Having interacted with 100's of cats over the past decade I feel we can safely say:
- Some cats will not walk on a leash
- Many locations are not safe for a cat to be walked in.
- Most cats are perfectly happy kept indoors in a safe and secure environment.
That being said, there are some people who want to walk their cats, and there are some cats who are willing to go along with the idea and seem happy to do so.
For those of you who wish to give it a try, here are some steps and methods I have seen employed to varying degrees of success.
Cats can easily escape from a collar while walking, so you must accustom your cat to wearing a harness. The safest harnesses are those that have a neck and a belly strap (H-harnesses). Harnesses are available at pet stores and on the internet. Small dog harnesses will fit a cat and work just fine.
Introduce your cat to the harness over time. Put it on her and let her wear it for 15 minutes several times day. We know that reward works, punishment does not, so when you harness your cat, praise her, pet her, and give her a favorite treat. She needs to associate her harness with good things.
For safety's sake, be sure you do not leave your cat unsupervised with a harness on. Harnesses may become tangled in household items and injure your cat.
After a time, if she accepts the harness, you can move to the next step and attach a leash. Again, with supervision, let the cat adjust to having the leash attached. Hold the leash loosely, or let it drag on the floor. Let her investigate it. Do not try to pull your cat with the leash. Reward her lavishly, as it not only reinforces her good behavior, but is distracting to her and will get her mind off of the leash.
Patience is a must in this endeavor. Each phase may take repeated attempts daily for a couple of weeks.
If you and your cat reach the point where she is comfortable and ignores her harness and leash it is time to take her out into your safe yard. Do not try to walk around inside the house with her. Cats don't like to be pulled about and will most likely lie down and refuse to budge.
Walking a cat outside on a leash is not like walking a dog. You will be following your cat around and persuading her towards good things and dissuading her from bad things, not energetically walking alongside her.
Your first forays into the outdoors should only last for several minutes at a time and gradually be lengthened as you both get used to being outside together.
Keep in mind that when cats walk outside they will spend more time investigating, relaxing, and observing than dogs.
Please also keep your walk areas limited to the safest environment that you can find. The out-of-doors is filled with predators, poisons, and dangerous obstacles. Be alert and cautious, and enjoy the time you have to spend with your feline friend.
For more information on walking your cat on a leash, please visit CatTraining.com.