What can I do to keep my cat calm during a leash walk?

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When you start leash-training your cat, it should be done indoors in a small, quiet room with plenty of treats on hand.

In the beginning, your main focus is to get your cat used to wearing the harness. Leave it on for short intervals, gradually increasing the amount of time—and be sure to keep those treats coming while you do it.

For the first few sessions, your cat may sit very still, crouch low to the ground, squirm or panic. Just remember that you need to stay calm and try not to interfere so that your cat doesn’t hurt herself or anything else in the room.

When your cat is used to the harness, she’ll start to relax and just walk around the room. Keep those sessions short and take off the harness after each one. When your cat is comfortable, you can start to lengthen the sessions—but stop if she seems angry or frustrated.

When you think she’s ready, add the leash, but always start with short sessions and then gradually increase. Never force too much too soon on her!

When it’s time to leash-train, choose a hallway or room. This will provide a comfortable environment with few distractions. Let her walk around the hallway or area. Hold the leash gently, follow the cat and keep offering treats to reward her—and to sometimes entice her to walk if she won’t. Be sure to never pull your cat. She won’t like it, it will stress her and it won’t help her to make positive associations. Let her go at her own pace and, at least in the beginning, let her dictate the walk.

Now you can move outside, but start with a small, confined area (like the yard) for very small intervals. Gradually increase the distance, but try to find a route with the fewest dogs, because the can cause her to panic.

NOTE: While younger cats and kittens can be a little easier, any cat can be leash-trained. Be mindful, however, that older ones can sometimes stress a little faster so be sure to monitor her moods.

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