Training Your Cat: Walk on a Leash

Leash training a cat is very similar to leash training a puppy. It takes time and patience. When people are leash training a struggling, pulling puppy, they persist with patience. They know eventually the puppy will learn.

With a cat, as soon as he objects, most cat owners give up. But your cat can get used to a leash. Your goal is to be able to take your cat outdoors on a leash and walk short distances using the command "heel."

What You’ll Need

  • Your cat before mealtime
  • A harness (not a collar) and a short leash
  • A specific command (in this case, the word "heel"), preceded by your cat’s name ("Scooter, heel")
  • Your positive signal (a clicker, or an upbeat word such as "yes")
  • The reward (his favorite food or special treats)
  • A spoon to hold the reward (you may want to tape the spoon to a stick or wooden dowel so you won’t have to bend over)

Training Steps

1. Spend a week or two just getting the cat used to the harness. Put it on him when you feed him so he develops a positive association with his harness-good things happen when it is on. Remember to click the clicker (or use your positive signal) while the cat is eating with the harness on.

2. After your cat is comfortable with the harness, you may attach the leash. Just let him drag the leash around. Be sure to start the leash training inside your home so your cat feels safe and secure.

3. Put the cat down at your side and hold onto the leash.

4. Give the command "Scooter, heel" while you slowly move forward holding a piece of food in front of the cat.

5. When he takes a step or two forward toward the food, use your positive signal and say "heel, good heel." Immediately give him his food reward.

6. Repeat this pattern, each time taking a step or two more until your cat responds to the command "heel" and moves forward when you do. Remember to go slowly and take it one step at a time.

Do not take this trick outdoors until your cat is very comfortable with the harness and leash. When you do go outdoors, take it slow. Let him first explore the area in front of your home, before venturing out into the neighborhood.

Although cats can be leashed trained just like dogs, they will not trot at your side the way a dog will. When you walk with your cat outdoors, he may stop frequently and examine the world around him. Over time, he will come to enjoy his leash and harness.