Outdoor Enrichment for Indoor Cats with a Harness and Leash

In last week’s cat enrichment post, we discussed bringing the outdoors inside. But this week, it’s all about outdoor enrichment for indoor cats. Allowing them to see the sights and smell the smells is an excellent way to indulge your cat and provide a bit of excitement.

So, if you’ve ever thought about adventuring with your cat, or even just letting them roll around in your backyard, using a cat-specific harness and leash is a safe way to do this.

This is the third of five articles in our October cat enrichment series. This post is sponsored by Sleepypod because they believe enrichment for your cat is important.

tabby cat walking with a harness and leash for outdoor enrichment for indoor cats
Dexter enjoying his outdoor time.

Disclosure: We are being compensated for this educational post. We received the Sleepypod harnesses and leashes for free. All opinions stated here are our own.

Why should I take my indoor cat outside?

First, you should only allow your cat outside if it’s safe and both you and your cat are comfortable doing so. You never want to force your cat into an unknown or unsafe situation. Also, if you have an indoor-only cat, they should always be supervised while they’re outside.

Bringing your cat outside on a harness and leash allows for a safe way to explore. Or, to just lounge on the grass and relax. Here are some reasons why outdoor enrichment for indoor cats is beneficial.

tabby cat with green eyes wearing a pink harness outside

“I’m bored”

Indoor-only cats may not experience a change in scenery often. And no matter how many toys or boxes we provide, they can still get bored. Taking them outside would clearly offer them a new experience and help prevent boredom.

So many sights, so many sounds!

The outdoors provides so much mental stimulation! Your cat can smell the fresh air, hear the birds chirping, roll around on the fresh grass, and pounce on a bug or two. They will have so many new scents to smell and sights to see – all of these new stimuli will keep their minds engaged and active.

Let’s get moving

One of the biggest benefits of taking your cat outside on a harness and leash is clearly the physical aspect. While they may start off being timid, hopefully, they will love the opportunity to explore. They can jump, run, chase, pounce, and roll around to their heart’s content. Getting them moving will help keep them in better physical condition.

Hello, new friend

If you discover you have an adventure cat, you may choose to bring them to a park or even on a hike. They may meet other people or animals. If they’re shy, you’ll of course want to ensure you control any meetings and only do so if they’re comfortable. But this is a great way to socialize an outgoing and friendly cat.

tabby cat outside for outdoor enrichment on a harness and leash

How do I take my cat outside safely?

Now that we know how indoor-only cats can benefit from going outside, we want to make sure it’s done in a safe way – and that would be with a cat-specific harness and a good, non-retractable leash.

You may wonder if you can use a dog harness. After all, there are plenty on display at pet stores and big box stores. But dogs and cats are built differently, and cats are great escape artists. So, make sure you select a harness that is designed specifically for cats.

white cat with blue eyes wearing a harness outside
Sophie wearing her cat-specific walking harness.

And what about the leash? No, the leash doesn’t need to be cat-specific. But I would recommend using a shorter leash with your cat, especially if you’re taking them out for the first time. You’ll have more control over them.

You’ll also want a lightweight leash, not a chain leash that makes a jingling noise and could scare your cat.

If you’re unsure where to get started, check out this post I wrote called 6 Steps to Leash Training Your Cat over on my cats’ blog (yes, I have a blog specifically about my own cats – they deserve it!).

Sleepypod Martingale Calming Harness for Cats

The cat harness we use is made by Sleepypod. In the past, we’ve used their Martingale Cat Harness. But released just this month (October 2023), Sleepypod has introduced their new Martingale Calming Harness for Cats.

Here’s what Sleepypod says about their new harness: This breathable walking harness for cats wraps around the body like a calming hug, helping to soothe fear and anxiety.

The harness has a cinching feature, too. So when you pull on the leash, the harness cinches around the cat’s torso, creating more control over the cat and also helping prevent escape. The harness is adjustable at the neck and chest and has two quick-release buckles.

Also, the harness has a light that can be solid or flashing, helping with safety if you take an evening stroll.

tabby cat wearing a pink Sleepypod harness walking with a slim leash
Dexter wearing the Sleepypod Martingale Calming Harness for Cats.

Sleepypod Slim Leash

Paired with our Sleepypod harness, we use the Slim Leash they make, which is a six-foot-long, lightweight leash. We have one in peony pink and one in charcoal grey. The Slim Leash is made from high tensile strength nylon webbing with a push-on snap hook.

Dexter goes for a stroll

I asked my four cats who wanted to model the new Martingale Calming Harness, and Dexter raised his paw first. Check him out as he explores the grassy area behind our house.

By the way, out of my four cats, Dexter enjoys harness time the most. Sophie, our white cat, and Woodrow, our other tabby, could take it or leave it. Olive, our tortie, is a hard pass. Remember, not all cats will be interested in going outside to explore, and that’s okay.

It’s time for the giveaway!

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed.

