Think walking on a leash outdoors is just for dogs? Turns out, cats can and do enjoy it too! (Though only when properly trained and when you’ve taken the proper precautions.) But with all that said…how to leash train a cat? Can you train a cat to do…well, just about anything, really?

Given how independent and curious cats are, you wouldn’t be the first pet parent to wonder if your feline buddy is in any way “trainable.” But leash training a cat can be one of the best ways to offer them the safe, supervised outdoors time they need to stay happy and healthy. (Ideally, with a GPS tracker strapped to their collar – in case they give you the slip and are now bounding away a few miles per hour.) So let’s get started!

Does it make sense to leash train a cat?

Absolutely. Because no matter how much a couch potato yours is, every cat needs some outdoors time to stay happy and healthy. Whether that’s just within your backyard – initially at least – and eventually further out.

Why? Because much like their wild ancestors, your cat will naturally gravitate towards the outdoors, wanting to expand their territory. I.e., their little patch of land where they patrol, hunt, and show everyone else who’s boss.

A cat hiding in a bush

“While indoor cats use an average of 40 square yards in their home, community cats are natural hunters who have been known to roam up to 150 acres.”

– Pet MD1

Read more: Cat Territory Size & Range: How Far Does Your Cat Roam?

A cat exploring its territory outdoors

So if your question isn’t “How to leash train a cat?” but rather “Why should you bother leash training a cat?” – we do get it.

But with a leash attached to your cat’s harness, you can:

  • Offer them the freedom to explore new areas – safely and under your supervision.
  • Help keep your buddy mentally active, as well as their senses sharp. Being in nature – i.e., outside your backyard – gives your cat the sensory stimulation they need to protect against cognitive decline as they grow older.
  • Give your cat the exercise they need to stay healthy and prevent weight-related health issues.
A man petting a leashed cat

⚠️ Coop them up indoors for too long and your cat is likely to sneak out somehow or the other to explore – whether it’s due to:

Which makes it a smart idea to get them used to wearing a leash, harness, and collar – so you can give them this supervised outdoors time without compromising on their safety.

💡And if you lose control of their leash for a second and they give you the slip? Try strapping a GPS tracker to their collar as an emergency measure.

An outdoor cat wearing a Tractive GPS tracker in a lawn

Meaning, with just a glance at your phone, you can track your cat:

  • In real-time,
  • Over an unlimited range,
  • While on vacation (or 175 countries on a Premium subscription)

Discover Tractive GPS

So without further ado, here’s…

How to leash train your cat: Our 6-and-a-half-step guide

Ready to outdo your dog parent friends and stride with pride with your cat on a leash? Not so fast. Much of your feline leash training journey is going to involve getting your buddy used to it in the first place – and then coaxing them outdoors while wearing it. (Which might take weeks, if not months.)

Because look, let’s face it – no cat was born wearing a leash. (Or dogs, for that matter.) So since trainability and obedience are now involved, you’re going to have get a bit creative persuading your feline buddy to comply with this new thingamajig.

A man walking a cat on a leash through a flowery path

We’d also recommend getting the green light from your vet if your cat is good to go for walking on a leash outdoors. They can help you figure out if your cat needs:

  • Any anti-pest control, including treatments against fleas, ticks, and mites
  • Any surgical procedures, including spaying or neutering
  • Any vaccinations, if necessary
  • A microchip to help someone identify your cat in case they get lost

And once you’re done, here’s step one:

1. Choose the right gear

With your cat equipped with the right gear, you’ll be that much more likely to train them successfully. So once you’ve begun scrolling online, look out for:

  • A comfortable, well-fitting harness designed specifically for cats. Some comfortable styles include H-style, vest, and figure-8 harnesses. Treat this like buying a pair of shoes – and ideally, drop by the store in person to get a good idea of their measurements.

