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4 Best Cat Leashes for Hiking Adventures

Cats are becoming more popular as hiking partners when setting out for adventures. But let’s be honest, cats are much harder to control on a hike than dogs! They’ve got catitude, and they like to go their own way. Hence, using the proper cat leash is super important when hiking with these ornery creatures!

The best cat leashes for hiking adventures will be strong, a reasonable length, and flexible in case our kitties get the zoomies mid-hike. I’ve been hiking with my cats for years, so I have the inside scoop on the best cat leash.

Below, we’ll discuss some qualities you should look for in the best leash for cats. I’ll also discuss the top four best cat leashes for hiking and tell you why I recommend them. So, give your purring pal a pet, and let’s get started!

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Types of Cat Leashes for Your Hiking Adventures

Luna walking on a leash - best cat leashes

When hiking with your feline companion, choosing the right gear is paramount. But before we discuss the best cat leashes for hiking, let’s consider whether it’s safe for your kitty to be outside.

The University of Massachusetts examined the perils domestic cats can face when left outdoors unsupervised, such as vehicle accidents, parasites, disease, and predation on small mammals and birds. In essence, free-roaming outdoor cats are not great for their or the environment’s health.

However, supervised walks with your cat can provide them with incredible benefits like physical exercise, mental stimulation, and promoting natural behaviors like scratching and territorial marking. So, supervised outdoor time = good for your cat!

Now, let’s break down the different types of cat leashes available and weigh the pros and cons of each. This way, you can find the best cat leash for your adventurous kitty!

Standard Leash

Luna on a standard leash at the beach

The classic choice for many cat owners, the standard leash is straightforward and dependable. Because of its simplicity, it’s one of the best cat leashes for hiking. I used the standard leash to harness train my cats and teach them how to walk on a leash.

Once they got used to walking on a standard leash, I switched to other leashes that allowed them to explore more.

Pros:

  • Simplicity: Easy to use with no complicated mechanisms.
  • Control: Offers reasonable control over your cat’s movements.
  • Durable: Generally made from solid materials like nylon or leather.
  • Price: Standard leashes are usually very affordable.

Cons:

  • Limited Freedom: This leash only allows a little room for your cat to explore independently.
  • Length Variability: Usually comes in fixed lengths, which might not be ideal for all hiking situations.

Retractable Leash

G on a retractable leash at a lake

A popular option that provides flexibility, the retractable leash offers more freedom for your curious cat.

This is the type of leash I use now. It’s one of the best cat leashes for hiking. It gives my furball room to explore more of her surroundings, and I don’t have to be glued to her side as I would with a standard leash.

Pros:

  • Adjustable Length: Allows your cat to roam further while still being under control.
  • Convenience: Easy to reel in your cat when needed.
  • Freedom: Gives your cat a sense of independence to explore their surroundings.

Cons:

  • Control Challenges: It can take more work to manage in crowded or tricky terrains.
  • Durability: The retractable mechanism can sometimes be prone to wear and tear.
  • Safety Concerns: The cord can cause injuries if it gets tangled or snaps suddenly.

Bungee Leash

Luna on a bungee cat leash

Ideal for more active cats, the bungee leash absorbs shocks and sudden movements, making for a smoother hiking experience. It’s one of the best cat leashes for kitties prone to bolting after critters or pouncing on insects.

The bungee leash was my stepping stone between a standard and retractable leash. It was especially helpful for my one adventure cat, Luna, who loved to get the zoomies out of nowhere. The bungee leash was far more forgiving than a standard leash!

Pros:

  • Shock Absorption: Reduces the strain on both you and your cat when they pull or lunge.
  • Flexibility: Provides some stretch, allowing your cat to wander a bit further without abrupt stops.
  • Comfort: Often more comfortable for your cat to use over long hikes.

Cons:

  • Control: It can be tricky to maintain close control in tight spaces.
  • Complexity: Might take some getting used to for you and your cat.
  • Durability: The elastic material may lose its stretch over time, depending on the quality.

Tie-Out Leash

The final option for the best cat leashes for hiking is tie-out leashes. These are typically the most extended leashes available but do not automatically retract.

I have a tie-out leash for my adventure cat, but I rarely use it. If we are stopped in the van for the day and it’s quiet, I attach one end to our van and one to her harness and let her explore independently, but there are better options for actively hiking.

Pros:

  • Freedom: Tie-out leashes allow your cat to roam and explore on hikes.
  • Lightweight: This leash is very lightweight, which is great for petite cats who can’t handle a heavy leash.
  • Adjustable: You can adjust the length of the leash by winding it in or letting out more slack.

Cons:

  • Leash Management: Because a tie-out leash doesn’t retract automatically, it can be challenging to manage while hiking.
  • Storage: A tie-out leash may be difficult to store because its length can cause it to get tangled and knotted.

