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How To Walk Your Cat: Training Steps For Safe Cat ‘Walkies’

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: March 1, 2024 - Author: Holly Garcia
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: March 1, 2024  
Author:  Holly Garcia

Can you walk a cat? Of course! Cats aren't just lazy furballs content to sleep their lives away (well, some are!). Deep down (sometimes really deep down), many fancy a bit of exploration as they are naturally nosey and curious creatures.

So the answer to “can you walk your cat?” is a big resounding “yes”!

how to walk your cat

Maybe your kitty won't be scaling Everest anytime soon, but with a little know-how and a whole lot of patience, you can transform them from a lazy window-watcher to a go anywhere adventure cat. But it does take some thoughtful training technique and a bit (possibly a lot) of patience.

Before you know it, you could be exploring quiet corners of your neighborhood at dusk when cats feel their most adventurous. Maybe even venturing further afield for a mini-hike on a cat-friendly trail!

How To Walk Your Cat: Step-by-step

The opportunities for walking a cat should be a lot of fun for you both and your options are potentially endless.

But how on earth do you teach a creature famed for its independent streak to happily walk by your side?

That's where this guide and video come in. Let's turn you into a cat-walking expert, ready to take the steps to get you and your feline buddy out and about.

Step 1: Is Your Cat a Born Explorer?

Not every cat is going to be an Indiana Jones, trail-blazing adventure buddy. And that's perfectly okay! But if your kitty exhibits the following traits, walks might be just what they crave:

  • Energy: Is "Zoomies" your cat's middle name? Do they love to play and explore every single nook and cranny?
  • Curiosity: Does your cat follow you around, fascinated by everything you do, with those big, inquisitive eyes?
  • A Door Dasher: Is the outdoors a magnetic force for your feline friend, prompting sneaky escapes or longing looks out the window?

If this sounds familiar, you might have a future adventure cat on your hands!

Step 2: Start Small, Start Early

Kittens are incredibly adaptable, so if you can begin harness training your cat young, that’s fantastic!

However, don't despair if your cat is older—it just might require some extra patience. (Check out this video and guide on how to harness train your cat for all the harness training details!).

Before you can contemplate the rest of the training for getting your cat on walks with you, you have to get them used to wearing a cat harness and leash. So that comes first.

Remember: the key is starting INDOORS. This provides a safe, familiar environment where your cat can learn with zero distractions or stress.

Can you walk a cat

Step 3: Gradual Outdoor Training

Once your kitty is strutting confidently around the house in their harness and leash, it's time for the next exciting chapter – the great outdoors!

  • Location is Everything: Busy parks? Forget it! Think peaceful backyard (if you have one), quiet hallways, or an enclosed porch to start.
  • Safety First: Make sure your cat's harness fits snugly (two fingers should just fit underneath) to prevent escapes. Keep them safe from any other animals you might encounter.
  • Timing: Early mornings or late evenings (just before dark) are ideal for avoiding crowds and keeping your kitty calmer, particularly during initial training. Plus, cats naturally love twilight exploration!
  • Familiar Scents: Scatter a few familiar and favorite cat treats outdoors to make the experience even more positive.

Step 4: Follow Your Feline Leader

This is the most important part. You follow them on these early adventures!

Let your cat set the pace, investigate what they find interesting, and build their confidence naturally. The goal is exploration, not a strict walk on a short leash.

The aim is to leave the leash just a little slack so you aren’t controlling where they go at all - unless you need to make a quick move to scoop them up for safety (if a dog or other animal makes them skittish or gets too close).

From here on, it’s all about taking walks more often, in different places and for longer.

Scale up on whatever timeline your cat is signalling is working for them. If they are loving it, do more. If they start to show signs of tiredness or any fear at all, then it’s time to take a break.

Walking a cat

Decoding Cat Body Language

Pay close attention to how your cat reacts to the outdoors. Here are some signs of discomfort:

Tucked Tail or Airplane Ears: These spell out "I'm not happy."

Lots of Meowing or Trying to Hide: They might be overwhelmed.

Crouching Low: Your cat is trying to feel smaller and less visible.

If you notice any of these, it's perfectly fine to head back inside. You may need to stick to your familiar indoor space for a bit longer before trying the outdoors again.

Celebrate Tiny Triumphs

For some cats, simply stepping outside the door is a huge victory!

