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Why Do Cats Lay Down When on a Leash (Real Reason!)

Are you having some challenges walking your cat? Maybe it’s because you don’t have the right lead/harness (Click here for my best harness & to see the price on Amazon). Maybe it’s this, maybe not. But, to save the suspense, let me explain exactly why this is happening.

Why do cats lay down when on a leash? The simple reason is they don’t like leads or being walked. It is not what they are used to and it’s not an instinctual action to follow a human on a lead. For this to go as you expect, they need training and you need patience.

Now you understand why this is happening, let me explain if this is against nature, if it’s possible to train them to fall in line with your expectations, how to train them, and to set your expectations for attempting to walk a cat.

Is the lead/harness against nature?

You may be confused wondering why your cat is “Acting Up” when you attempt to take him out for a walk. However, there is a reason for their behavior. And, my task today is to explain this to you.

Basically, to cut a long story short. Your cat does not want to walk with you while he is on the leash. Hence the reason why he may be laying down. Cats are not naturally built for harnesses & leashes.

Understand this. Expecting a cat to use a harness and leash is not normal. It’s against their instincts. In fact, they are likely to react either defensively, by lashing out. Or at best uncooperative, are you with me?

Can you train a cat to use a harness & leash?

After my last section, you may feel that a harness and leash is just not going to work. The reality is it does work. But, you need to know what you are doing. Let me explain…

In simple terms, they need to be guided to do this. Effectively train them to first get used to the leash and get them comfortable following you on this weird leash.

Why would you even want to train your cat though?

You may be wondering, why would a cat owner even want or need to train their cat to use the leash in the first place? Good question. Let me explain why this happens.

Indoor cats are indoor cats for a reason, the owners are not keen on exposing them to the harsh realities of the outside world. But, what could happen?

Things that are avoided by using a leash and keeping a cat indoors

Let me give you an idea of these issues now:

These are just a few, to be honest, the list could easily be expanded, but I think you get the point.

Benefits of training

Indoor cats tend to develop obesity or just get plain bored if they are kept in all day, every day.  Being allowed outside while being assisted allows them a chance to get exercise, avoid obesity and stop getting bored.

This exposure to the outside will help to boost their confidence and generally make them feel better psychologically.

How to train your cat to use a leash & Harness

Now that you know the benefits of the leash and why a typical cat owner would want to use one. And also why your cat is acting up. Let me explain how you can actually train your cat to use the leash itself.

Choosing the correct gear

Before you start, you need to have the right kit. But, what do I mean by the right kit? Simple, you can’t just use any leash (Click here to see my 3 best cat harnesses for hiking).

Basically, you need to understand that a cat is different from a dog. They have a different build. They do not have the same neck strength as a dog. So, one of the main things you need to get right is the style of leash/harness.

The distribution of restraint as you pull on the lead cannot be focussed on its neck. It needs to be evenly distributed between its neck and chest. So, make sure you look out for the correct harness & lead combo for this.

Gently introducing the Lead & Harness

Before you even begin to try and get them outside, you need to climatize them to the leash & harness. The idea behind this is to associate them with positive connotations… Positive what now?

Yes, positive connotation. Meaning, for example, they should be treated when you put the harness on. This will trigger a positive reaction in their mind when they see the harness, are you with me.

To be honest, even before you get to put the harness on, you should give her a chance to just see and play with the harness & lead. Place it in her cat bed (click here for the best cat beds) and place some treats.

One key thing. Never force the harness or leash on them. If you do this, they will never accept it.

Breaking them in, to go outdoors

Before you actually take your cat out. I am going to give you an idea of what you need to do to make this as smooth as possible.

The keyword here is taking it slowly first. You may be tempted to throw on the lead and take her outside just because she seems fine with the lead now. No, this is not the way.

It’s a better idea to walk her around your house, indoors first. Once you see that she is doing ok, then find a quiet area where there are not many distractions or other animals, you with me?

This is even more important if your cat has never been outside and you do not indicate how she will react.

If your cat is comfortable with outside

Even if she is comfortable with being outside. Start with carrying her out first. This will discourage her from letting herself out, without you. It will establish a boundary.

Another tip is to use some form of treats, her favorite snacks maybe? To keep her motivated to keep moving.

What you should expect

Once you get past these initial stages. And, you have followed these training tips. Be warned, she is not a dog. In reality, she will never walk with you in the same manner as one.

Be prepared for random behavior. Such as trying to run off up a tree, or just sniffing around and not walking in a straight line.

Don’t be discouraged. This is just the way cats are. In time, she will get used to the lead/harness and improve her walking pattern. But, again, it will never be the same as walking a dog (click here to see if it Is weird to walk a cat).

Related Questions:

In this section, I am going to answer some related questions about walking a cat that may help you. If you feel there is an unanswered question in your mind, not covered, leave me a comment below.

Will your cat run away if you let it out?

Yes, there is a chance it will. Especially if this is the first time they have been out, and it is a busy developed area. It’s better to take your time by training them to get used to being outside first.

The reality is, she may not run away, but it may appear that way to you. Why? Because if she doesn’t return by morning, you will assume she ran off, right? In fact, it could be many things. E.g. got lost, stolen, or even injured. So, that is why it’s important to take your time and make sure she is ready first to reduce the risks.

Is it cruel to keep a cat on a leash?

If you keep your cat on a leash for a long duration most people would consider this being cruel. However, there may be occasions when you need to control your cat, for example, camping. Some owners fear they will lose their cat and choose to do so in these circumstances.

If you are in doubt, or uncomfortable with it it’s not worth using a leash.

How do I know if my cat’s harness is too small?

The best way to know if a harness is too small is to test it. This can be done easily by placing 2 fingers down the side of the harness. if you are struggling to do this, then it is too tight and too small. However, you may just need to adjust it.

If, on the other hand, discover that you easily fit these fingers underneath, and can get 3 or more under there it is too loose. And, you are at risk of your cat getting out of it while you try to walk it.

Can I leash train my cat?

Cats can be leash trained. But, some cats will put up a lot of resistance. This is why some cats throw themself down when on a lead. The reality is it differs from cat to cat. Some cats are easy to train because they have a good personality type, others will get angry (could it angry meow? click here) and frustrated and fight the lead.

So, the best way forward is to first ask yourself, what personality type is your cat? And, if this is too hard, try and see how your cat reacts just to the lead in its presence, does it attack it? Well, this could be a bad sign.

Are indoor cats happy?

Some indoor cats are very happy and lead a low-risk lifestyle. This is one of the reasons why indoor cats are likely to have a longer life expectancy. But, some may wish for more exercise or space to roam. If your cat is running for the door at any chance they get then this may mean it wishes to see the outdoors.

Some indoor cats are happy to eat, sleep and keep warm indoors. But, this is often made a lot easier with the addition of some exercise items like a cat tree (Click here to see the reviews, on Amazon #Ad), or some toys (Click here to see the reviews, on Amazon #Ad).

Is a collar or harness better for a cat?

Harnesses are better for cats because they are more secure and stop them from getting choked by the lead. But, if the purpose is just for identification there are plenty of secure cat collars available (click here for my best one).

However, if the purpose is for walking a harness is an absolute must to keep your cat safe from being choked by the lead.

Lindsey Browlingdon