How to Safely Walk Your Cat on a Leash and Harness

Walking cat on a leash wearing a harness

Getting your cat outdoors is a delicate balancing act between keeping them happy and keeping them safe, and it leads many people to wonder, “How to walk a cat on a leash and harness.” If this sounds like you, you’re in luck because we’re going to tell you exactly how you can accomplish this.

Our guide will outline why you’d want to get your cat used to a harness and leash along with how to go about it. This way, you can use it on your own cat and get them outside to enjoy the warmer weather whenever the mood strikes you.

Why Put Your Cat on a Harness and Leash

There are several reasons why cat parents may want to leash and harness train their cat, and they include but are not limited to:

  • Adventurous – Some cats are much more adventurous than other cats, and this can lead to them spending a lot of time looking out windows or trying to run out the door when you open it. Introducing them to a harness, and taking them outside allows them to explore and tire themselves out.
  • Boredom – Just like dogs, cats can get bored or stressed out and turn to destructive behavior like chewing, clawing, shredding furniture, and tearing up things to amuse themselves. Taking them outside gives them a whole new area to roam around it, and it can stimulate them both mentally and physically.
  • Small Living Spaces – While it’s true that cats don’t need a lot of space, periodically changing their scenery and giving them the outdoors on a controlled basis can help keep them happy. This is especially helpful if you have a very energetic cat that needs to burn off a little energy.
  • Transition – Maybe you’re working on transitioning a formerly outdoor cat indoors, and it’s not going as smoothly as you’d like. Giving them a few hours outdoors every day can help ease their transition to a fully indoor cat without a huge problem.

How to Walk a Cat on a Leash and Harness – Step by Step

There are a few steps (and a little patience) involved in helping your cat adjust to wearing a harness and leash. If you follow them, you’re likely to have your cat ready to go on outdoor adventures in no time!

Step One – Pick a Quality Harness and Leash

The first step is to find a harness that successfully distributes pressure across multiple areas of your cat to prevent choking, and it should also fit well to prevent your cat from slipping out when they have it on. Cats have a harder time simply slipping out of a harness, and this is why many cat parents prefer them.

Ideally, you want to find a harness that comes with several easily adjustable straps and adjustment points that allow you to slip it on your cat and slowly adjust it for a snug fit. Mesh harnesses are very popular for cats because they’re lightweight, breathable, and easy to adjust and contour to your cat’s body.

Once you have a harness, you also want to pay attention to the leash because this is what tethers your cat to you and keeps them safe when they’re out and about. You can use virtually any leash you’d like, but don’t use a retractable leash because there is a danger that they could snap and your cat could get away.

Step Two – Introduce Your Cat to the Harness

This is the step that will cost you the most time, depending on how willing your cat is to try new things. If you don’t take this step slow enough at your cat’s pace, you can scare them and set yourself back to square one all over again.

  • To start, you want to let your cat explore the harness by reinforcing every sniff and touch with a treat or clicker. This technique will help your cat associate the harness with good things, and it can help to reduce their fear levels.
  • Once your cat sniffs and touches it a few times, slowly drape the harness over your cat’s back and leave it sit. If they don’t have a problem with it, you can reinforce it with a treat or a click. If they run away, go back to step one and repeat it.
  • When your cat is comfortable with laying on the ground with the harness draped over them, you can slowly put the harness on them while keeping it loose. Reinforce this again with treats and praise, and slowly work to tighten it as your cat allows it.

Step Three – Walk Your Cat Indoors

Although you may be tempted to take your cat outside straight away, you really should get them used to walking with the harness inside. Let your cat wander around the house wearing the harness for a few hours before you attempt to attach the leash and lead them around.

When they get comfortable, attach the leash and let your cat lead you around the house. Go where your cat wants to go, and don’t try to direct them or pull the harness tight at this stage because you can accidentally scare them. You also want to praise them the entire time you do this.

You can slowly start encouraging your cat to walk beside you, and offering a treat or two is one way to make this process go a little quicker. Once both of you feel comfortable, try taking your cat outside for a stroll.

Step Four – Outdoors

You want to bring your cat to a quiet and calm area before putting them down and letting them slowly explore around the area. Loud noises or a lot of people and animals can overwhelm your cat and cause them to get scared or be hesitant to go back outside when you bring them back in.

As your cat continues to get comfortable with being outside, you can start taking them on longer adventures with more people and things to see. Just remember to keep them close to you and pick them up if they get distressed or scared by something around them.

Additional Tips for Success

There are a few other small things you can do to keep your cat safe and healthy when they’re in their harness and ready to go explore. You may not have to implement all of them, but they could work if you run into problems.

Carry Your Cat Outside

The last thing you want is your cat darting for the door every time you open it, and you can curb this behavior by making a point to carry your cat outside each time you want to take them out. It removes the temptation to make a mad dash for the door each time someone opens it.

Don’t Give in to Attention-Seeking

If your cat is making a pest out of themselves and wanting to go outside right this very moment, don’t reward this behavior. Instead, wait for your cat to calm down before you get their leash and harness out and take them outside.

Never Leave Your Cat Outside by Themselves

Just because your cat is on a leash and harness doesn’t mean you should leave them outside by themselves because it removes their ability to get away if a threat comes along. Always stay outside with your cat, and keep them relatively close to you the entire time.

Bottom Line

It can be a healthy and fun activity to take your cat outside on their new leash and harness, and we’ve outlined how you can accomplish this with your own cat. Try it out and see if your cat loves exploring and keep them active, happy, and healthy throughout their lives.