    The harness should be comfortable without being restrictive; a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and your cat’s body – but your cat shouldn’t be able to slip out of it either.
A cat in a harness exploring a forest
  • A lightweight, retractable leash that’s built for cats. This can help give your cat a sense of freedom while still giving you enough control over their range of movement. Ensure the leash clip is sturdy and fastens securely to the harness.

Some harnesses come with a special leash included, but make sure to shop around (with your cat’s measurements in mind) to find the best fit.

Now we’ve been talking about leashes – what’s all this about harnesses?

Well, in general, vets discourage using a leash attached to a collar alone.2

  • It’s always a good idea to fit your cat into a harness first – and walk them on a leash attached to it.
  • This prevents them from slipping out, choking, or tangling on the leash.

💡Besides, getting your cat used to a collar can be an important safety step – especially if you attach an ID tag to it with your contact details. (Plus a GPS tracker for some extra safety, of course.)

white and black cat looking up wearing gps collar

Read more: Cat Collar Training & How To Nail It In Just 3 Steps

2. Get your cat used to wearing a harness

Next, let’s get your cat used to wearing the harness first. You’ll eventually be attaching the leash to it, so let’s take it one step at a time.

  • Introduce the harness gradually by letting your cat sniff and inspect it in a familiar environment indoors. Lay it near your cat’s favorite spots or during feeding times. (This will help them build a positive association with it.)
  • Once your cat’s gotten used to the harness being around, gently place it on your cat without fastening it. Keep it on for just a few seconds at first – and reward your cat plenty (with treats and praise) once you take it off.
A cat wearing a harness indoors
  • Gradually extend this period from a few seconds to a few minutes. Be consistent with praise, pets, and treats.
  • Once your cat doesn’t mind wearing the harness, fasten it for (very!) short periods while you’re both still indoors. Watch out for any signs of discomfort and remove the harness if your cat seems uncomfortable.

Make sure your harness fits your cat just right. You do want to avoid them wriggling out of it, after all. If they do, you likely need one in a different style or size.

Besides, always supervise your cat while they’re wearing the harness. Ideally, they shouldn’t be spending too much time wearing one indoors – rather, only when out with you on a walk.

Read more: How To Harness Train A Cat In 7 Easy Steps

3. Introduce the leash

Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness, it’s time to introduce the leash. Be warned – your buddy might be a bit alarmed, especially given its snake-like appearance!

So once your cat is snug as a bug in a rug wearing their harness, you should:

  • Let them interact with the leash much like the harness earlier. Let your cat drag it around the house or bat at it – slowly getting accustomed to it over time.
  • Supervise your cat when they’re around the leash to prevent them from getting tangled in it.
  • Watch out for some initial clawing! Your cat needs to get used to the leash as much as possible before you put it on their harness. If they’re used to playing with string, thread, wool, or even a pair of shoelaces, they might adjust a bit better.
A man leash training a cat indoors
  • Take some practice walks indoors at first. Hold your leash loosely and guide your cat around your house – up and down stairs and through the different rooms.
  • Direct your cat where you want to go with a toy or a laser pointer.
  • Be gentle when tugging at the leash to steer your cat. Make sure to reward them when they do follow your lead. Loosen it if your cat doesn’t seem to want to head a certain direction without forcing them.
  • Never drag your cat around if they’re reluctant to move! Some days just aren’t their day – so take some time off leash training and keep them busy with some other games or playtime instead.

💡If your cat is scared of going outdoors, try sitting with them near an open door, window, or at your porch. This can help them get used to the sights and sounds of the outdoors – especially if you do it gradually, day by day.

4. Teach your cat some simple commands

Yes, your cat might less of a people-pleaser than your dog. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be trained or learn simple commands! In fact, cats do respond to consistent training as long as it’s based on positive reinforcement.

So when it comes to leash training a cat for walks outdoors, you’d do well to include commands in their daily training like:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Drop it
  • (Your cat’s name), come back!

All of which your cat can pick up and replicate with time – if you’re consistent in rewarding them when they perform the command.

