Pet parents love indoor playtime with their cats, but some may wonder if leashed outdoor playtime is possible. The good news is that, yes, pet parents can train their cat to wear a leash outdoors. However, the younger the cat, the easier the training may be, so many pet parents opt for leash training kittens.
Choosing the Cat Leash and Harness
Before the cat training begins, pet parents need to have the right supplies.
Pet parents will need a harness that fits their kitten, but they shouldn’t use a small dog harness. Dogs and cats have different body shapes, so a dog harness may cut across a cat’s shoulder or chest or increase choking risks. Nylon, padded mesh, or cotton is the best harness material, and it should wrap over the shoulders and chest, never the neck. It also needs adjustable clips for a secure fit.
Pet parents should choose a nylon or cloth leash with a four-to-six-foot length. A bungee leash can also give kittens the range to explore their surroundings. Chain leashes or flexi-type, retractable leashes are not suitable for cat training.
Kittens may take to a harness faster than an adult cat, but each kitten is still an individual with preferences. Pet parents may need to test out different harnesses to see which ones the kitten likes.
How to Leash Train a Kitten
Training a kitten to walk on a leash takes patience and positive reinforcement, along with some favorite cat treats.
Step 1: Wearing the Harness Indoors
First, place the harness next to the kitten’s food or bedding for a few days. Proximity to favorite places can help a cat see the harness positively. Next, the pet parent should place the harness on the cat without the leash. This step may require several tries over a day, or even several days, as the kitten may not initially like the feeling.
Pet parents can give the kitten a treat or two with the harness on. But to reinforce positive association, they should only offer treats when the cat is wearing the harness. Repeat this process over several days, gradually increasing how long the kitten wears the harness indoors.
Step 2: Walking Indoors With a No-Tension Leash
Once the kitten is familiar with the harness and readily accepts wearing it, the next step is to attach the leash. The pet parent should connect the leash and walk close to the kitten to keep the leash loose. The pet parent should stop whenever the kitten stops to avoid any tension in the leash.
If the kitten becomes anxious or tries to get out of the harness, the pet parent should remove the harness and set it aside for a day. Then, they should repeat this step until the cat is entirely comfortable with the harness and leash and moves about freely.
Step 3: Walking Indoors With Leash Tension
Now that the kitten is comfortable with the harness and leash, the pet parent should introduce the next step: leash tension. In this step, the pet parent doesn’t hold the leash. Instead, they let the leash drag behind the kitten to create natural tension from the leash's weight. This step must include supervision. Weighted pressure can introduce the cat to leash walking tension, but it can also create anxiety if caught on something.
Step 4: Full Indoor Walking
This fourth step mimics outdoor walking, complete with harness and leash attached with tension. First, pet parents should secure the harness and leash on their kitten and slowly allow the cat to roam around the room. The pet parent can now introduce a new walking direction.
Rather than pulling on the leash, the pet parent should drop a few treats on the floor or call the kitten in a soft voice while holding a treat. Once the kitten moves in the right direction, the pet parent should give plenty of praise and continue walking around indoors, continuing treats and praise for safe movements.
Step 5: Outside Walking
Outdoor walking is the final step for leash training kittens. To help make the experience positive, pet parents should choose a sunny, warm day with minimal outdoor noises, ensuring that loud machinery or neighborhood dogs aren’t nearby. Next, pet parents should place the harness and leash on their kitten and walk to the door and open it while speaking gently. They can toss a small treat or two outside the entrance to encourage the kitten to step outside.
Cats showing anxiety should not be forced to continue, and pet parents can always try another day. Once the kitten is outdoors, keep outings to a few minutes and gradually increase the time, bringing plenty of treats to encourage good behavior.
Kitten Care Advice From Fuzzy Vets
For more cat advice on leash training or kitten care, pet parents can reach out to a Fuzzy vet for support.