Outdoor cats can explore their territory and have a variety of environmental impressions. But indoor cats can also have adventures outside on a leash. Read here how to proceed.
Most cats enjoy being outside in the fresh air. They have diverse environmental impressions. However, the greatest danger for free roamers is road traffic. But there are not only cat-friendly hunters and not only cat-loving neighbors. There are also various diseases that cannot be vaccinated against, parasites, and the risk of theft.
Many cat owners are afraid to let their cats outside freely. The risk is particularly high on busy roads. However, if there is still a desire to allow the cat to go outside, a cat leash can be the solution in addition to building a cat-safe garden.
Is my Cat Suitable for Leash Walks?
Not all cats are thrilled to be walked on a leash. For some, however, it is actually a wonderful opportunity to soak up some fresh air, sun, and new impressions. Should you try it with your cat? Take the short test!
How do you rate your cat? Answer the questions with yes or no:
- My cat is very self-confident?
- My cat is curious?
- Does my cat have a certain urge for freedom?
- Has my cat ever been allowed to roam freely, or did it grow up outside?
- Is my cat keen to move?
- Does my cat react calmly to new impressions?
- Does my cat have a good bond with me?
- Is my cat healthy?
- Is my cat fully vaccinated?
- My cat is younger than seven years?
- I can easily pick up my cat?
- Does my cat react calmly when driving?
- My cat doesn’t panic in front of a cat kennel?
- If you can answer “yes” to at least seven of the questions, it’s worth trying the harness and leash.
In the following cases, however, you should avoid walking on a leash:
- if the cat is not vaccinated
- if the cat is not chipped
- when the cat is extremely anxious
- if the cat has an illness where excitement could be harmful
Likewise, don’t start walking on the leash if you can’t ensure that the cat is regularly provided with it. If the cat enjoys it, it will demand new freedom!
The Equipment for a Leash Walk With a Cat
Equipment for a leash walk with a cat includes:
- a well-fitting, possibly adjustable chest harness
- a leash
When it comes to leashes, Flexi leashes that are offered for small dogs have proven their worth. “Walking jackets” are also often very well tolerated by cats and have the advantage that the cat is not choked when it pulls on the leash, as the pull is distributed very evenly. Please do not try your luck with collars. Cats are very agile and slip out of a collar far too quickly. There is also a risk of strangulation if the cat panics for any reason. In addition, it makes sense to take a cat kennel or a transport bag with you on the walk.
Acclimating the Cat to the Harness
Cats need to be gradually introduced to a harness and leash. First of all, wearing the harness is practiced at home in a familiar environment: On the first day, you only put the harness on the cat and maybe make small adjustments to the size and weight and see how the cat reacts to it:
- If the cat gets restless when it is put on, fights back, or even panics, it should be left alone.
- Then try again in a few days.
If the cat stays calm with the harness on, it will be praised and given a tasty treat as a reward.
Then simply pull the dishes off her again.
The practice continues the next day. The wearing time of the harness gets longer and longer until the cat no longer bothers and walks around the house with the harness completely unimpressed.
Cat Falls Over with Dishes
Many cats just fall over when they wear a harness for the first time. If you organize a cat teaser, i.e. a stick with feathers on top, or a cat rod, this behavior can usually be stopped quickly.
As soon as the “hunting instinct” for the sham prey is awakened, the cat “forgets” that it is wearing the harness and dashes after the feather. Playing together with the cat helps a lot to accelerate the habituation process.
Please never let the cat run around the house unsupervised with the harness on.
The harness can snag a strap somewhere and the cat will be stuck, even at worst half-strangled. One such incident may be enough, and you can say goodbye to the idea of walks immediately.
6 Basic Rules for a Cat Harness
- Practice regularly, if possible at the time of day you later intend to take the cat out.
- Better two or three short training periods than one that is too long and overwhelms the cat.
- Cats love rituals. Talk to your loved one in a calm, friendly tone.
- Praise your cat when they do well and reward them with a treat.
- If your cat is anxious, even panicking, or visibly uncomfortable, stop the exercise immediately and go back to one level in the training.
- Please never try to force your cat to do anything. Tomorrow is another day and you won’t get anywhere by pushing.
Getting the Cat Used to the Leash
Getting used to the leash also takes place at home. If your cat tolerates the harness as a matter of course, clip the leash and walk behind the cat with it a little. The same rules apply to handling the cat as to getting used to the harness. If wearing the leash works for a few minutes at a time, unhook the cat and then gradually increase the time as described above for harness familiarization.
Caution: Please practice the first time in the largest and clearest room in your home and limit the length of the leash on Flexi leashes with the stop function. Your cat may panic at the leash, feel threatened or being followed, and may run across the room, wrapping or knocking the leash around furniture.
