Whether you’ve seen it online, watched your neighbor do it or observed your indoor cat gaze longingly out the window, you’re here because you want to take your cat for a walk.

And you can. In fact, some vets recommend leash-walking for cats. If comfortable for the cat, leash-walking gives them extra exercise outdoors while stimulating their feline senses.

These five tips will help get you started:
  • Get treats.
Positive reinforcement is the best training, and food is the best reward. If your cat is motivated by food, then train them using their favorite treats, kibble or wet food. When you get them into their harness, reward them. When you get them outside, reward them. When you get them walking, reward them. Once their walk is associated with their favorite treat, they will be more confident to get that harness on and explore.
  • Normalize the harness.
Once you do your research and find the right harness, get your cat accustomed to it.

Start by putting the harness on indoors for a couple minutes a day, and use treats so that your cat associates the harness with positive, tasty things.

Once comfortable with the harness, attach the leash. Let it drag along as your cat explores your home. Do this regularly for a couple minutes a day/week until your cat is comfortable. Never leave a leash or harness on an unsupervised cat.

Once your cat is comfortable having the harness and leash on, start holding the leash and walking the cat around your house. Let her lead.

Be patient: it could take several weeks before your cat is ready to go outside. Once your cat is comfy walking indoors with you, get them outside. Start with very short walks. This could mean standing outside with your cat for a couple minutes a day at first.
  • Be Gentle.
A cat is not a dog, and you are not its master. Let your cat lead. Let it smell the dirt and roll around in the grass. If it wants to make a left, make a left. If it want to walk straight on, walk straight on. Don’t pull the cat. With patience and treats, you and your kitty will hopefully be going on longer walks every week.
  • Develop a ritual.
Before you go on your walk, create a signal – ring a bell, say a phrase (“Let’s go for a walk”) or use a clicker. Your cat will associate the signal with the walk.
  • Know when to give up.
Your cat’s health and well-being are most important. The reality is that some cats just don’t want to walk on a leash. Cats are territorial creatures and some get stressed out when they smell other animals in unfamiliar territory. If you’ve practiced patience and tried the positive reinforcement training with no luck, it may be time to trade the leash in for a squeak toy and keep exercising your cat indoors.

While most cats will never give you a high five in exchange for a treat, flush after using a human toilet, or walk obediently on a leash, lots of training and patience can turn your stubborn kitty into the stuff of urban legends (and viral YouTube videos).

And if your cat is up for it, leash-walking could be a fun way to exercise yourself and your pet. Although it’s not for all felines, it’s good to give your cat the opportunity to try it.