Sleepypod is generously giving away one (1) Martingale Calming Harness for Cats and one (1) Slim Leash to three winners! The giveaway is open to residents in the U.S. and Canada and closes on October 22, 2023 at 5:00pm Pacific, full details below.

Requirements to enter the Sleepypod giveaway:

  1. Subscribe to the Cat Lady Alley newsletter via the Newsletter Signup form below. If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, great! You don’t need to subscribe again. If you’re a new subscriber, you must confirm your subscription, so check your spam folder!  (Form now removed.)
  2. Leave a comment on this blog post about anything! Example: Have you ever tried leash training your cat?
  3. Confirm your two required entries via the Rafflecopter widget below. Bonus/optional entries are available as well.
  4. For Canadian entrants only: You must answer the skill question in the Rafflecopter widget below. U.S. entrants, feel free to take an extra entry by answering as well, although it’s not required.

The giveaway is open to residents in the U.S. and Canada, 18+ years of age, except where prohibited by law. Three winners will be selected randomly by Rafflecopter and contacted via email on Sunday, October 22, 2023 after 5:00pm Pacific. Each winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize through email. Failure to do so will result in forfeiture of the prize, and a new winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter. One (1) Martingale Calming Harness for Cats, valued at $49.99 USD, and one (1) Slim Leash, valued at $35.99 USD, will be sent directly from Sleepypod to each winner. Each winner can choose from the available colors in stock. The giveaway closes on October 22, 2023 at 5:00pm Pacific.

Regarding Canadian entrants: Any litigation respecting the conduct or organization of a publicity contest may be submitted to the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux for a ruling. Any litigation respecting the awarding of a prize may be submitted to the board only for the purpose of helping the parties reach a settlement.

Bonus entries through the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

tabby cat walking outside on a pink Sleepypod Martingale Calming Harness for cats
Dexter says, “I’m off on an adventure!”

If you’re looking for other cat enrichment ideas, check out our post: 10 Cat Enrichment Ideas for a Happy and Healthy Cat

Earlier posts in this October enrichment series include:

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  1. My former outdoor cat rescue needs the Sleepypod Martingale Calming Harness for Cats and Slim Leash.
    Even though she’s getting used to me and being indoors, she still has the desire to roam outdoors and I want her to be supervised and protected!

  2. I have 2 leash trained kitties. One that took to it really easily randomly and one that had been trained from about 2 months old.

  3. My ten year old cat has JUST started to show an interest in going outside so I’m super excited to try and gently get her into a leash and walk with me.

  4. My girl, Mushu, has always loved going outside, leashed and harnessed. As per a couple of scary incidents, I stopped using the breakaway clasp style harness, because … they’re too easy to “break away” from.

    I replaced the aforementioned with a Come With Me Kitty leash/harness combo. She seemed to like it initially, but refuses to wear it now, running away or growling every time she sees me reach for it.

    Perhaps a Sleepypod Martingale Calming Harness/leash combination might inspire her love of the outdoors again!

  5. I want to take my cats outside so bad, but they hate harnesses. I’m willing to try anything. I feel bad that they can’t wander freely, but it’s just too dangerous.

  6. My cat is harness-trained and it has been great for him. I started as a kitten, and after a little flopping around, he warmed up to it. Now he loves putting on his harness to go outside. However, if he really tries he can squirm out of it, so I would love to win a better one!

  7. I’ve always wanted to do this for my cat! I used to be just a ‘dog’ guy although I liked cats I never thought I’d have one. I would be that bold brave dude that walks his cat in public with no shame….for some reason theres a lot of shame around a dude having a cat and also just letting them out to walk in general! which is a shame because they deserve to be out and enjoying life just like dogs do!

  8. I’ve always wanted to leash train my cats but I’ve always been so scared! Mainly just because there’s so many stray cats in the area and I’d worry they’d try to pick a fight.

  9. I think my cat would really love this. We let him out in a playpen but I think he’d really enjoy being able to roam a little bit.

  10. I have been wanting to get my cats leash trained. They love the sights and smells when the windows are open, so I think they would eventually like playing outside.

  11. Our leash training is a work in progress, it’s hard to get out sometimes with the New England weather! We’ll definitely keep working on it though, my cats love being out and enjoying the fresh air.

  12. I have been taking my senior cat out on a leash for years. It’s a great way to provide enrichment for indoor cats! Would love to win this!

  13. I’ve been really wanting to harness train but I didn’t care for the harnesses I was finding. This one looks like exactly what I’ve been looking for!

  14. I last tried harness training my 2 female littermates 15 years ago when they were kittens. There was some success but overall they were too overstimulated. I’d love to give it a go again now that they are wise old[er] ladies!

  15. My friend has tried leashing her cat, but it always wriggles free of it. I don’t think she could possible make it any tighter.

  16. Your post is incredibly helpful! It answered all the questions I had and provided additional insights. I’m grateful for the effort you’ve put into sharing this valuable information.