How to Walk Your Cat on a Leash, According to the Delaware SPCA

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Want to take your cat for a walk on a leash? Liz Pashley, the special operations director at Delaware SPCA, offers tricks and training tips.

I’d like to train my 1 1/2-year-old cat to walk outside on a leash. What’s the best way to do this, and what vaccinations will she need?

It’s never too late to harness train a cat! The first thing to consider, though, is, is this something my cat would enjoy? A cat that’s been living exclusively indoors and is skittish may find venturing outside to be stressful. But if your cat is constantly at the windows or has an adventurous personality, they may be a great candidate for harness training.

Pick a harness that is designed for cats and fits well. Even the best harnesses aren’t escape-proof, so make sure your cat also has a registered microchip as well as a cat-safe collar and tag.

Start by getting your cat used to the harness indoors. Feed them treats or give them lots of gentle pets while putting it on. You can also leave the harness by their food bowl so they start building a positive association with it. Many cats will refuse to move while wearing a harness at first and will flop over. Distract your cat with lots of play, then take it off. Do this once or twice a day for a week. Then add the leash and repeat. Once your cat is generally comfortable having the harness on, it’s time to try going outside.

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Have a curious cat who likes to hang by the windows in your home? Try taking them outside this autumn, when cooler temperatures offer an ideal time to explore./Adobe Stock | vovik_mar

Pick a quiet area away from people, cars and other animals. Be aware of your surroundings and anything that may startle your cat. If your cat seems stressed, bring them back inside and try again another day. If they’re comfortable, let them explore. Most cats won’t go for a “walk”—they’ll go where they want, and your job is to follow.

Many cats can safely enjoy the outdoors on a harness and leash with just a little work, and it can be a great enrichment activity to share.

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