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How to Choose a Cat Harness

Reviewed by Vanessa Farner, DVM on July 08, 2021

Cats are not known for walking on a leash. However, training your cat to wear a harness may be easier than you think. The benefits of harness training your cat extend beyond being convenient for pet owners. Learn how to use a cat harness, as well as some tips for purchasing the best product for your cat.

When and Where to Use a Cat Harness

Can you walk a cat? With the right harness, you can take your feline out for a safe and fun stroll. Cat harnesses are made of sturdy but flexible fabric that is woven together. A harness is more secure than a collar because it extends down your pet’s chest, securing around the neck and torso, behind the front legs.

Exploring outside. If you have pet cats, you may allow them to come and go outside as they please. Cats love to explore, and your cat may appreciate this freedom. However, free-roaming is not safe for your cat for some of the following reasons:

  • They could get hit by a car.
  • Predatory animals may chase and hurt them.
  • They're more susceptible to getting sick.
  • Stalking and eating small animals may lead to parasites or infection.

Free-roaming may even be illegal depending on where you live. Many localities establish laws that prohibit cats from roaming free without a harness and leash. Even though cats are not as receptive to leash training as dogs are, it is possible. With time, your cat can grow to love wearing a harness because it'll mean it's their chance to explore outside with supervision.

Traveling in the car. Many people choose a car carrier while driving around with their cat. But, you can also use a harness to travel safely with your pet. With a cat harness, you can buckle your cat into a car seat, protecting them in the case of an accident. Many perceive harnesses to be safer than cat carriers. Roaming free, even while harnessed, puts you at risk since you don’t know how your cat could react if they're anxious or afraid. 

Natural disasters. By training your cat to wear a harness, you ensure preparedness in the case of a natural disaster. You can keep a harness on-hand for emergencies and keep your cat from running away, scared.

It's important to have your cat wear their harness regularly. This gives them a chance to get comfortable so it’s not added stress when the unexpected happens. Remember, pets should never be left behind if you are evacuating before, during, or after a natural disaster. 

How to Choose the Right Cat Harness

Choosing a cat harness is equal parts function and comfort. You want your pet to feel safe when harnessed, and you need one that is easy to use. 

Know what your expectations are. How will you use a harness for your cat? Is your harness for walks around the neighborhood or frequent travel? Answers to these questions may sway your decision. For example, a simpler harness may be appropriate for a quick walk around the neighborhood. If you’re traveling a long distance where your cat is more anxious during transitions, a sturdy harness will serve you better.

Ensure a snug fit. Cats are notorious for getting into and out of tight spots, and harnesses are no exception. Ensure a snug fit around your cat’s torso when choosing a harness. While you don’t want it to be so tight that it causes harm, you definitely want it to be more snug than loose. Cats can easily escape from loose harnesses if they feel threatened or trapped while exploring.

Have a replacement. Since cat harnesses are small, they can be easily misplaced. If you find a harness you love, buy two. Keep one in your house and one in your car so you always have one with you.

Extra precautions. There is always a chance your cat can slip outside unnoticed or get away during travel. Microchipping your pet ensures that when someone finds your cat, they can be returned to you safely.

Make sure your cat is up-to-date on vaccinations for added protection exploring outside. Even harnessed, your cat may get into trouble that leaves them at risk for disease or injury. Many vaccines and design exclusively to protect your pet from problems that are specific to felines.

Train Your Cat to Use a Harness

Take it slow. While dogs are more excited to walk on a leash, cats need time and patience. At first, they may not like the harness at all. It’s new, scary, and may make them feel trapped. Allow them to wear the harness around your home for a while before trying to take them for a walk.

Be consistent. If your cat is used to going in and out of your home without any restrictions, they may be defiant at first. Conversely, if your cat has never been outside, they may feel terrified of the world around them.

Practice using the leash in your yard first and then slowly expand to walking down the block and around the neighborhood. By having a routine they can anticipate, your pet will gain confidence in wearing the harness and leash.

Watch for signs of overwhelm. If your cat experiences too much stimulation, they can exhibit signs of being scared:

  • Cowering
  • Laying their ears back
  • Hunching their back
  • Meowing loudly
  • Acting defensively

If your cat is scared, speak to them calmly and cut your walk short. Take them home for a rest and reset so they can enjoy walks without feeling forced to go.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Animal Medical Center: “Giving Indoor Cats Outdoor Time.”

ASPCA: “Disaster Preparedness.”

AVMA: “Free-Roaming, Owned Cats.”

HUMANE SOCIETY: “Fettered felines: Take your cat for a walk outside.”

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