Can You Walk a Cat (and How To Train Them)

While the idea of walking a dog is seen as entirely natural, walking a cat is less common. That’s mainly down to the reasons for walks: cats don’t need to be walked to do their toilet business, and many are more suited to being indoors.

But you might like the idea of taking a cat on a walk to get them a little extra exercise and benefit you, both for spending more time with your cat and getting some added walking time.

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There are some breeds that are more open to walking. Remember that every cat is an individual, and you shouldn’t force your cat to walk if it doesn’t want to. I don’t walk my cats – Charlie refused to move when we tried him with a harness when he was younger, and I didn’t want to do it the more I thought about it anyway.

If you want to walk your cat, here’s a guide to which cats are more open to it generally and how to introduce your cat to walks.

Trainable cats

There’s a falsehood that cats can’t be trained in the same way that some other animals can be. True, cats often have their own mind and personality but it doesn’t mean that all cats can’t be trained in some ways.

And if you want to take your cats for a walk, you’re going to need to train them to accept the harness and leash, and then to walk alongside you – it’s no good them being happy to wear a harness if they then sit and won’t budge. Dragging a cat is hardly the way to go.

17 Cat Breeds You Can Walk on a Leash

Here are some of the breeds that are often open to being trained to being walked on a leash. Again, where I’ve included a summary of the breed’s typical behavior, remember that there’s no guarantee that every cat of that breed will act the same.

Ragdoll

Ragdoll cat looking up, sitting on a bed

Of course I was going to put Ragdoll cats at the top of this list. While my cats didn’t take to walking, the breed generally love to follow their owners around, and so if you can get them to accept the best cat harness and leash then walking them may follow naturally. Just be careful because Ragdoll cats can be a little too soft natured – they need to be looked after. Only walk them in safe areas.

Bengal

Bengal cats tend to have a strong will, but they are curious and intelligent and so can be trained to walk on a leash. Because they’re so inquisitive, expect them to lead you, rather than you leading them.

Turkish Van

A Turkish Van cat with yellow eyes sitting on a sidewalk.

The Turkish Van cat is quite energetic and inquisitive and can take well to going on walks, providing you keep things interesting for them and ensure they get plenty of exercise while they do it.

Siamese Cats

Siamese cats are often curious and intelligent and will enjoy exploring. Having the chance to walk on a leash could be interesting to them as they discover exciting new smells and sights.

Savannah Cats

The Savannah breed is full of energy and needs a lot of exercise to keep them happy. If you don’t live in an area where you’re happy to let them roam, then walking them on a leash is one way you could help burn off that energy.

Pixie-Bob

Pixie-Bob or Pixiebob cats are a large breed that are quite calm. They’re considered one of the easier cat breeds to train to walk on a leash.

The Korat Cat

A Korat Cat from Thailand.

A quieter cat breed originally from Thailand, these like to stay close to their owner but they are open to training. They can be weary around strangers though, so try to walk them when it’s quieter around your neighborhood.

Persian

Persian cats aren’t ideal for walking, but they can be trained to walk on a leash. They prefer to be indoors and they have a very high-maintenance coat so be prepared to spend extra time cleaning their fur of any dirt that could encourage matting.

Ocicat

Ocicats tend to get along with other animals and people, and they’re very active and sociable in general, making them one of the easier breeds to train for walks. Because they have a lot of energy, they may need a brisk walk rather than a gentle one.

The Burmese

Especially when younger, Burmese cats are curious and have a lot of energy, but they enjoy being close to their owner. So taking them on a walk will often be a relaxed experience, although because they’re so docile you need to make sure to protect them from potential dangers.

Somali Cats

Generally known for being a confident and social breed, Somali cats are relatively easy to train and won’t be intimidated by strangers. Another breed that is highly energetic, you’ll need to focus on teaching them to walk instead of run.

Japanese Bobtail

The Japanese Bobtail breed is very happy around people and enjoys sharing the company of its owner. They’re open to being trained and can often be taught to accept a leash and harness and go for walks.

The Maine Coon

Zoey Maine Coon loved by Patti
Zoey, Maine Coon loved by Patti

Considered one of the gentle giant breeds of cat, these relatively docile animals can be trained to walk on a leash but they may be a bit timid, so only walk them around quiet areas.

Abyssinian

Abyssinian cats are highly athletic and energetic, and they love getting attention. Despite being so curious, they are loyal and enjoy companionship, so you may have success walking them on a leash, but expect to be led.

American Shorthair

A quick learner and a relatively easy-going cat, American Shorthairs will often take to leashes quickly and will enjoy a walk. They’re generally affectionate and will be happy walking by your side.

British Shorthair

A Grey British Shorthair with gold eyes sitting in the window.

While the British Shorthair is similar to the American Shorthair, they’re not quite as susceptible to walks – they’re calm but often prefer to stay at home, and they aren’t as energetic, although you may have some success.

Domestic Mixed Breed (Moggy)

There’s no guarantee on whether a mixed breed will take to training and walks because it will depend on the specific mix of breeds (and, again, their own personality). But if you own a moggy you can certainly try.

