Cats can and will walk on a leash. Every day more people are taking their cats out on a leash. If you are watching this video, either you are considering it or you have done it and are looking for some additional tips. Walking a cat is not exactly like walking a dog. Cats are both predators and prey and because of it they tend to be more alert and curious about their environment and can get overwhelmed easier than dogs.
After having faced so many questions through Instagram and TikTok (@outdoorbengal), I wanted to take some time to share with you the 10 most common mistakes when walking your cat.
These are 10 mistakes I want to go over as well as the implications of making them and what should you do instead:
- Not Using the Best Harness for Your Cat
- Chasing your Cat to Put On the Harness
- Not doing a proper indoor training
- Allowing your cat to door-dashing
- Letting our cat lead when walking on a leash
- Not choosing the proper place to walk our cat
- Walking Your Cat on a Short Leash
- Using Commands But Not Enforcing Them
- Not Using the Right Cat Treats
- Allowing the Leash to Get Tense
Stop Making These 10 Mistakes When Walking Your Cat On a Leash
Preventing these mistakes will probably lead to a better and safer experience for both you and your cat. At the end of the video, I’ll share a bonus tip, that will help you create lifetime memories.
You will also find links to other resources and tutorials you can watch next as well as links to some of the products I talk about during the post, in case you are interested.
Read till the end because I’m going to share a bonus tip that will change how you approach going outdoors with your cat.
Feel free to watch the video version of the post below:
Let’s see what are the 10 most common mistakes when walking your cat:
1. How to Chose the Best Harness for Your Cat
Picking the wrong harness for your cat will limit their mobility, increase your chances of failing at leash training and in the worst case scenario, getting your cat hurt due to a failed stunt because of a bulky or inadequate harness.
Despite you can use the same harness for everything, using a different harness depending on the activity will make wonders for your cat’s safety and fun:
An everyday cat harness must be light and simple
These kinds of harnesses ensure the most mobility for your cat allowing them to run, jump and fly without noticing they are wearing it. Usually lighter harnesses can be easy to escape for some cats, this is why we will also need…
A Cat harness has to be Escape Proof
If you are walking your cat on a leash when travelling by plane or train, or for a walk around the city where you can find cars and dogs, you want it to be escape proof. This will prevent your cat from getting in trouble in the worst moment possible (trust me, they can be very good at it)
Chose a harness for your cat based on the outdoor temperature
Finally, when it’s cold (when talking about cats, cold is below 50ºFarenheit / 10ºC) you will want to equip your cat with a thicker harness that protects them. Cold isn’t the only concern for cats during the winter months but that’s a topic for another day.
Make sure Your Cat Harness offers a Snug Fit
The harness must be tight enough to secure your cat but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable or causes the dreaded cat flop the moment you put it on. Get the right size by measuring grid and chest and adjust the harness properly (The ideal is 2 to 3 fingers between the harness and the cat’s body).
I have a post talking about the best harnesses you can buy TODAY on Amazon.
Also, find my 3 favorite harnesses below:
2. Training Your Cat to Walk On a Leash
It’s normal to be excited about going outdoors. You can read more about leash training in this post. In the end, it’s when all the effort we are putting into training our cat will pay off. This can make us want to go outdoors before we or our cats are ready.
I would consider our cats are not ready if our cats are not familiar and comfortable wearing the harness (They won’t move, they walk funny, they try to sneak out from it, they are complaining constantly)
Also when they can’t follow our lead indoors when on the leash.
There’s only one opportunity to create a good first impression and we want our cats to root for going outdoors. If we push it too far too soon, we might put at stake weeks of work with our cat making them fearful of the leash and the door.
I did a tutorial about leash training with a step by step tutorial to properly introduce your cat to leash training. You can click on the link above or I’ll be adding the links in the description box down below as well.
3. Teach Your Cat to Sit and Stay to Put the Harness On and Off
You don’t want to put the harness on your cat when it’s all excited and agitated. Instead, ask your cat to “sit” and “stay”.
If your cat is not willing to go out. My recommendation is that you respect it and wait for another day. Cats can be tired, have an upset tummy or just not be in the mood for it. At the beginning a little “enforcement” is okay but as they get to learn what the leash means, they will let you know if they are in the mood or not.
If your cat is willing to go out, don’t chase your cat around the house with the harness like a maniac. You can drain some of your cat’s energy and get them to sit and stay. Having control over your cat indoors is the very first step towards safe walks outdoors.
Learn how to sit and stay in the video below:
4. Stop Your Cat From Door Dashing
Does your cat see an open door as an invitation to take off on an adventure of a lifetime? Having a door darting cat can be a scary and stressful thing, especially if they ignore you when you try to call them back. It’s terrifying to imagine what could happen if they run into a busy road, or get lost in the great outdoors.
Your cat might door dash for a variety of reasons:
- Lack of physical and mental exercise
- Their prey drive kicks in when they see a squirrel run by
- They want to go explore the big wide world.