For example, training your cat to come back when called may even save their life if you’re on a walk outdoors – and they slip out of their harness or leash after a bird or a squirrel.

A cat wearing a leash and harness exploring the outdoors

How to teach your cat to come back when called

You might be used to your cat coming to you when you call their name – while also shaking their food bowl or a bag of treats. Which is a great start, since you do want to use a stimulus your cat finds familiar and even looks forward to. (The basics of positive reinforcement.)

Just make sure to use the same command, like “Mitsi, come back!” or similar. This will prevent your cat from getting confused. (They don’t speak English, after all, even if it feels like it sometimes.)

  • Start by standing close to your cat and calling out their name.
  • At the same time, shake one of their favorite toys or a bowl full of treats.
  • When your cat approaches you, praise them and offer a treat. (Or some playtime with the toy.)
A grey cat eating a treat
  • With time, this will help them realize that “coming when called = reward.”
  • Gradually increase the distance as you call your cat while following the same steps.
  • Rinse, repeat, and practice daily for 5-10 minutes or so.

The same method works for commands like “Sit,” or “Drop it” – all of which can prevent your cat from lunging towards any food on the sidewalk or any other forbidden “treats” you might run into while walking outdoors.

Read more: 4 Important Dog Commands & How To Teach ‘Em (all of which work on the same principle with cats!)

A man training a cat to shake paws with a treat

💡Invested in a Tractive device? Your tracker’s built-in Sound function lets out a high-pitched beep or tune to help you locate your cat if you can’t see them. (Like in a dark area.)

In fact, some pet parents use their trackers’ Sound function to train their dogs and cats to return home for mealtimes! (Or to just come back when called, in general.)

Tractive Trustpilot review

Track Your Cat With Tractive

5. Practice walking somewhere familiar outdoors

Once you’re both comfortable leash walking indoors – and your cat is responding to simple commands – it’s time to move to the outdoors! But don’t run off to the nearest hiking trail just yet. Your cat needs to get used to walking on a leash outdoors in near and dear environments first.

So make sure to:

  • Start in a safe, quiet, enclosed area like a backyard or patio. (Ideally, one your cat is familiar with.) This can help your cat gradually get used to this “new” form of playtime together.
  • Keep your initial outdoor session short and gradually increase the duration as your cat grows more comfortable.
A cat walking on a leash in a backyard
  • Don’t rush your cat. It’s better to let them explore these environments at their own pace. Avoid forcing them to move or venture somewhere if they seem hesitant or scared.
  • Stay close to your cat to help them feel relaxed outdoors. Keep an eye out for traffic, other animals, or loud noises – all of which can make your cat spook and bolt off into the distance.

It’s also smart to let your cat walk in front of you rather than on the side. This can help you keep an eye out for anything that’s dropped on the sidewalk or path – and prevent your cat from sneaking a bite when you’re not looking.

Brought your cat in a carrier outdoors for a practice walk – but they aren’t budging from their safe spot inside? Try and encourage them with toys or treats and a bit of gentle coaxing to get them to step outside. (But of course, don’t force them. Every cat needs their own time.)

6. Gradually explore new areas

As your cat grows more familiar with nearby outdoor spaces, take them out with you progressively further away from “home.”

Of course, it’s a good idea to avoid busy streets or crowded parks that might freak out your cat and trigger an escape attempt. So take it slow and only introduce your cat to new environments as they grow more confident exploring their surroundings.

Keep an eye on your cat for any signs of discomfort throughout the process. Too much stimulation from a new environment can stress them out as well.

A cat exploring new areas while walking on a leash

💡Exploring new outdoor spots with your cat can actually help you figure out which ones count as “danger zones” as well! Including areas that might have:

  • Plants poisonous to cats
  • Toxic substances, like pesticides, weed killer, or even snail bait
  • Wild animals
  • Poison bait
  • …and anything else you’d rather your cat not run into when outdoors.