Some cats adapt to the leash and harness more quickly, while others may take several months to get used to. Sometimes it can help to switch to a different leash, for example without a retractor mechanism. As a cat owner, you definitely need a lot of patience. However, if your cat is visibly uncomfortable with the leash and is not making any progress, you should accept that the leash is not suitable for your cat and not stress her out with it all the time.
The First Leash Walk With the Cat
Once the cat has gotten used to the harness and leash indoors, you can plan the big day of the first assignment outside. Keep the following aspects in mind:
- Your cat should be up-to-date on vaccinations and flea and tick protection (ask your vet for effective products).
- Your cat should be microchipped and your contact details should be deposited with an animal registry.
- Don’t start walking outside in winter.
- Take a transport box or bag with you for transport and in case of emergencies.
- Bring a feather and treats to motivate you.
- The cat should be wearing a harness and leash before you leave the house.
Step 1: Arrival at destination
When you arrive at your destination, place the transport container on the ground and grab the leash. At first, the door remains closed and the cat can sniff around in the safe cave and see what there is to see.
Step 2: The door opens
Some extremely self-confident cats immediately start scratching the kennel rail and signal that they want to get out, others are unsure at first and duck into the last corner. Depending on the cat’s behavior, open the door immediately or wait until the animal appears calm and curious. Before opening, make sure that there is no dog in sight and that no people are approaching the location where you are.
After opening the door, let the cat decide whether it wants to come out or not. Curiosity usually wins out after a few minutes. With some cats, it helps if you lure and praise them, others are motivated by the feather feathers. Once the cat has left the safe box, it will soon want to sit or lie down, sniff around in peace, or nibble on some grass.
If the cat makes no move to get out of the carrier and is afraid, stop trying after a few minutes. If she stays inside but looks interested, give her the view of the alien world and do it again another time.
Step 3: The Right Length
15 minutes is enough for the first outing unless your cat is already running through the grass like a pro and clearly enjoying himself. Later excursions can then be gradually lengthened or shortened if the cat is having a bad day.
The Suitable Place for Leash Walks with Cats
Your own garden is suitable for the first leash walk with the cat, as long as it is quiet and fenced in if necessary. If you don’t have a garden, look for another place. This should also have the following characteristics for later walks:
- offers plenty of free lawn or meadow space
- quiet location (no traffic, no city center)
- as “dog-free” as possible
In addition, it is advisable to start looking for areas where you are reasonably alone with your cat. If you’ve got your city park in mind, it’s best not to start practicing on Sundays when whole hordes of people are strolling down the sidewalks and saying “Oh, she’s cute!” fall on the cat.
Dangers for Cats When Walking on a Leash
When walking the cat, there are also some dangers that you as a cat owner should pay particular attention to:
- Trees can become traps if the cat’s leash gets tangled in a branch or the cat gets caught on the harness. Therefore, please make sure that the cat better not climb. You should also avoid dense bushes.
- Be sure to avoid contact with dogs and other cats. They can scare your cat, injure it or transmit diseases.
Always take the transport box with you as soon as the cat wants to move to a larger area. It serves as a quick refuge when a free-roaming dog approaches or the cat is somehow startled. It is better to take the cat upstairs with the basket than to hold the animal in your arms. Especially when encountering dogs, it is important to be able to control the cat. A cat that is scared of death cannot be held with bare hands without injuring yourself. In an emergency, the cat should therefore be returned to the transport box.
Who Sets the Direction When Walking on a Leash?
Outside, the cat decides where to go. The exception is, of course, when danger is imminent. But there are also cats that really learn to walk on a leash over time. That means they follow people and not the other way around. A good way to get the cat to do this is to dictate the direction of movement with the feather frond. It then chases the frond over a longer distance, so to speak. Praise your cat when she does everything right.
Can the Cat Hunt on a Leash?
Even if your cat would certainly enjoy it, please do not let your cat hunt birds outside. Stay away from known nesting sites during the breeding season and if walking in winter please avoid areas where birds are feeding.
Information on the Health of Indoor Cats with a Leash
An indoor cat with a leash should be dewormed regularly. It is also important to protect yourself against ticks and fleas and to check for ticks after your trip to the countryside.
Regular breaks during the walk are also important for the health of the cat because cats are not long-distance runners. Also, take drinking water with you your cat during the warm season. While free-roaming cats actually like to drink from puddles and standing water without being harmed, indoor cats are often not so resistant and sometimes get gastrointestinal infections. It is, therefore, better not to let them drink from such water sources.
Have fun walking your cat on the leash – afterward, she will surely dream intensely about the experiences in the little freedom when she is dozing on the sofa at home.