How to Leash Train Your Cat (If Absolutely Necessary)

Leash Train Cat

We’ve noticed that the iGoogle “How To of the Day” was “How to Leash Train a Cat.” That got our attention. We imagined putting the harness on our cat. We imagined clipping on the lead. We further imagined ourselves burned in effigy.

Our cat (Swiper) claims that putting a cat on any sort of lead (or leash or other tethering material) is unnatural and unforgivable. But we also would like to note that, as the WikiHow article states, “if you live in an area with lots of traffic or a local population of feral cats,” it may also be a necessary evil. (Swiper would like to emphasize the word evil here, and we’ll let her, but we wish she would stand aside so we can finish this without further interruption.)

“Put the harness on the cat. Clip on the leash if it isn’t already part of the harness. The cat will probably do one of two things: sit very still, crouching low to the floor, or squirm in a frantic panic. Stay calm and don’t interfere unless the cat seems like it will hurt itself. This is also a good time to watch and make sure the cat can’t squeeze out of its harness — they can be incredible contortionists.”

One more thing the cat may do? Begin to plot a coup.

Still, if you are skilled in rhetoric, you may be able to posit that walking on the leash is better than staying all day inside the house, is it not? Take care not to use the comparative question: “the dog walks on a leash… do you think you’re better than the dog?” The answer, of course, is obvious, and just asking such a question will cause you to fall considerably in the eyes of your cat.

Blessings, and happy walkies.

Photo: WikiHow

18 Responses to “How to Leash Train Your Cat (If Absolutely Necessary)”

  1. Marty says:

    I was happily optimistic, whistling as I hooked up my big-scrapper-kitty to the harness and leash for the first time. He acted like he was on Mars…approaching every outdoor place with trepidation, worry, and plenty of sniffing. After tiptoe-ing around the yard, he got spooked, started backing away, got his leash wrapped around a small tree, then whish! - he was out of the harness and slipping into the woods. He taught us clearly that this was a very bad idea!

    We bought him an outdoor enclosure so he can run and leap freely and safely instead! Now everyone is happy!

  2. Judy says:

    I think you have to teach them to walk on a leash as a kitten. Back in the seventies I put a collar and leash on my little 4 month old and we walked all over the city. People would walk up to us and kiss my kitty on the face, I was a little concerned he might catch something LOL. It was funny how people thought it was a dog at first and were so suprised when they realized he was a cat. When was the last time you saw a grey striped tiger dog?

  3. furmom says:

    I don’t even have to try this crazy idea. I know that my cat might be harnessed once, but does this plan explain how you would get within a mile of your cat the second time around? Does anyone know how difficult it might be to handle a freakin’-out nineteen pound cat? Great idea for Wussy Pussies but not MY cat.

  4. Teri says:

    I once saw a man walking his dog who in turn was walking the cat. It was hilarious. I wish i’d had my camera with me.

  5. Bridgett says:

    Some cats can adapt to it but Judy is right, it is best to get the used to it at an early age.

    For me and my cats, I like my arms where they are, not bloody stubs.

  6. straybaby says:

    my boy rock_er (rip) was a leash walker :)

  7. pavlovscat says:

    My oldest cat, Rhea, gets very sick in a carrier, so she wears a Figure 8 harness & lead anytime she leaves the house. She doesn’t actually walk, though. I end up carrying her. I did have a tailless Manx years ago who loved to get out on a leash. I took her to the beach & many other places. People usually thought she was a small dog & were amazed to see she was a cat.

  8. joycebell says:

    I walk my cat, Kia, on a leash, or maybe I should say she walks me. We usually meander up and down the driveway, into the back yard, or up and down the front sidewalk. I started her on a harness and leash when she was about a year old. She loves going outside so I’ve associated putting on the harness with going outside, and is tolerant while I put it on. I used to take her outside without a leash and just keep an eye on her, but she’d take off like a bat out of hell and disappear into various back yards. It’s safer to control her on the leash especially since a host of neighborhood cats cut through our back yard (AKA the kittycat highway). Now my other cat, Tess, will have absolutely nothing to do with a leash and harness.

  9. e wem says:

    How to leash train a cat

    1. Use a harness, not a leash that attaches to a collar, or has a figure-8 noose around the neck. A panicked cat cat choke itself. Young cats train easier, but an older cat that likes the outdoors can be trained.

    2. Always harness them before you go outside. Carry them out if they lay down and play dead. Outside, if they still play dead, put them gently on the grass, and pet and talk to them. After a few minutes, carry them inside. Believe it or not, they carry back memories that will eventually energize them as they gain trust

    3. With young kittens, the first response is excitement. They run extremely fast in pure joy. The worst thing to do is to let them run until the rope runs out and they jerk back against the harness.

    Instead be a CALF ROPER. As the kitty runs feed out the rope just so you feel a bit of tension. As you feed it out, gradually increase the pull on the rope so they feel the gentle increasing tug and slow down. By the time the rope is all the way out, they will be at a stand still. This way they do not get injured against the harness.

    6. Most important rule. Always stay BEHIND THE CAT. Cats do not have collar bones. Their shoulders are elastic and narrow and they can easiy back out of a harness.

    If you learn to keep a gently tension on the rope, and move so the cat is always in front of you, he can never back out. You can let the kitten run, just remember to add tension to reel him to a stop as needed.

    7. Watch out for trees. A good climber can be up a tree in seconds and you cannot pull him down unless he volunteers. I let my kittens climb but only up to face level. Then I can pick them off the tree with my hands.

