My indoor cat wants to go outside. How can I teach her to use a leash to take her for short walks?
If at all possible, leash-train your cat when she is very young, because if your cat grows up with walking on one it will become second nature. Any cat, though, can be leash-trained. As always, be patient and gentle. Never punish or yell. Here’s how:
• Harnesses are best, because the collar, when combined with the leash, will put too much pressure on your cat’s fragile neck. A harness more evenly distributes the force, protecting your cat.
• Let the cat become comfortable with the harness. Start by laying the harness by her so she learns to think of it as something familiar. Then, after a week, place it on the cat for short periods of time until she no longer objects to wearing it.
• Use a lot of positive reinforcement! Play, pet and feed your cat while she is wearing the harness. This will help her make positive associations.
• Now it’s time for the leash, and repeat the same steps you did with the harness. Bring out the leash and let her get familiar with it. Place the leash on the harness, let her walk around with it and reward her.
• Train your cat to walk on the leash indoors. Once she seems comfortable with the harness and the leash, start leading her around the house on it. Start indoors because she’ll be more comfortable indoors, especially if she is not used to being outside.
• Head outside for a walk. Take short walks around your yard at first and work up to longer walks around the block or in a park. It is best to walk your cat in quiet places where she won’t be frightened. Stop and reward often during the walk.