Overall, I found that the best approach was to start with a standard leash and then move on to more flexible leashes.

The Best Cat Leashes For Hiking

Best cat leashes for hiking

Now, onto the good part! Let’s review the best cat leashes for hiking and see why they are the leash of choice for adventurous cat parents.

Best Standard Cat Leash: Li’l Pals Microfiber Dog Leash

There isn’t a huge market for cat leashes, so some of the best cat leashes out there are actually dog leashes made for extra small dogs! This is the case for the best standard cat leash – the Li’l Pals Microfiber Dog Leash.

While it’s made for dogs, this is one of the best cat leashes for hiking. It’s durable and strong, and the unique clip isn’t heavy like many clips on dog and cat leashes.

Here are some of the best attributes of the Li’l Pals leash:

  • Clasp Weight: Some leashes have an extra-heavy clasp. The Li’l Pals has a lightweight clasp, so it won’t weigh down even the most petite kitties.
  • Material: Made with soft microfiber for comfortable handling on long adventures. It’s also less likely to scare your cat if they accidentally bump into the leash while exploring.
  • Length: The Li’l Pals leash is a comfortable 6 feet, which is long enough to let your cat explore while keeping them close and safe.

The Li’l Pals uses an alligator clip instead of a standard clip, which can take some getting used to.

Best Retractable Cat Leash: Flexi Classic

The Flexi Classic Nylon Cord is another example of when a dog leash intended for extra small breeds works just as well on a cat! This is the retractable leash I currently use on my 9-10-pound cat.

It’s definitely one of the best cat leashes I’ve ever owned for hiking. It’s comfortable, doesn’t weigh her down, and makes hiking so much easier than a standard leash.

Here are some of the things I love about the Flexi:

  • Lightweight: The entire leash only weighs 3.5 ounces. The clasp is the heaviest thing about the leash, and it’s not a burden for my cat.
  • Length: The Flexi extra-small leash gives your kitty a 10-foot lead, which is excellent on hiking adventures when they want to explore faster than you can keep up!
  • Retractable: This leash’s retractable component is super convenient. There’s no winding up of a long lead or making sure you’re giving them enough slack on a short lead. It makes walks simple and hassle-free.
  • String-Like: Instead of a thick ribbon-like leash, this more closely resembles a string. It makes it more manageable, lightweight, and less likely to cause harm to unsuspecting ankles!

The only downside to the Flexi is that the extra small size (which I recommend for a cat) only comes in a 10-foot length. The other sizes go up to 26 feet.

Best Bungee Leash: Come With Me Kitty

PetSafe is a trusted brand in the pet industry. They make everything from litter boxes and pet doors to wireless fences and automatic feeders. One of their most celebrated products is the Come With Me Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash combo.

This is one of the best cat harness and leash combos. However, it’s not so great if you already have a harness and only need the leash, as you cannot buy just the bungee leash. Still, it’s one of the only bungee leashes on the market and a top contender for the best cat leashes for hiking kitties!

Here are some of the top qualities of the Come With Me Kitty Bungee Leash:

  • Bungee Design: The leash incorporates a bungee-style material that stretches, reducing the impact of sudden movements and making it more comfortable for you and your cat.
  • Shock Absorption: The bungee design helps absorb shocks, making it easier to manage sudden pulls or lunges from your curious kitty.
  • Lightweight: The leash is super lightweight, so it won’t weigh your cat down while you’re exploring.
  • Length: The bungee leash is 5.6 feet long, which keeps your cat close in tight spaces or crowded areas when you want more control.

Concerning durability, the best way to prevent the bungee leash from stretching out is to take care of it and store it properly. I hung mine on a hook with my cat harnesses and other leashes, and over time, it stretched out. Store the bungee on a flat surface, and do not let it hang like I did!

Best Tie-Out Leash: Coastal Pet Products Poly Cat Tie-Out

I am a big fan of Coastal Pet Products. In addition to being made in the USA, they have multiple charity programs that give money back to animal shelters, improve the welfare and health of pets, and offer unique programs to teach students about compassion for animals.

The Poly Cat Tie-Out is a lightweight leash in 10-ft and 15-ft options. Here are some of my favorite things about the Coastal Pet Products Poly Cat Tie Out:

  • Lightweight: At just 2.2 ounces, this is the most lightweight cat leash on our list.
  • Extra Length: With a 15-foot lead, your cat can explore anywhere at a comfortable distance.
  • Swivel Clips: The clasps swivel to avoid major tangles.

The Poly Cat Tie-Out has no handle, making it challenging to use while hiking. It’s also difficult to store because the wire inside the leash wants to curl, causing tangles and knots in the lead.

How to Train Your Cat to Use a Leash: A Step-by-Step Guide for Adventurous Cat Owners

G at Mason Neck State Park

It can seem daunting to teach your cat to walk on a leash. But I’m here to tell you it’s totally possible! I started leash-training my cats when they were 8, and they did great! Pair the best cat leashes with a sturdy harness and some patience, and you’ll be adventuring in no time!