Reward each positive step – sniffing a new plant, overcoming a little fear, walking a few feet with your beloved cat on a leash – with praise and treats.

Your enthusiasm will be contagious.

Extra Tips For Taking Your Cat For A Walk

Patience is key. This journey is unique for every cat. Don't compare your timeline to anyone else's.

Have fun! This is about bonding with your feline companion. If it becomes stressful for either of you, take a break and find other ways to play.

You can always start again and try in a different outdoor space or perhaps with a different harness. If it’s not working out, try to work through what your cat dislikes about it. It could be the harness but it might be the setting.

Of course, it is possible that your kitty just ain’t having it…!

Troubleshooting Tricky Situations (FAQs)

Walking your cat sounds amazing in theory, but understandable doubts might creep into your mind.

My cat will run away?

This fear is valid, but good training and precautions can limit that. A secure, well-fitting harness is crucial. Obviously, start indoors for plenty of practice before venturing out in controlled areas.

If your cat wears a collar you can attach the leash to that and the harness for a double leash system which is a good backup for extra security, although it should not be necessary. 

Holster-style harnesses are the most escape-proof.

What if my cat encounters a dog (or other animal)?

Start training in quiet spaces to minimize surprises. If an animal encounter occurs, stay calm and pick your cat up or gently guide them away. Don’t panic, but do be ready to act very quickly if there’s real danger.

Your cat is in no position to defend themselves but you are. Every dog you meet should be treated with caution as you have no idea how they will react to your cat even if you know your cat is fine with dogs.

A safe carrier that your cat is used to can be a lifesaver if things get too chaotic. So make sure you keep one handy.

When out walking with your cat it makes sense to use a cat backpack carrier rather than the sort of cat carrier you might use to take them to the vet. As well as providing a refuge if they need to be kept safe (or when they get tired) this also means you have a simple way to carry other stuff you might need (food, water, spare leash etc).

Will my indoor cat get sick outdoors?

Talk to your veterinarian about necessary vaccinations and parasite prevention. Most cats with routine inoculations will be properly protected from anything they are likely to encounter but if you haven’t had your cat vaccinated then do so before taking them outside.

Keeping your cat on the leash should reduce exposure risks, but a thorough veterinary health check and advice beforehand is a smart move.

People will think I'm weird.

Maybe they will, but who cares? Ignore any negativity and focus on the joy you and your cat are experiencing together.

What to Do When Things Don't Go as Planned

Even the most enthusiastic adventure cats have days where they'd rather stay curled up on the couch. Here's how to handle a few common roadblocks:

Sudden Freeze: Some cats hit the brakes the second they're outside. Stay patient – sit nearby with treats and let them adjust at their own pace. Short, frequent outdoor sessions can help. If they freeze from fear, get them into the cat backpack asap.

Distraction Overload: Cars whizzing by, birds chirping – if it's all too much, head back home! Quieter locations and times of day will help your cat stay focused and enjoy their new discoveries.

Refusal to Move: Don't tug on the leash! Offer treats to entice them a few steps, or simply go back inside and try again later. Forcing it can create negative associations.

Walk your cat

How To Walk Your Cat: Final Thoughts

Walking your cat isn't about turning them into your perfect walking partner. It's a beautiful, sometimes hilarious, always heartwarming journey of discovery–both for you and your amazing feline.  

Some days will see you both bounding confidently along, while others might just be a quick sniff of the air outside the door. That's the beauty of it!

The most important thing is listening to your cat, enjoying every tiny adventure, and always meeting them where they're at.  

Who knows? Maybe that initial walking cat foray into the backyard will lead to leisurely strolls through the local park, or perhaps your cat will simply be content knowing the vast outdoors is always a possibility if they ever feel the urge. You may even go on a cat road trip or holiday with them! 

Wherever this path takes you and your feline companion, one thing is for sure - your bond will grow deeper, your cat's life will be richer, and those plaintive meows at the door might just become a thing of the past.

The world awaits you and your curious explorer. 

Check out our other article on best leashes and harnesses for your cat:

best cat harness

Best Cat Harness and Leash – 15 Top Rated Harnesses for Cats (2024)

About the author

Holly is from California, USA. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio-Television-Film.

She found her love for film in a 9th grade media class and landed her first production job just after high school.

She has been creating ever since and loves all art.

When she’s not busy creating content for brands and her own social media channels, she’s adventuring with her cat, Meister.