Walking Your Cat on a Leash?

Ever considered walking your cat on a leash? Unless your kitty is absolutely wild and fierce, you absolutely should! Outdoor cats live on average 2-5 years less than indoor cats, for a number of reasons: They are run over, get attacked by another animal or cruel humans, eat grass that’s sprayed with poisonous pest control chemicals or toxic plants that are dangerous for them, and have incidents including being trapped somewhere and starving to death or accidentally hanging themselves on their collars. However, many cats, especially when they are still young, really enjoy being outdoors – watching birds, listening to rustling leaves, and smelling plants. It is an exciting experience for them to be outside, and active cats just love it!

So, how do you keep your kitty safe and alive while allowing them to enjoy their life and being part of the bigger world? As strange as it sounds, get your cat a leash, and explore the world with them! The idea that it’s only dogs who can get used to walking on a leash is wrong and keeps many people from trying walking their cats. Actually, any cat can be trained to walk on a leash – you just need to convince yourself that it’s possible! Cats are really adaptable, and we know quite a few people who hike with their cats, ride bikes with their cats, and train their cats to come sailing with them.

We love this YouTube channel, for example, where a Japanese-American couple Rachel and June, have a few cats and break many stereotypes by just doing things with their cats, including walking them and riding a bicycle with them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5530I_pYjbo

Please bear in mind, however, that being outdoors is not for everyone, and this applies to cats too. Like people, there are curious, active cats who are always trying to escape when you open the door, and these kitties are most likely to enjoy the experience. If you have a shy, inactive, introverted cat who gets scared easily and hates everything new, please don’t force them to hike with you. But if you know deep down that your cat loves an adventure, here’s what you should consider before starting their training:

  • Please make sure that your cat has a reliable collar with a name tag and your contact details so that they can be returned to you if they escape when you are outdoors. Remember to use a quick-release collar to make sure that your kitty doesn’t hang themselves if trapped by their collar.
  • We strongly recommend using a harness instead of a collar because they are safer, you won’t pull your cat by their neck (which is not very humane and dignified in general, for cats or dogs), and kitties seem to prefer them (probably thinking they are a cool new outfit).
  • First, get your kitty used to wearing the harness. Put the harness on your cat every day, gradually increasing the length of time they are wearing it until you reach half an hour, and they feel comfortable with it.
  • In the beginning, many cats scream and roll on their backs to get rid of the harness. This is normal, don’t get discouraged. Give them a treat, stay calm, and carry on. Please also make sure that the harness is the right size and well fitted – cats are escape artists and able to get out of anything!
  • Start walking them somewhere safe, where they won’t get scared seeing many unfamiliar people, dogs, cars, and other objects, as it is likely that they will freak out and try to break loose or jump right into your arms and scratch you. Your backyard is the perfect training place.
  • Once you decide to go to a more public place, after your cats feel comfortable walking in your garden or backyard, start small – go to a very remote forest or park where you won’t encounter many people or dogs.
  • Always use a carrier to transport your cat there (we use cat backpacks, and they like them). Leave the carrier open in a safe place where your cat can see it and easily access it – if your kitty gets scared, they will run to their ‘safe haven’(or not!).
  • Please always remember that it’s your cat who is walking you, not the other way around! While your dog will follow you gladly wherever you want to go, your kitty has their own mind and will just head in their preferred direction, expecting you to follow. Don’t pull them, they will just break loose and escape – just follow them.

Once the initial training period is over, you will really enjoy sharing the garden with your cat and seeing your furry baby really enjoy it. We love watching Simba ad Shasta hunting birds and chipmunks in our garden (they never catch anything), smelling the grass, and being excited about being outdoors. They always look so happy when they are in the garden!

Walking your cats has many benefits:

  • It allows you to bond with your cat;
  • It stimulates their imagination and makes them happy;
  • It’s a great exercise for your cat and helps them to stay active;
  • Walking and playing outdoors helps them manage their weight;
  • It appeals to their natural instincts and is great for their wellbeing.

There is a growing community of cat walkers in the US and many other countries, and quite a few of our friends and customers are walking their cats, inspired by Simba and Shasta’s great example. We wish you the best of luck with this new adventure, and please always remember to keep an eye on your kitty and stay agile – they are very slinky and can suddenly try to escape when they see a mouse or decide to explore a new area without you! Stay safe and give our best regards to your kitty!

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