Cat Harness Training

Harness training takes time and patience from a cat owner, but the end result can be a safer pet that's content to go on strolls around the neighborhood with you. Your pet will also be safer when you transport him to the vet's office or take him on car trips.

Selecting a Harness

A cat harness fits your pet a little differently than a collar does, and it's used when you want to put a leash on your cat. Harnesses are preferred over collars for leash attachment because harnesses can distribute the force generated when your cat pulls against the leash away from his neck and throat, which helps protect him from injury. When your cat is not on a leash, remove the harness and replace it with his usual collar and ID tag.

Two common harness styles—figure 8 and figure H—are available. Their names are derived from how they look when they are not on a cat. You may want to try both styles to find the one that's the best fit for you and your cat. To determine your cat's harness size, measure his chest immediately behind his front legs and add 2 inches.

Allow your cat time to acclimate to the harness before putting it on him. Leave the harness on the floor where your cat examine it carefully for a day or two before you try putting it on.

How to Harness Train a Cat

For the first few training sessions, your goal should be to put the harness on the cat without leaving it on for a long period of time. Your cat will have to become accustomed to wearing the harness, so build up the amount of time he wears the harness over the course of a few days. Many cats will resist the harness initially, but most adjust to it in time. Within a week, your cat should be adjusted to wearing the harness, and then it's time for the next step: the leash.

Clip the leash onto the harness and allow it to follow your cat around your home. After a few days, hold onto the leash as your cat walks around your home. Occasionally apply gentle pressure to guide your cat's movements. Praise him when he follows your lead.

When your cat successfully follows your lead inside, take him into a secure area, such as a fenced yard. Practice walking with your cat inside the yard for a few days before taking your pet out into your neighborhood.

Tips for Success

As noted earlier, patience is required when training a cat to walk on a harness. Another key to success is abundant praise when you cat does what you want him to do. Praise him when he walks alongside you or when he responds correctly to your gentle directional pull on the leash.

Go slowly with your training. Keep training sessions short to ensure you have your cat's attention. Make the training sessions enjoyable for both of you, and try to always end on a positive note.

Finally, remember that a cat is unlikely to stay obediently by your side like a dog does. He will stroll and wander, exploring whatever attracts his attention, but he will be safer and easier to control while wearing his leash and harness than if he is allowed to roam free.