Skip to main content

Cat stroller vs. leash: How to take your cat outdoors

With the right cat stroller or leash, your feline can safely enjoy the outdoors

Cat strollers and leashes are common tools pet owners can use to take cats outdoors safely, but which one is right for your cat? Both are effective methods, so the answer will depend on your cat’s needs and purpose for going outside. If you’ve trained your cat indoors, there’s simply no way for them to get the wild experience their big cat brothers and sisters encounter on a daily basis. But they still need enrichment to ensure mental health and well-being.

It may be too dangerous (for your cat and the small animals and birds) to allow your cat outdoors unrestrained, but cat strollers and leashes are a wonderful way to give your favorite feline(s) precious outdoor time so they’re not left out. In this article, we’ll go over the pros and cons of each in the cat stroller vs. leash debate, so you can decide which will work best for your cat’s temperament.

Related Videos

Cat leashes — the basics

Cat outside with harness and leash
Funes Manuel/

A well-made cat leash is a simple way to give your fur baby time outdoors and freedom to romp safely there.  But consider yourself warned: using a leash on your cat is very different from walking a dog. Cats aren’t as responsive to human commands as dogs because they have evolved a different response to human companionship. If you think you’ll use a leash because your dog uses one, prepare yourself.

Using a cat leash

It’s safest to use a cat harness with a leash because cats may slip out of their collar more easily than dogs will. A harness ensures your cat is secured but has freedom of movement within the boundaries of the leash.

Make sure your harness fits your cat snugly but not too tightly. You should be able to fit two fingers underneath the harness without a struggle. Leashes should be lightweight, but tough — woven nylon is often a good choice.

Preparing your cat

If you have a kitten, it may be possible to start with a leash without too much trouble. With adult cats, you might have to mix cat leash training with a lot of patience:

  •  Allow your cat to explore the harness and the leash without putting them on. Keep a favorite treat nearby and reward your cat for sniffing or interacting with the leash and harness.
  • Put the harness on your cat if you’re able to. This may take a few days with treats before your cat trusts the situation.
  • Let your cat wear the harness around the house to get used to it. It’s not necessary to wear it all day, but give it some time.
  •  Attach the leash and practice walking in your house to make sure your cat cannot escape.
  • When you go outside for the first time, pay close attention to your cat and go slowly.

Leash pros:

  • Your cat can explore the environment directly.
  • Leashes give cats more freedom, something that may be more enjoyable.
  • Leashes are less expensive than strollers.

Leash cons:

  • Not much protection from other animals.
  • Some cats may never accept the harness or leash.

Cat strollers — the basics

Cat in stroller

A cat stroller can give your cat some fresh air and mental stimulation while providing a safer, more protected environment when you’re out on that walk. If your cat won’t walk on a leash no matter what you try, it’s not doomed to indoor life forever just yet. Cat strollers are a more significant investment but could be worth it.

Using a cat stroller

Cat strollers are a lot like baby strollers, but they’re enclosed completely to ensure your cat can’t escape. Usually, it’s a mesh screen that zips or covers the basket, allowing your cat to see and breathe but keeping your cat completely covered. There’s not as much training involved as with a leash — zip your cat into the stroller and go.

Cat strollers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. The basic design is up to you, but your cat should be able to see out of multiple spots in the basket. Make sure the area is large enough for your cat to lie down or sit up without bending.

Look for strollers that have what you need, too. Some offer storage for your gear while you’re out, and you can even find double-decker options for multiple cats or a cat and a small dog. If you have more than one cat, make sure there’s enough room for both cats, whatever you choose.

Preparing your cat

While a stroller may not require as much training as a harness and leash, you still need to prepare your cat before you take that first long walk:

  • The first thing to do is bring your stroller out to allow your cat to explore. Keep treats on hand.
  • Place your cat inside the basket without zipping it up. If your cat has a favorite blanket or cushion, using it may help.
  • Zip your cat up inside the basket and ride around in your home. If your cat is nervous, do this for short periods, gradually increasing as your cat gets more comfortable.
  • Head outdoors but watch your cat closely for signs of discomfort or distress.

Stroller pros:

  • Cats are more protected on walks.
  • Strollers may help cats that will not accept the leash to head outdoors.
    They offer more storage and make it easier to walk multiple cats or pets.

Stroller cons:

  • Strollers are a more significant investment.
  • Cats may eventually tear up the mesh.

Choosing the right outdoor aid for your cat

Your circumstances and your cat’s personality will determine which option is the right one for you. Remember to have some patience with your cat, especially with cat leash training. It could take some time for your cat to get used to either option.

The results are worth it. With some consistency, your cat can have some important time in the fresh air. Find your sweet spot and use these tools to keep your cat safe while exploring the great outdoors.

Editors' Recommendations

The most common annoying cat behaviors, explained
Common cat behavior or bad cat behavior? Here's what to know and how to deal
A gray cat in foliage

Cats are a bit of a mystery. Unlike dogs, which have the reputation of being human’s best friend, our feline friends seem to view us as a necessary evil. We clean their boxes, fill their water dishes, and buy them trees to climb on so they can get away from us.

And also unlike dogs, cats are natural-born predators — known for being so bad for the ecosystem that it’s best to keep them inside. The arrangement can cause some friction, but we love our cats anyway. When a pet starts doing something out of the blue, we may worry it's not common cat behavior. Is a cat peeing outside of a litter box cause for concern? What about when your kitty starts scratching everything? Consider this cat behavior guide a decoder to your cat’s antics and what — if anything — you can do about them.

Read more
What you can do to help your cat after surgery and show your pet how much you love them
Here's how to keep your kitty feeling safe, comfy, and calm post-op
A cat at the vet

You love your kitty. Sometimes, that means agreeing to send them in for cat surgery. Whether it’s a standard spay or neuter procedure, necessary dental work, or something more worrisome like removing a cancerous tumor, you’ll want to ensure you give your furry friend some extra TLC post-operation.

Your feline friend may also need you to be patient with them. Cat behavior after surgery can vary from pet to pet, but they may be slightly shyer, lethargic, or easily irritated for a while. The good news is that your cat should go back to normal — and hopefully wind up as an even healthier version of themselves soon. Knowing what to prepare for can ensure your cat feels safe, loved, and comfortable after surgery.

Read more
Are urinary tract infections in cats possible? What cat parents should know about this condition
What to know about prevention and treatment of UTIs in cats
Gray cat in a cat bed

UTIs are a common and pesky condition in humans. It’s short for urinary tract infection. A UTI is an infection of a part of the urinary system, like the bladder, kidneys, or urethra, as the name implies. UTIs can involve painful burning sensations when peeing. They affect about 10 out of 25 women and 3 out of 25 men at least once, according to the Urology Care Foundation.

Cat parents may wonder: What is the rate of urinary tract infections in cats? Unfortunately, it’s not zero. Cats can get UTIs. The good news is that cat health experts don’t commonly see the issue when treating felines. However, it’s still good to think about the urinary tract when approaching your cat’s health.

Read more