How to Harness Train a Cat

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If you’ve ever wondered how to harness train a cat, you’re in the right place.

Taking your cat out into the big wide world has become more popular in recent years. It’s not just dogs that get all the outside glory, oh no. 

Kitties are now being taken outdoors, experiencing new sights and smells, and getting involved in everything from sailing to leisurely daily walks…the world has truly become their oyster!

But just like dogs, cats need to be well trained and secured whilst out on the town. 

The use of a harness is a great way to keep your cat safe and secure when out and about. As cats are not necessarily as easy to train or retrieve as dogs, extra safety measures are wise.

But how do you harness train a cat?

Surely this is a difficult challenge to undertake?

Actually, with the right technique and a gentle hand, harness training your cat can be as easy as pie. Before you know it, your furry little buddy will be by your side on all your adventures.

In this article we explore the benefits of harness training your cat and how to do it. And also further handy tips and tricks to make the process easier, with guidance on fun things you can do with your cat outdoors.

Key Takeaways – How to Harness Train a Cat

  • Your cat should wear a harness if you want to explore new areas and keep them secure. Or if you’re going on a longer journey and need to keep them safe.
  • The benefits of harness training your cat include: more stimulation and enrichment for your cat, bonding opportunities together, and increased protection.
  • A cat’s harness should fit just right. Too tight = restricts movement and is uncomfortable. Too loose = easy to slip out of and can rub.
  • Be aware that loud velcro noises on a harness can startle your cat. So be gentle with velcro straps.
  • Get your cat comfortable in their harness slowly, using positive reinforcement and starting off small. Once they’re more accepting of their harness, you can extend their exploration to longer journeys.
  • The best activities to do with your cat outdoors include hiking, sailing, climbing and camping. The world’s your oyster with an adventure feline by your side!

Let’s get to it!

Cat outdoors in a harness

The Benefits of Harness Training a Cat

There are quite a few reasons why your cat might benefit from harness training. These include:

Walking 

Pet parents are now finding that taking their cat for a daily walk can be beneficial for their fur baby. 

Typically, cats have not historically been considered animals that can be walked. But taking your cat out on a supervised walk is not only an excellent bonding activity for you and your kitty, it can help your cat to socialize and get used to other people and animals.

It can also allow them to experience new sounds and smells, as well as feed their curiosity and let them explore terrain they otherwise may not experience.

Hiking with cats has become increasingly popular too. However these environments, whilst super exciting for both you and your cat, can be a bit more treacherous. So safety needs to be an absolute priority

By keeping your cat on a harness and leash, they can explore the wilderness with ease. It also means that you can pull them out of danger, should you come across any unfriendly animals or particularly precarious terrain.

We’ve even written an article on How to Walk Your Cat on a Leash (in 7 Easy Steps) to help make your adventures even easier.

Travel 

Getting your cat used to a harness is particularly helpful when it comes to traveling with your cat.

Whether it’s short car journeys to the vet, longer road trips, train or boat travel, or even international travel, a harness can help keep your kitty secure on the journey.

Most harnesses have the option to clip into car seats so your cat will be safe during travel. 

The use of a harness also means that your cat has more freedom. They can curl up in a comfy spot and are less restricted by apparatus like crates and cat boxes. 

Travel can be a stressful experience for cats, and so making their journey as comfortable and free as possible will help ease some of their travel anxiety.

More adventurous activities 

If you’re planning on taking your cat out on more adventurous trips — perhaps a day out onboard a boat, exploring new and interesting environments, and even camping out in the wild — you can help increase the safety of your little adventure buddy by training them to wear a harness.

A harness and leash will allow you to keep an eye on where your cat wanders to, as well as being able to more easily pull them out of harm’s way if need be. So you’ll be keeping them as protected as possible.

Cat in a harness

How to Harness Train a Cat – Getting Your kitty Comfortable

If you’re still searching for the best cat harness, check out our article on The 5 Best Cat Harnesses For Adventurous Felines.

And also our Instagram for the types of harnesses our three-legged legend Yoda wears.

Because next comes the tricky bit…

…Getting your cat comfortable and used to their new outerwear.

Here are our top tips for how to harness train your cat. So you make the transition into harness-wearing as smooth as possible:

1. Gentle does it 

Harness training is a matter which must be approached gently

Going in hard and manhandling your cat into the harness will never go down well. Cats are not used to wearing clothes and so this is going to be an unusual sensation for them. 

Be prepared for uncertainty and hesitancy from your cat when presented with the harness. Allow them to sniff it, touch it and show them that it is not a threat

When the harness is on, it is totally normal for your cat to walk a bit funny or completely freeze up and not want to move. They suddenly have a foreign object wrapped around their body and it can take a few minutes for them to adjust

2. Make it a positive experience

You want your cat to associate their harness with a positive experience.