    8. Beware of Houdini, who runs under bushes or parked cars and removes the harness before your very eyes.

    9. Always have an escape route. A strange dog can show up and kitty will bail. I stayed around my house and grabbed the cat if I saw trouble. At the apartment, I kept a cat carrier to stuff in kitty when I saw danger.

    10. Never try to walk two cats at one time. you can only rescue one if a dog shows up. And two cats can work together to outwit you.

    If you follow these rules the cat will learn to trust the pull on the rope. Soon he will direct you to where he wishes to go.

    My cats loved the leash once they learned to trust it. They would volunteer to be harnessed just like puppies. It takes time and consistency.

  10. Amanda says:

    Our cat Jake is FIV+ so he doesn’t get to go outside unless he is supervised and on a leash.

    We got a harness and put it on him, he was not happy at first, then we put the leash on. We carried him outdoors and he completely forgot about the harness and leash.

    He realized afterwards that the harness and leash means he gets to go outside, so if we pick up the harness, he will sit patiently for it to be slipped on him and sometimes he even drags it to us when he wants out! He was full grown when he got the harness, so you don’t have to start when they are kittens.

  11. Petra says:

    When I lived in an apt in Manhattan I had a kitten Sam I Am, who I trained to walk with harness & leash. We used to go to Gracie Park for long walks together & always stopped traffic! He could also show off and climb a certain distance up a tree while on the lead. He loved it. It does need to be done when their kittens though. It should always be a harness not a collar & leash, they can strangle.

  12. Jeanie says:

    I tried this with my cat when she was still a kitten. The problem was that she wanted to go off the path and explore all the bushes where I couldn’t follow. She really didn’t like it, plus I got sick of all the passersby putting their two cents in about how funny it was to see a cat on a leash/harness. I ended up just letting her outside, supervised. This worked. Whenever she would walk towards the street I’d jump in front of her and clap my hands in her face. I’m sure people thought I was crazy, but to this day, six years later, she doesn’t go near the road. A friend of mine walks her two Siamese cats on a leash. Supposedly this breed takes to it a lot better than others.

  13. furmom says:

    wow e wem, thanks for all the great tips. You didn’t quite explain how I keep up to my cat while he’s chasing across the fields hunting squirrels. I might have to save up all this info for a fresh start on my next cat instead. This cat has stayed alive and thrived inspite of coyotes, birds of prey, dogs and local traffic, I just don’t think he’s going to want to give up his only means of escaping trouble.

  14. Furball Mom says:

    I finally got a harness on my 18 pound male cat, put the leash on and thought we had it whipped! Went on a short walk, came back to the house, went inside and finally got the harness back off. I guess that he thought he now had the freedom to come and go as he pleased, because the first time that I opened the door to go out, out HE flew and over the fence into the next yard and just kept going. All the calling and begging and chasing in the world wouldn’t bring him home. We live in an area with lots of coyotes……so I really thought that I’d seen the last of him. When I went out for the morning paper, I heard a pitiful “maaa” (he doesn’t say “meow”) coming from under my car….there he was, none the worse for wear. He flew into the house and hasn’t wanted to go out since. I really don’t think that I’ll try the harness/leash thingy again!!

  15. mittens says:

    … how i hate the embarassment of having to have the doctor remove that leash from an area that decorum requires not describing further.

    i can barely get several of my little darlings in the cat carrier without needing a blood transfusion and a heavy course of antibiotics. and unfortunately the city near where i live is no place for a cat outside even on a leash. i think its pretty amazing if you can do it. i wish i had a way to get my girls a little outdoors time.

  16. pavlovscat says:

    Mittens, try leaving out an open carrier in the house. Tie or tape the door open, or remove the door entirely if possible. That way no one gets trapped or scared by the swinging door. Leave it in a room where you & your cats usually hang out. Put a towel inside & just ignore it for a few weeks. Your cats will eventually investigate and become accustomed to going in & out of the carrier. They may even fight over who gets to sleep in there. This worked very well with mine. I periodically put out a carrier to refresh their memories.

    Also, when they need to be put into the carriers, I use a towel with their scent on it, usually one from a cat basket or one that I’ve left on a chair for them to use. Also, buying some Feliway to spray inside the carriers may help. Try putting some treats in the carrier as well. I find it easier to lure them into a bath or other small enclosed space so they can’t run & hide. Chasing after them will make them associate the carrier with an unpleasant experience, so, if you have an escapee, let them calm down on their own before you try again.

    Most of my cats don’t like being locked up, but none of them fight me badly with one exception. One of my feral rescues is very nervous & fights no matter what. She is a very nervous cat, so I try to cage her first before she gets fired up from the others.

    Good luck!

  17. mittens says:


    all excellent ideas ,of course, thank you. but i am now confronted with the geriatric crew and one is a sort of deranged tortie- a lifelong feline sociopath. they’re all so very old now none of the tricks work- smart little psychos seem to read my mind. the last time i got the tortie terror out of the house she almost had a heart attack-which is a serious consideration because she has heart disease associated with hyperthyroid.

    isn’t it true that one ‘ gets the others fired up’ or vice versa? ! when only one of them goes to the vet it’s still like the LA riots in here…

    funny- my persian girl who recently passed refused ( on principle i believe. she was a highly principled cat.)to get in the carrier but she would allow me to carry her anywhere no matter how loud or chaotic. i bet she’d have worn a leash. she’d sit next to me at the vet calm and unafraid. the doctor considered it her zen moment the two of us sitting there side by side quietly amid the yapping dogs and yelling kids.

  18. Kathryn says:

    My cat put on a leash at the age of 6 and at 17 pounds after being pretty much allowed to do whatever she wanted for her whole life.

    She does great - doesn’t mind it all.

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