How To Train Your Cat To Walk On A Leash [And Not Hate It]

Training your cat or kitten to walk on a leash can be a lot of fun. After they’re trained, you’ll be able to take your furry feline outside to explore the world safely.

If your cat has lived most of their life indoors, going into the great outdoors (even if it’s only your back porch) can be scary. The key is to take things slow, go at the pace of your cat, and keep the training positive.

That’s why I’ve made this guide that walks you step-by-step on how to train your cat to walk on a leash and actually enjoy it!

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How To Leash Train A Kitten Or Cat

The steps for training your kitten or cat to walk on the leash are going to be exactly the same. The only difference is going to be is that the harness your kitten will wear is going to be different than an adult cat’s harness.

Read up on the best harnesses for your kitten or cat to help choose one that will work for you. That article goes over choosing a cat leash as well.

It’s really important to have a properly fitted harness or else your cat could escape when outside, putting everyone in danger.

If you’re new to clicker training, read about what positive reinforcement is, easy clicker training basics, and the tools I recommend before starting.

Supplies:

I prefer using a clicker/ target stick combo for cats since it’s easier to hold, but you can use a separate target stick if that works better for you.

Training Steps:

In order to leash train, your cat should already be trained to wear a harness and know how to target. If yours isn’t, follow my steps for target training and harness training guide before continuing on.

  1. Place the leash on the ground for your cat to explore. Click and reward them with a treat for any positive interactions with the leash.
  2. Then, put on their harness. Use the target stick to coax them into walking around. Click and treat for walking without the leash attached.
  3. If your cat isn’t comfortable with the leash, slowly move it around while clicking and treating, until they’re comfortable.
  4. Once your cat is walking around with their harness, clip the leash to the harness and then immediately unclip it. Click and treat.
  5. Next, clip the leash and leave it dangling for a few seconds before unclipping it. Click and treat.
  6. Slowly build up the time the leash is clipped and dangling on the floor while your cat moves around.
  7. Continue steps 4 to 6 until you can gently hold the leash.
  8. While you’re holding the leash, use the target stick to get your cat to take a few steps forward. Click and treat.
  9. Slowly continue until your cat is comfortable walking around your home on a leash.
  10. Once your cat is used to talking around your home wearing a harness and leash, work up to getting your cat to walk outside.

When getting your cat to go outside, its important that there aren’t any dangers around including moving vehicles, dogs, or feral cats.

You may find that your cat takes to leash walking indoors but is nervous about venturing outside. This is completely normal and you should take your time building up your cat’s confidence by always leaving them the option of going back inside whenever they want to.

how to leash walk your cat training steps book excerpt

This training came from my book, How To Clicker Train Your Cat. If you want more fun and easy tricks to train, you can check out the book here.

How long does it take to leash train a cat?

Training should be done in short 3-5 minute sessions multiple times a day. Depending on how your cat progresses and how consistent you are with training, it could take a few months for your cat to feel comfortable walking on a leash outdoors.

Is walking a cat on a leash cruel?

Walking a cat on a leash is only cruel if you’ve not trained for it and your cat is terrified. If you go at your cat’s pace and take the time to properly train your cat using positive reinforcement, your cat will likely enjoy leash walking.

Being able to go outside is a great form of environmental enrichment since it expands your cat’s world. They get to explore new surroundings safely which gives them new sights, sounds, and smells to process.

Is it too late to leash train my cat?

The earlier you start harness and leash training your cat, the quicker they’ll take to it. Kittens are still learning about their world and are open to exploring.

Older cats may have a higher level of comfort always staying inside. This doesn’t mean they can’t be trained though; it just may take longer to train.

Not all cats will take to leash training. If your cat is fearful and doesn’t enjoy it, there’s no need to force them. You can bond with your cat by training other skills like an indoor agility course.

Stephanie Mantilla curiosity trained header logo holding black cat
Stephanie Mantilla

Positive Reinforcement Trainer & Enrichment Specialist

Stephanie has over 12 years of experience training and enriching exotic animals as a Zookeeper. During this time, she received a certificate in Behavioral Husbandry from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and is an expert in animal behavior.
In her free time, she uses positive reinforcement to train her numerous pets at home and is always thinking up creative ways to prevent her pets from getting bored. On Curiosity Trained, Stephanie now helps people make their pets’ lives better by giving them easy to follow tips and science-backed information.

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