Best Cat Leashes

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
160 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best cat leashes

While not every cat relishes the idea of walking on a leash, many cat owners are surprised by how much their cats enjoy exploring the great outdoors or neighborhood with the security of a leash and the comfort of their human’s companionship. 

Since cats move and behave differently from dogs, you need to purchase a special leash and harness for your kitty that prevents escape or accidental injury, keeps your cat comfortable and secure, and minimizes the pressure on your cat’s neck. It is important to consider the key factors that set the best cat leashes apart from the rest, including size, style, leash type, pattern, and adjustability.

We’ve looked at cat leashes and compiled this buying guide to make your shopping easier. Read on to learn about the qualities of a superior cat leash, as well as useful tips for walking your cat, frequently asked questions about cat leashes, and our top recommendations.

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Walks can give your pet confidence and transform an insecure, anxious cat into a more self-assured explorer.

Key considerations

The ideal cat leash is a perfect fit for your feline friend in terms of size, leash type, and harness type. The style and size you choose will make the biggest difference in whether or not your kitty adapts to and enjoys walking on a leash.

Harness type

Step-in: Cats commonly dislike having a strap or collar placed over their head. A step-in harness allows you to place the harness on your cat feet first, then buckle the harness behind the cat’s head. Step-in harnesses typically have limited adjustability with hook-and-loop fasteners on the back.

Vest: Vest- or jacket-style harnesses are extremely secure and a good choice for nervous cats that are new to walking on a leash. These vests “hug” the cat and may have straps at the neck and chest to ensure a snug fit. Be sure the bottom portion of the vest doesn’t press against the cat’s throat. Some vest harnesses must be placed over the cat’s head, while others unfasten to allow for a step-in approach.

Buckle and strap: These harnesses encircle the cat’s head and chest with various adjustable straps. They are typically adjustable at several different points; however, depending on the size of the leg holes, a panicked cat might be able to hook its paws into the straps and undo buckles or fasteners. Be sure that closures and buckles can’t come undone easily and that a secure, snug fit is possible.

Leash type

You have a number of leash options to choose from in varying materials and styles.

Flexible vs. fixed: Bungee-type or retractable leashes can be comforting to some cats, since they don’t offer immediate pullback when your cat moves. However, these leashes may offer too little control for very nervous cats that panic and need to be held and calmed periodically.

Material: Leashes are made of polyester, nylon, or coated cotton. Look for a tightly woven, water-resistant material that can stand up to friction and movement without fraying and be washed as needed.

Buckles and rings: The best cat leashes are lightweight but sturdy. Any rings or clasps that attach the leash to the harness should be lightweight and well made to prevent accidental failure or frightening clanking sounds.

Size and adjustability

Harness size and the ability to create a snug, secure fit with adjustable straps or buckles is extremely important when choosing a cat leash. The majority of cats tend to flee when frightened or startled, which means that if your leash and harness aren’t properly sized and secure, your kitty could escape, with potentially dire consequences. If your cat escapes in unfamiliar territory, it may get lost. Or a frightened cat could bolt into traffic.

For the best fit, keep the following factors in mind:

Choose a true cat harness/leash combo: Some inexpensive so-called “cat harnesses” are simply puppy harnesses that are marketed to cat owners. These harnesses aren’t made to fit a cat’s body closely, and they tend to slip off cats that weigh less than 13 pounds, which describes most cats. Be wary of “cat harnesses” that are marketed for either cats or dogs.

Look for a collar that adjusts at the neck: While the majority of cat harnesses can be adjusted at the chest, the best harnesses also adjust at the neck for the most secure fit, since cats are prone to try to escape by “bicycling” and flailing backward and can quickly slip out of a neck collar that isn’t sized well.

Opt for flexible leash placement: Some harnesses allow you to attach the leash in two different places (one more forward, one farther back). These options can help you choose a walking stance with optimal control depending on how your cat responds to the leash.

Measure your cat before buying a leash: Manufacturers typically list the harness sizes in inches. Always measure your kitty before making a purchase — don’t just guess — and choose a harness that can adjust comfortably if your cat loses or gains some weight.

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Did You Know?
A vest-style harness is typically the most secure for cats that tend to be escape artists.
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Features

Comfort

The comfort factor of a leash and harness is critically important for your cat. Heavy hardware or rigid straps that dig into the body feel uncomfortable and can cause your pet to shy away from wearing the harness. Breathable, lightweight fabrics like denim or mesh are ideal. A cotton lining is soft against your cat’s fur and helps prevent pulling or tangling.

Easy on and off

Cats commonly dislike having straps or collars placed over their head. If your cat associates a struggle or fear with attaching the harness, it isn’t likely to enjoy the idea of going for a walk. If your cat is nervous or new to walking on a leash and wearing a harness, choose an option that allows your cat to step into the harness feet first or that fastens around the body for a simple, painless process.

