October 1, 2019

Should You Ever Put Your Cat on a Leash?

We’ve been seeing a lot of cats on leashes lately. Here in Los Angeles, it’s not unusual to see pets dressed in all kinds of haute couture...yes, even cats. But does your cat belong on a leash, really? Let’s dig in.

Why Would You Put Your Cat on a Leash?

Great question! Cats on leashes get their fair share of stares, partly because a lot of people can’t understand why a cat would be on a leash in the first place. There are a couple of perfectly reasonable thought processes for leashing a cat. Some cat owners want their animals to get more exercise and use the leash to encourage walking. Other owners know their cats like to spend time outdoors, but they’re worried about the inherent risks of having an outdoor cat. Sometimes particularly anxious cats become calmer and more confident once they’ve mastered the leash. In specific cases, a leash might be the next-best option to a crate when a cat has to be transported.

Does Your Cat Want to be Leashed?

Not every cat wants to be on a leash. Most cats should be given the opportunity, if not simply to enrich their lives with more sights, smells, and time outside. It’s important never to force your cat to “acclimate” to the leash life. The logistics may take a little getting used to, but if your cat fights you tooth and nail, they’re trying to tell you they’d really rather not. Listen to them.

Leash Training Your Cat

So, you’ve decided you want to try your cat on a leash. Great! First procure a leash and harness. Yes, a harness, not a collar. Cats are wiry, notoriously good at slipping through tight spaces. They will eventually maneuver their way out of a collar which can be dangerous if you’re outdoors. Instead, purchase a soft, flexible cat harness made out of canvas or other easy-to-adjust material with a harness clip on the back. Any leash attachment is fine - there’s no need to buy a “cat-specific” leash. When getting your cat used to the idea of walking on a leash, start at home. That way, if your cat flails, bolts, or otherwise has a hissy fit, she can’t get into too much trouble. Start by letting your cat get used to the feeling of wearing just the harness. Then, try encouraging your leashed and harnessed cat with food placed a few feet away. Don’t be surprised if she sits down, bites at the leash, or otherwise acts perplexed. Try to avoid dragging your cat with the leash! If she’s not into it, let her calm down the try again another time.   Once your cat is completely comfortable with the leash set up in the home, it’s time to head outdoors. You’ll know after just one or two trips whether this is a habit your cat is excited about or whether she’d prefer to live a leash-free life. Take her lead. Remember, what’s best for your cat might not be right for someone else’s. Don’t fret that your cat isn’t getting enough fresh air or exercise without leash training. As long as you give your kitty plenty of love, affection, and playtime indoors, she’ll be just fine.  

Questions about behavioral changes in your cat? 

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