When it comes to making sure pets get enough exercise, we typically think of taking dogs out on a lead and leaving cats to do as they please in our gardens and the surrounding neighbourhood. However, you may not be aware that you can also walk cats on leads – and whilst not all of them will tolerate it, some do in fact enjoy a ramble with their owner. In this article, Whiskas investigates the phenomenon that is walking a cat and offers advice on how you can safely take your cat out on a lead.
The benefits of lead walking
Research into walking cats on leads has revealed some clear benefits, including:
- Safety for your cat
If you have an indoor cat, they may not be getting the stimulation and exercise they need. By using a lead and a harness, you can ensure your cat gets fresh air and exercise while keeping a close eye on them.
- Confidence boost
If your cat is timid and anxious, walking them on a lead should help increase their confidence and let them explore more freely.
- Bonding time
Teaching your cat to walk on a lead lets you spend precious time together, and heading out for a walk will likely strengthen your close bond and build trust over time.
What you will need
The first thing you will need is a harness. Collars can be used, but they are easier for cats to wriggle out of and disappear. Harnesses are safe, secure and more comfortable for your cat, as they are less likely to rub around their neck.
You will also need a lead to attach to the harness. The lead should be looser than a dog lead, as cats are apt to roam around and climb more things. Walking a cat is more about following your cat, letting them decide where to go, and letting them explore their environment at will.
Finally, having a few treats handy is always useful. You can use them to reward your cat for good behaviour, or to persuade them to come back to your side if they want to stray a bit too far.
How to train your cat to walk on a lead
There are a few steps you’ll need to take before you set off into the great outdoors with your cat at your side. To start with, your cat will need to get used to a harness and a lead before they will let you put one on them. Once you’ve purchased your cat harness, leave it somewhere in the house where your cat can sniff and paw at it on their own.
When the harness is a familiar object for your cat, gently put the harness on your cat, and let them wander around the house with it on. You could then attach the lead, so your cat becomes accustomed to the feeling. Reward your cat with a few treats, which will lead them to view the harness as a good thing.
Finally, for your first walk outside, choose somewhere quiet and out of the way of busy roads or other animals. Let your cat do most of the directing, and never tug your cat back using the lead, or scold them. You want the experience to be positive, so your cat is happy to repeat the exercise.
If possible, you should start lead training your cat from when they are a kitten, but older cats have proved willing to learn as well. However, if your cat decides they don’t want to be walked on a lead, sometimes it’s best to admit defeat. You should never force your pet to do something they aren’t comfortable with, or shout or scold them.
If you want to keep your cat indoors, consider creating a cat-friendly enclosed space in your back garden for them to play in, or invest in some mentally stimulating cat toys that encourage exercise, to prevent your pet from getting bored.