To Complete This Step

    How’d it go? Make note of how long it took before your cat got comfortable with the leash and harness. Share your experience.

  3. Try it On

    To further acclimate your cat to the leash and harness, try placing the harness on your cat a couple times per day for roughly 15 minutes at a time.

    In preparation for going outside, make sure your cat is up to date with all recommended vaccinations.

    To Complete This Step

    After a few days of trying the harness on for short blocks of time, snap a picture and save it to your Journal.

  4. Gain Comfort

    Build comfort with the harness by increasing the amount of time it is left on. Work towards an hour at a stretch – and multiple times a day.

    If your cat is resistant to wearing the harness, or hasn't adjusted to wearing it during short stretches of time, call a time out on this training. Try revisiting in a few weeks.

    To Complete This Step

    Have an image of your cat hanging out in a harness? Share it now.

  5. Practice Indoors

    It may take time to get used to being on the leash. So start by touring the familiar territory of your home.

    As you begin work on this skill, know that cats react differently than dogs to certain stimuli. While dogs rely more on their nose for tracking, cats respond more to sounds and movement. So it’s important to train your cat to respond appropriately.

    This starts by rewarding good behaviors like staying calm after hearing a noise, moving forward and sniffing. Try hiding toys or kibble around your home and have fun discovering them together. 

    This will help you gradually build the duration of your walks inside. Once your cat has mastered this skill, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

    To Complete This Step

    How long did it take before your cat got comfortable? Before you move on to the next step, be sure to get a picture of you two practicing with the leash.

  6. Take it Outside

    Try taking your cat outdoors using a harness and leash. Make the first experience very short - perhaps only a few minutes.

    Do this at a time when your cat is feeling calm.

    Walk your cat in a place that has relatively low noise and activity, such as your backyard.

    To prepare for taking your cat outside, remember to be sure they have their recommended vaccinations - plus flea and tick prevention.

    To Complete This Step

    Pay attention to what types of stimuli – insects or animals, cars or planes, other people - put your cat on edge. What types of plants or structures does your cat gravitate to? Make note of them now.

  7. Explore Together

    As your cat builds confidence on the leash, gradually expand the territory you’re exploring.

    • If you have permission, venture into your neighbor’s yard.
    • Stroll up and down your block.
    • Venture around a park.

    Be patient. Give your cat time to explore the surroundings. Building this familiarity will help visits later on.

    To Complete This Activity

    How that you’ve got the hang of it, tell us about your adventures together. Does your cat act differently outside? What advice would you give to other cat owners just getting started with leash walking? Before you finish this activity, make a note and upload a photo from your walks - it may be helpful to others.

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