Instead, teach “sit and stay” to your cat when at the door until you ask them to go out/in. My reco is to practice at every doorway to reinforce the behavior.
Routine will also help your cat know when can they go outdoors and thus, prevent them from dashing before you allow them to walk out.
5. Don't Let Your Cat Walk Before You
As soon as our cat gets used to the leash, it’s going to want to go in front of you. Despite this might seem easier, there are several reasons why you want to prevent it, the most important, about security.
Main Dangers of Letting Your Cat Walk in Front of You
- Your Cat Will Define Where To Go and When To Stop. Thus, when your cat is leading you will see a lot more stopping in bushes, checking holes and climbing trees.There’s nothing wrong with it, but it might limit you when you want to go at a pace.
- A Cat Leading Will Be More Alert and More Distracted. It’s going to be more difficult that they listen and respond to your commands.
- Your Cat Will See Threats Before You Do and might take off at speed and the leash might slip from your hands because you were not ready.
- Your Cat Will Never Learn How to Follow You and therefore, it’s going to be difficult for you to let them roam free expecting them to follow you off-leash.
My recommendation is that you always lead the way. Your cat should walk by your side or behind you when on a leash and they should stop when you do.
6. Choosing Where To Walk Your Cat On a Leash
Choosing the wrong place to walk your cat can really impact your and your cat’s enjoyment.
Cats are avid hunters with a strong hunting drive but they are also prey, with equally strong survival instincts. Places which are noisy, busy, with dogs or other predators are places you should avoid as your cat is going to be driven by their prey-survival mode and won’t be able to be curious and indulge their predatory instincts.
The best places to walk your cat on a leash are:
- State Parks
- City Green Spaces
- Pet Friendly Beaches
- Pet Friendly Restaurants
Bonus tip! Call before going. Some cats can get nervous going up and down by car and you don't want to get to a place jus to realize it's not cat friendly.
7. Don't Walk Your Cat On a Short Leash
Cats are not like dogs, they are curious, and they use ambush as their preferred hunting method.
What's the Problem of a Short Leash to Walk a Cat?
While a dog might get distracted by tracking a smell, your cat hunting habit will want them to wait and pounce when they see or hear a bird in the distance. They will also get distracted by every hole they can fit their murder mittens in. This will, undoubtfully, make them stop more than what you’d wish for.
Using a leash which is too short, will make you stop every few seconds while if you use a longer leash, you can let your cat stop and catch up with you without disturbing your pace as much.
What's the ideal length for a cat leash?
Your leash should be at least 10ft but the longer the better. I will be adding the link to the leash I use for long walks in the description below in case you are interested.
We have launched our own leash, available on our website.
8. Teach Your Cat to Come On Comand and Make Them Listen
Specially during training, if you can’t enforce a behavior you should not use a command. If you repeat a command over and over the command will lose it’s meaning.
“Come here, COME HERE, com hereee, come come”
You are “wasting” the word and telling your cat that they can just ignore you.
When in training and outdoors call your cat only when they are wearing the leash. If ignored, impose the command by pulling from the leash and reward as normal, as if they did it on their own.
Teach Your Cat to Come When Called:
9. What Treats Should You Use When Walking Your Cat On a Leash
If you want to create positive associations and do some training outdoors regular treats won’t work.
Your cat is going to be so focused on their hunting and surviving that they will only react to the highest end treat.
I personally like to use raw meat when outside. Note that raw meat does not have all the nutrients your cat needs so it should only be used as a treat, not as a meal substitute.
The treats that my cat Mia loves the most are 100% meat. My favorite below:
10. The #1 Reason Why Cats Escape When Walking On a Leash
Cats are escape artists. But there’s something your cat can’t escape from. A harness which is submitted to zero pressure.
Your cat will try to squeeze out from the harness when the harness is restricting them from going towards the direction they want, triggering an opposition response and by applying force gradually.
If the leash goes tense, specially if your cat is backing up, you should not offer resistance. Instead, give your cat some additional room to go towards the direction they want.
If that direction is the opposite to the one that you want them to go, or there’s a threat, use short bursts of pulling energy but don’t let the leash be tense for more than a few fractions of a second.
ADDITIONAL TIP! DON'T FORGET THAT WE ARE DOING THIS FOR THEM – ALWAYS END ON A HIGH NOTE!
I promised I’d give you a bonus tip. It feels basic to me but it’s worth remembering that we are doing this for them.
After your cat has maintained the proper state of mind, reward them by allowing to relieve themselves and sniff around. Then you need to decide when reward time is over. It should always be less than the time spent focused on the walk.
It’s also a good idea providing a meal after the walk, you have allowed your cat to “work” for food and water.
I hope this post was enriching. If you liked it, feel free to comment and follow us on YouTube. Also, share it with your adventure cat friends if you think it’s going to bring value to them!
Stay Wild, Stay Safe, See you Outdoors!
Albert & Mia