Closure type

Hook-and-loop fasteners can frighten a cat and present security issues if the straps don’t have a long “runway” to connect along the harness. Buckles in the wrong place (like behind the shoulders) can irritate a cat while it walks. Choose closure types based on security (always read the reviews to learn if the closures have thwarted other escape artists) and ease of use. If your cat isn’t used to hook-and-loop fasteners, open the vest or harness away from your cat before approaching.

Hardware

Avoid heavy or cheap hardware that can make scary noises or bump against your cat. However, be wary of lightweight plastic hardware or buckles that can snap or break if your cat panics. Opt for well-made, lightweight clasps, rings, and buckles in durable plastic or metal.

Color or pattern

Color is primarily a matter of personal preference, although bright colors and reflective strips can be additional safety measures. For instance, when walking your cat in lower light or at dusk, a reflective or brightly colored leash and harness can make you and your cat more visible to cyclists, joggers, and vehicles that may otherwise get too close and scare your cat.

If your cat dislikes the sound of hook-and-loop straps, open the harness away from your cat before approaching with the harness.

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Cat leash prices

Inexpensive: You can find a budget cat leash and simple harness for between $9 and $12. These entry-level cat leashes are typically one color, minimal, and may be perfectly functional for cats that are calm or accustomed to the idea of going on walks. The majority are buckle-and-strap harnesses, with some step-in options. Keep an eye on hardware, strap quality, and comfort for your cat. Be sure you are extra careful with sizing issues if you’re purchasing an option that doubles as a puppy harness.

Mid-range: For $13 to $16, you can find buckle-and-strap, vest, and step-in options with higher-quality hardware, more durable and comfortable materials, and more breathable and comfortable materials like lined cotton and denim. The majority of mid-range cat harnesses and leashes are made specifically for cats and generally include more secure straps and attachments to prevent escape while keeping your cat comfortable. You’ll find more color options and patterns in this tier, as well as better adjustability.

Expensive: For $17 and more, you can expect to find lightweight, solidly built harnesses and leashes that minimize the possibility of escape while keeping your cat comfortable. Any clasps or rings should be constructed from lightweight metal or sturdy plastic, and hook-and-loop straps should have a long “runway” to attach securely at all points. Pricier leashes and harnesses are commonly available in a wide variety of fun, attractive patterns and may include reflective strips, a bungee or retractable leash, and options for adjustability.

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Caution
No cat leash or harness is escape proof. Never leave your cat unattended while it’s on a leash.
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Tips

  • Introduce the leash and harness to your cat indoors. Allow the cat to smell and even play with the harness to help it understand that the harness is safe.
  • Let your kitty spend time walking indoors in just the harness. Do this before introducing the leash. Having something strapped to its body will be a new experience, and your cat will accept a leash more willingly if the harness is already familiar.
  • Offer lots of treats and praise. When you first put the harness and leash on your cat, offer treats and praise to create positive associations with the equipment.
  • Walk in a quiet location. A busy neighborhood or street isn’t generally the best place for a first walk with your cat. Consider driving somewhere quiet, without many cars or people.
  • Don’t force it. If your cat won’t accept the leash and harness after several patient attempts, don’t force the issue. Instead, consider a cat stroller or an outdoor enclosure that allows your cat to explore the backyard without escaping.
  • Weigh your cat regularly. Adjust the harness if your cat gains or loses weight.
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Always watch out for dogs while walking your cat. Never allow a leashed or unleashed dog to approach, no matter how friendly it appears.

FAQ

Q. How securely should the harness fit my cat?

A. The cat’s harness should be quite snug while allowing your cat to breathe and move easily while wearing it. As a general rule, you should be able to place one finger comfortably beneath the harness at the neck and chest. Try walking your cat on the leash inside the house or very near your house first to verify that if the cat pulls or struggles it won’t be able to hook its paws into the harness to pull it off or wiggle out.

Q. How long will it take for my cat to adjust to wearing a leash and harness?

A. Depending on your cat’s personality, it can take several tries for your cat to feel comfortable wearing a harness and leash. Older cats may take more time to warm up to a leash than younger cats or kittens. Try to distract your cat with treats or play when introducing the harness, and allow the cat to wear the harness for 10 minutes at a time initially instead of trying for longer sessions. Once your cat feels more comfortable, introduce the leash and practice walking together.

Q. Will walking my cat on a leash be similar to walking a dog?

A. Understanding that walking your cat will be a different experience from walking a dog can help you keep your expectations realistic so that you and your pet can have a positive experience. While some cats quickly learn to follow your lead with verbal cues and light pressure on the leash and harness, other cats will always prefer to lead and explore with minimal direction. In general, cats tend to enjoy shorter walks of 10 to 15 minutes.

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