Your cat can benefit from taking a stroll outdoors as long as she’s on a leash where you can keep her safe from predators and environmental dangers. Taking your cat on leashed walks is a great way to keep her body and mind healthy and active. She may also enjoy getting a chance to roll in the grass, dig in the dirt, chase butterflies, and scratch tress. Here are some tips to keep you both safe and happy if you choose to add leashed walks into your routine.
#1 – Know your cat. Not all cats will be able to find the delights in walking outdoors on a leash. Before you consider taking your cat on an adventure, consider her individual temperament and personality. Cats who do best on leashes are ones who are naturally outgoing and brave. If your cat runs under the bed every time there’s a knock on the door, leash walks may not be for her. If your cat doesn’t enjoy being walked, don’t force it.
#2 – Use the right kind of harness.
Be sure to use a harness that has been designed specifically for cats. This is important because a cat will be able to slip out of most harnesses made for dogs.
#3 – Make sure the harness fits correctly. The harness must fit correctly in order to make the experience safe and pleasurable for your cat. Take the time to make the necessary adjustments. It shouldn’t be loose enough for her to slip out of or tight enough to pinch or squeeze her. The harness should be as comfortable as possible.
#4 – Train indoors first.
After you buy the harness, leave it out where she can get used to it for a day or two before you put it on her. This will give her time to rub her scent on it and play with it. Once she has become familiar with the harness, strap it onto her and let her wear it around the house so she can get used to the feeling of having something strapped to her. You can even attach the leash and allow her to drag it behind her so she can get used to pulling weight.
#5 – Use rewards. Learning how to wear a harness and walk on a leash can be a bit overwhelming for your cat. Don’t forget to reward her with head scratches, treats, and a bit of wet food. Ultimately you want her to associate the harness with a positive experience.
#6 – Let her lead the way.
Once she’s comfortable in the harness and you’re ready to take her outdoors let her lead the way. Walking a cat is a lot different than a dog in this way. Instead of guiding her to where you want to go, you’ll simply be accompanying her while she wanders and explores. This could mean taking a nice stroll down the sidewalk… but it could also mean hanging out for 20 minutes while your cat lays down in a sunbeam.
#7 – Find a quiet, safe place. Find a quiet and relatively unstimulating place to walk your cat until you’re both familiar with the experience. If you live in a bustling city you may want to consider crating your cat and driving to a remote area with less loud sounds and people. This will help keep your cat from feeling overwhelmed.
#8 – Set clear boundaries.
After getting a taste for the outdoors, some cats will want to be outside even more. Set clean boundaries to let your cat know that she’s not allowed to be outdoors without your supervision. When entering and leaving your home, be careful that your cat doesn’t dart outside.
#9 – Use a collar and ID tag. If your cat will be spending more time outside she should have a collar with an ID tag in case she slips out of the harness. Always be prepared so your cat will have the best chance of finding her way back to you if anything doesn’t go as planned.
#10 – Keep your cat healthy.
Walking your cat on a leash will expose your cat to some new dangers like having contact with other outdoor cats and parasites like fleas and ticks. Make sure she’s up to date on her vaccinations and that you have a good plan for fleas and ticks before she goes outside for the first time.
#11 – Be aware of the environment. Being aware of what’s going on around you will help you keep your cat safe while she’s exploring outdoors. This means keeping an eye out for other cats and dogs, as well as hazards like broken glass or poisonous plants.
#12 – Be aware of your cat’s body language.
Cats have incredibly fine tuned senses, so your cat may pick up on potential dangers quicker than you will. Keep an eye on her body language. Cut the walk short if she begins to show signs of distress like if her ears lay flat to her head, her eyes are wide, or if her body is slinking close to the ground.