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Leashing your cat

How to Teach a Cat to Walk on a Leash

Many cat guardians long to give their cats the excitement that being outside brings. Sight, movements, sounds and smells are enticing to cats. On the other hand, cat guardians know that letting their cats outside without supervision is NOT a good idea. Solutions for some guardians include fencing their yard or using a large cat playpen.

If your cat enjoys the outdoors and you want to find a compromise, try training your cat to accept a harness and a lead. A harness is safer than a collar because it is more difficult for a cat to get out of one. 


Training Steps:

1.  First, get your cat used to wearing a harness indoors. The process is all about positive reinformcement - she should associate good things with wearing the harness. You can provide her favorite cat treats while she is wearing it or put it on right before her mealtime to help her get used to the new sensation.

2.  Once she is used to wearing the harness, attach a thin leash to the harness, and let her drag it around so that she gets used to the feel of tension.

3.  After she's comfortable with that, pick up the leash and see if you can get her to follow you in the house. You may use more cat treats or something that she really likes to help coax her to follow along.

4.  Once she is comfortable with all of the above steps, you can now go outside. Make sure the first few times you lead your cat outside that it is a quiet time of day and start in the backyard or a place where there will less activity. We do not want your cat to have a negative reaction or be frightened by this new experience.

5.  To coax your cat to walk along with you, offer her special treats. You may also just sit someplace quiet in your yard, and let her explore while you hold on firmly to the end of the leash. Keep the first several sessions short so she does not become overwhelmed. If she seems scared or does not explore, pick her up and take her back inside and try again later. Some cats will love to actually go for a walk, others will prefer to just stay in one area and sniff.

6.  Remember, never leave your cat outside unattended for his or her safety.

Take into consideration that grass and woods may be more interesting to your cat than a concrete sidewalk, but make sure they're up to date on their vaccines and flea preventative before exploring the great outdoors. 

If you would like to work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please call 414-431-6173 to schedule a consultation or email us at