And so use: 

As rewards and distractions to help ease them into the harness. This will make it something good, rather than something new and scary.

Different harnesses have clip and/or velcro fastenings. The noise of velcro in particular can be very startling for cats, and so be aware that the noise might make your cat nervous

Handle the velcro and clips gently and slowly so that the noises are not as abrupt. And ensure lots of positive reinforcement after each step. 

It has been recommended to try putting the harness on during a meal time, to distract them from the feeling.

3. Make it second nature 

Put your cat’s harness on regularly for short periods of time, to acclimate them to the sensation and get them used to having it on. 

With luck, they eventually won’t put up too much of a fight as the harness goes on. Plus once the harness is on, they won’t mind it as much.

You want to get to the point where wearing the harness feels familiar to your cat, where it no longer feels restrictive or unusual and they can move around quite happily with it on. 

As a kitty parent, you want to make sure that your cat can move around with ease. And also that the harness is not hindering their movement in any way.

It’s also vital that you purchase a harness in the correct size for your cat and adjust the harness accordingly. Too tight and it will be uncomfortable; too loose and it will not be secure and may rub on their skin.

4. Practice around the house  

Before you venture outside, walk your cat around the house.

Attach the leash to the harness and allow your cat to lead you around, occasionally gently pulling on the leash so that they get used to the sensation of being handled in this way.

(It then won’t be as much of a surprise for them, when it is time to go outside.)

You and your cat will develop your own form of communication. You will get to know their signs and triggers, and they will get to understand your commands and actions.

5. Short adventures first – building up to bigger ones! 

When taking your cat outside for the first time, it’s important to let them know they are safe. 

Keep your door open and move around the garden. That way, they get to know their familiar territory first and have a way to get back to the safety of inside if they need to.

Be led by them. Don’t push them to go too far out of their comfort zone too soon. Too much too soon will likely freak them out and set back any progress you have made. 

Once you get a sense that your cat is growing more confident and comfortable outside, extend the exploration parameters, eventually working up to longer adventures.

There is no rush. Your cat will let you know what they are ready for, and with lots of love and encouragement their confidence is sure to grow. 

6. Harnesses aren’t for every cat 

It’s vital that you listen to how your cat reacts to their harness. 

If they are still not happy after several tries of wearing the harness or become visibly distressed, it’s probably an indication that harness life just isn’t for them

Never force your cat to wear a harness if they very obviously don’t like it. Cats are easily stressed and trying to get them to wear a harness when they don’t want to will only provoke further stress and trauma responses.

There are so many amazing activities you can do with your cat that don’t require the need for a harness. So pay attention to your fur baby’s responses to these stimuli and adjust accordingly to keep them happy and comfortable.

Bengal cat in a harness

Fun Activities For When Your Cat Is Harness Trained

Explore new terrains 

Hiking, camping and exploring new environments is a favorite pastime of both cat and dog owners alike. 

Spending time in nature with your furry friend can be extremely restorative, as well as being stimulating for your pet and encouraging their confidence and curiosity.

Check out our article on How to Train An Adventurous Feline for extra inspiration.

Out on the water 

Whether you’re climbing onboard a boat or snuggling into a canoe, sailing with cats has become an increasingly popular activity amongst pet parents. 

Take in some of that fresh sea air…and perhaps warn the fishes what might be coming their way!

Climbing 

You can now take your cat climbing! 

Ensure your cat is on a leash to provide maximum safety and reach up to new heights, hand in paw.

Cat in a harness outdoors

In Conclusion: How to Harness Train a Cat

So, to answer the ultimate question of how to harness train a cat?

With a dash of patience and a few treats to hand, your cat should become comfortable wearing their harness. And once they are happy in a harness, get ready for more adventures with your furry feline friend!

Here’s a wrap-up of the essentials:

  • There are all sorts of benefits to harness training your cat. Most importantly, it will allow you to keep them safe when out exploring the world together.
  • It’s vital to ease your cat gently into the experience of wearing a harness. Offer positive reinforcements such as treats and cuddles to help your cat associate their harness with a good experience. It’ll also help to minimize the unease of this new sensation.
  • Be led by your cat. Harnesses will not suit every cat, and if they obviously don’t like it, do not force them into one. For cats that don’t mind their harness, start with smaller explorations and allow them to build up to longer trips out.

We would love to know what your cat makes of their harness, if you face any issues when harness training and what you use to help your cat cope with the transition.

Sending you lots of luck with your cat harness training from all of us here at Fluffy Kitty – Yoda is rooting for you!


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