Walking your cat starts indoors

If you want to take your cat for a walk, consider just how much their routine is going to change. They’re going to be outside, which may be new for them. They’re going to be in new places, with new sights, smells, and sounds. And they’re going to be wearing a leash and a harness.

That’s a whole lot of new, and even the most docile cats are unlikely to accept so much change all in one go. This means training your cat for a walk is a gradual process. And the easiest way to start is indoors, where they’re comfortable, with a harness. Get them used to wearing it before you introduce the leash.

If you have a garden, you can then progress to walking around that, before you start with the big wide world. Ideally, you shouldn’t walk your cat anywhere that’s too public anyway.

The Need for a Harness and Leash

A harness and a leash are essential when you’re walking your cat. You might think that your cat is the most loyal animal even if they’re always trying to trip you up at home, and you might think that your neighborhood is safe.

But you can’t predict everything. A harness and leash guarantee that your cat stays close to you. If your cat gets a little too inquisitive, or if they get spooked by the new surroundings, they aren’t able to dash off. At the same time, if there are other threats and your cat is too docile to react to them, you have them in easy reach to protect them.

Always buy a proper cat harness – don’t buy one that’s suited to cats or dogs. It needs to be the right size so it is comfortable and secure.

You should also make sure your cat’s microchip is up to date. Even with the best harness, there’s a chance your cat could escape, although if you’re careful then you can manage that risk.

Expectations

It’s important to manage your expectations before you start planning any leash training. I can’t labor the point enough – not every cat is the same, and while some cat breeds are very open to training for walks or even for tricks, you can’t guarantee that your cat will take to it.

Never force an unwilling cat to wear a harness or to go for walks. Understand the difference between a cat that is learning and taking its time adjusting, and one that clearly is distressed. You don’t want to harm your bond with your cat if they just aren’t a cat that wants to walk.

Introducing the harness

Before you even try to get your cat to wear the harness, introduce them to it. Show it to them and let them smell it. Any new material will have a slight smell to it, and they’ll want to get used to the feel of the material too.

Attach the leash

Attach the leash to the harness. You shouldn’t attach a leash to a cat’s collar – because cats are smaller than dogs, they’ll be less receptive to anything extra attached and if they’re energetic then they will pull hard against it which could hurt them, or put them off walks.

That’s why you use a harness – it’s more secure and keeps your cat safer. So attach the leash to the harness, still while your cat isn’t wearing it, so they again get used to seeing it and understanding it.

Try it on

Once your cat has spent some time adjusting to the harness and leash, try it on. Let your cat spend some time walking around the house with the harness on, and see how they cope. If they don’t like it, and keep trying to remove it, take it off and wait a while before trying again. Try to increase the amount of time they’re wearing it.

If they adjust to wearing it, add the leash and take a short stroll around your home. Always keep monitoring your cat, and stop if they show signs of distress.

Going outside

If everything is going well by this point, it’s time to try going outside. Start with the garden if you have one, or just take them outside your home if not. Don’t plan an ambitious walk, but let your cat adjust to being outdoors, especially if they normally stay indoors.

Gradually build up to trying your first walk, as long as your cat is comfortable.

Lots and lots of treats

Of course, one of the keys to successful training of any kind is positive reinforcement, so plan to have lots of healthy treats available to encourage your cat. Rewards don’t have to be limited to food either – praise them a lot too, and make sure to spend some time playing with toys either when they’re wearing the harness indoors or after you’ve done a training session, to help them relax.

Is it normal to take cats for walks?

It’s becoming a lot more normal to take a cat for a walk than it used to be. However, you should generally avoid any busy places. Walking cats in the park isn’t often advised because there are too many sights, smells, and unpredictable other animals/people. Walking a cat in just your garden is ideal, if you have the space to do so and your cat wants to.

Is it necessary to walk your cat?

While a lot of owners of indoor cats may worry about exercise or boredom, it’s generally not necessary to walk your cat. Cats can live an enriched life in an indoor environment if you provide them with plenty of space to roam and toys to alleviate boredom.

The ideal scenario would be to have some safe time outdoors, using a protected area such as a Catio or a safe backyard, but walking your cat isn’t essential.

Is walking a cat on a leash cruel?

If your cat is open to being trained and doesn’t show signs of distress, then walking them on a leash isn’t cruel. You just need to be careful to only walk them where they are safe – that includes dangers but also surfaces that won’t harm their paws.

Most cats prefer a sense of control, and putting a leash on them can stress them out. If your cat doesn’t want to walk, then making them wear a harness and walking them would definitely be cruel.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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3 Comments

  1. Love this informative article. Unfortunately my cat was too old when I started. I brought a pet stroller & he loves going out as long as we go on the quiet streets where I live

  2. Patti Johnson says:

    Great info, Jenny honey! TYSVM! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

    1. I’ve walked my Jasper since he was a kitten. He and his sister Saffy are indoor ragdolls with an enclosed back garden to play in. He loves going for walks and meows at the door when he wants me to take him. We only go round our road and not near traffic. He has custom fit harness with lions on. Saffy didn’t like the harness so stays in and watches through the window. Thank you for the info, it was an interesting read.

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