Here are some friendly tips to help you and your kitty gear up for the great outdoors.

Start with the Harness

Before you consider the leash, get your cat comfortable wearing a harness. This is crucial for safety and control.

  • Choose the Right Harness: Look for a snug but comfortable fit. An H-style or vest harness often works well for cats. Measure their chest and belly carefully to buy the correct size. For a closer look at the best cat harnesses, check out our ultimate guide to the best adventure cat harnesses, where we look at the top 10 picks!
  • Introduce the Harness Gradually: Let your cat sniff and explore the harness before putting it on. Reward them with treats and praise to create positive associations.
  • No Harness Is Escape Proof: We all know how cats can contort their bodies in crazy ways! No cat harness is officially escape-proof, so always watch your cat in new environments and have a secondary form of identification like a collar.

Step-by-Step Harness Training

  1. Short Sessions: Start with short sessions of just a few minutes. Put the harness on your cat and let them wear it around the house. Gradually increase the duration as they become more comfortable.
  2. Positive Reinforcement: Each time you put the harness on, give your cat treats, playtime, or their favorite toy. Make the experience enjoyable! I recommend a high-value lickable treat like Inaba Churu Tuna & Chicken Puree Variety Pack.
  3. Adjust and Fit: Ensure the harness is properly adjusted to prevent discomfort or escape attempts.

You can read a more in-depth guide on harness training your cat here! Some of our favorite picks for cat harnesses include:

Introducing the Leash

Once your cat is used to the harness, it’s time to attach the leash. Again, patience and positivity are key here.

  • Indoor Practice: Begin by attaching the leash indoors. Let your cat drag it around to get used to the feeling. Supervise closely to avoid any tangles or accidents.
  • Gentle Guidance: After your cat is comfortable dragging the leash, pick it up and start gently guiding them. Use treats to encourage them to follow you.

Practice Makes Perfect

Consistency is vital for leash training. Regular practice will help your cat feel more at ease and confident.

  • Daily Walks Indoors: Take short “walks” around your home. Practice turns, stops, and commands like “come” or “stay” using treats as rewards. And yes, cats can learn commands! They’re just not as eager as dogs are to obey them.
  • Patience: Cats can be stubborn and may take their sweet time getting used to the new routine. Be patient and never force them. Remember, walks are for your cat. If they want to sit and watch the birds outside instead of walking, let them!

Taking It Outside

Once your cat is confidently strutting around indoors, it’s time to venture outside. But keep in mind that the great outdoors can be overwhelming at first.

  • Choose a Quiet Spot: Start with a quiet, enclosed area like a backyard or a calm park. Avoid places with heavy traffic or loud noises.
  • Short Outings: Keep the initial outdoor excursions short. Gradually increase the length of these outings as your cat becomes more comfortable.
  • Stay Alert: Always keep an eye on your cat, watching for any signs of stress or fear. Be ready to scoop them up and head back inside if needed. I recommend carrying a cat backpack to place them in if they start feeling stressed or tired. The JESPET Cat Carrier is a fantastic choice, with a mesh front and top for good airflow.

Building Up to Hiking

As your cat becomes more accustomed to being outside, you can begin to introduce them to hiking trails.

For a complete list of essentials, check out our article on the 8 cat hiking gear essentials.

Wrapping Up The Best Cat Leashes For Hiking

G on a hiking adventure

Finding gear for your adventurous cat can be tricky. There are many options out there, all with different perks and downsides. Hopefully, this article has helped you narrow down your search for the best cat leash for hiking adventures.

To recap, the 4 best cat leashes for hiking include:

  1. Standard Leash: A classic style that offers durability and more control over your furry pal.
  2. Retractable Leash: These give your purring pet more freedom to explore while still giving you control.
  3. Bungee Leash: This leash, with its shock-absorbing material, is perfect for cats who like to bolt. The Come With Me Kitty is a superb cat harness leash combo deal!
  4. Tie-Out Leash: This leash is best used to give your kitty some freedom to walk around a stationary area, such as a camping spot, or on a snack break during a hike.

You may decide to start with a standard leash and move on to a bungee or retractable, as I did. Or, the tie-out may work better for your cat. Cats are unique, with eccentric personalities and quirks.

Try out a few different leashes to find the perfect fit!

Do you have a favorite harness and leash combo for your adventure cat? Let us know in the comments below! The adventure cat community is constantly growing, so let’s support each other and our feline friends on this wild and crazy ride known as life!

For more tips about hiking with cats, check out our hiking blog!

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2 comments

  1. I don’t own a cat but my friend does. She just went on a hike with her cat and it was totally like you said. They are difficult to control more than dogs. Great recommendations for cat owners.

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