While the idea of taking your cat for a walk outside may seem a little strange, a cat harness can make the experience pleasant for you both. Learn how to choose the right harness and how to help your cat get used to the process of walking on a leash.
Reasons for Using a Cat Harness
If you have an indoor cat that rarely, if ever, ventures outdoors, you may not consider the use of a cat harness at all. After all, you probably own a cat carrier of some sort for short trips in the car, and that may serve you well enough. Still, there are several reasons why you may want to consider keeping a cat harness nearby.
Long Car Trips
If you're traveling or moving, a cat harness can be used to help give your cat a little more freedom. Let her out of her carrier at rest stops and put the harness on. She'll have a chance to stretch her legs in safety, and you may even be able to eliminate the need of a travel litter box.
Cats that Dislike Cat Carriers
Some cats become extremely agitated by a cat carrier. Putting a cat inside and shutting the door may be a power struggle that leaves you both exhausted. In this case, training your cat to lay still on a car seat and using a cat harness when you get to your destination may make travel easier on you both.
Getting Fresh Air in Safety
If you live in an apartment complex or on a busy street and you are unable or unwilling to allow your cat to roam free, a cat harness allows you to safely take your cat outdoors.
While a cat is not like a dog, some cats do enjoy going for walks with you on leash. A harness is a safe and effective method of guiding your cat without having her slip out of the collar by suddenly moving backwards or pulling at it until she chokes.
Types of Cat Harnesses
There are a few types of harnesses available on the market for use with your cat. The traditional figure eight harness slips over your cat's head and fastens between her legs around her waist. This system is adjustable and does not allow your cat to slip free. There are many styles of figure-eight harnesses on the market, some with swivel attachments for the lead, others that allow the lead to be placed in various areas. You may wish to try one or two types to find the best fit.
Cat coat harnesses or vest harnesses are more complete systems. These zip onto your cat like a coat and hold her snuggly. The benefit of this system is that the pressure is gently distributed over your cat rather than producing the tight points of pressure a more traditional harness can create.
When you purchase a cat harness, make sure you find a system that is lightweight, adjustable and easily cleaned. Avoid leather harnesses or harnesses with heavy buckles since this additional weight may be too much for your cat to handle.
Training Your Cat to Use a Harness
The length of time needed to train your cat to a harness will vary based on her age and her personality. There are some ways to speed up the processes and help your cat settle into her harness more easily.
Start Training Young
Begin training your cat as soon as you bring her home. The longer she has to get used to the idea, the easier it will be in the long term.
Allow Your Cat to Wear the Harness
Put the harness on your cat without the lead attached and allow her to wear it around for a few hours a day. This will give her the chance to get used to the feel of the harness without the added pressure of a lead.
Once you start harness training, don't stop suddenly and start again weeks or months later. You can move as slowly as you like, allowing your pet to work up to several hours with the harness on before you attach the lead, but stopping and starting again may disrupt your progress.
Practice Around the House
When you first attach the lead to the cat harness, do so indoors. Get your cat used to the feel of the lead in a safe and familiar place. Don't just put the harness and lead on her and take her straight outside for the first time. The outdoors combined with a harness and lead may be too much for your pet to handle all at once.
Don't Be Discouraged
Don't worry if you cat doesn't take to the harness the first time you put it on. Give it time, and before long you'll be strolling the neighborhood with your cat at your side.
Even if you plan on using a cat carrier for most trips, it may be beneficial to purchase a cat harness and train your pet to use it as well. If you were to move, take a long trip or travel in a manner where a carrier was not a good fit, the harness would come in handy. Train your cat to use a harness and watch as she learns to explore her surroundings safely by your side.