So if you’ve invested in a Tractive device, here’s how you can report a danger via your Tractive mobile app:

Better yet, your danger report gets broadcast to other pet parents in the vicinity. So you can both keep your cat safe – and do your part as a responsible pet parent.

Mark Out A Danger Zone

6.5. Plan ahead for an emergency

Now you might’ve gotten your cat microchipped and collared – but these are only very basic steps to help a stranger identify your cat. Not actually, you know, track them down or help you take an active role in finding a cat that’s:

  • Slipped out of their harness,
  • Isn’t coming back when called,
  • …and might be miles away from safety – where there’s no end to the dangers they might face. (Whether it’s from passing cars, other animals, poisonous plants, or even pet thieves.)

⚠️ Besides, no harness is escape-proof. Cats really are liquid and can wriggle themselves out of any tight spot in a pinch. (Like if they’ve run into a boisterous dog or a woodland animal they’ve picked as their next meal.)

A cat chasing a mouse in a field

💡So imagine the relief and peace of mind from knowing you could follow your cat’s every step – as they make their every step…with just a glance at your phone?

All this from hitting “LIVE” on your Tractive mobile app – and adding an extra layer of security to your walks with your cat outdoors.

Live tracking Cat GPS tracker

Because when you’ve got a missing cat situation at hand, every second you take can make all the difference between finding them safe and sound…or potentially never seeing them again.

And in general, the quicker you begin your search – the more likely you’ll find your cat.

So why yell yourself hoarse, calling out your cat’s name? Just hit “LIVE’ and follow their every step – as they make their every step.

LIVE Track Your Cat

Still wondering how to leash train a cat? Follow these 6 (and a half) steps for success

Every cat is different – meaning, every cat will take to leash training differently. Some might adapt like a fish to water, others…less so. So be patient and never force your buddy into a situation where they feel uncomfortable or scared.

Because when done right, leash training a cat can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences for both you and your buddy. Helping your cat explore the outdoors safely – while you ensure their well-being.

So with some patience, consistency, and a heap of treats – here’s how to leash train your cat in just 6 (and a half) steps:

  • Choose a well-fitting harness and leash that fit your cat just right. Ideally, you should be able to stick two fingers between the fastened harness and your cat’s body.
  • Get your cat used to wearing the harness first by letting them sniff, bat at, and build a positive association with it. Avoid attaching the leash directly to your cat’s collar, as it might cause them to choke or get tangled with it instead.
  • Next, get your cat used to the leash by letting them drag it around in their mouths or otherwise interact with it. With time, you’ll be strapping it to the back of their harness for your walks.
A cat walking on a leash through a field
  • Teach your cat some simple commands, especially coming back when called. You’ll need this if they’ve slipped out of their harness outdoors chasing down a butterfly or squirrel – and you want them to return to safety.
  • Practice walking in familiar spots outdoors, and even indoors to get your cat used to it. Avoid busy areas like dog parks or crowded streets that might spook your cat and trigger an escape attempt.
  • Gradually explore new areas as your cat grows more comfortable and familiar with being walked on a leash.

And finally…

  • Plan ahead for an emergency – especially a “missing cat” situation.

Pretty much anything can trigger your cat’s flight response – and running and hiding somewhere safe is an instinctive behavior for them. Plus, no amount of training can override their instincts 100%.

So make sure you’ve got your cat wearing a collar and ID tag (or even better, a microchip) for someone to identify them – and bring them back to you.

A cat wearing a Tractive GPS tracker

And for an extra layer of security for your walks outdoors…

Tractive GPS cat tracker mini packaging

Know everywhere your cat goes

See where they are in real-time, no matter how far they go. Get alerts if they roam too far from home. Find out where they’ve been and discover their favorite spots. Let others track with you. Track sleep and activity.

Get Tractive GPS

Want to see the pros leash training and walking their cats in action? Here’s a video that might help!

And if you’ve liked this post, share it with a friend or a loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together. Happy walking!