Using Cat Leads and Harnesses

Cat leads and harnesses can make the time your cat spends outdoors safer for her. Training your cat to use these safety devices requires both your time and your patience, but it’s time well spent to keep your pet safe.

Fitting Your Cat for a Harness

If you’ll be walking your cat outdoors, you’ll want her to be fitted with a harness instead of a collar. Harnesses and collars fit differently on your cat, and each has a slightly different use. A harness is better for walking your cat because the harness is less likely to damage your cat’s throat and neck than a collar would be under similar circumstances.

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. Collars work well for normal indoor feline activities. Both harnesses and collars should feature an ID tag with current information so you and your cat can be reunited if she runs away during a walk and becomes lost.

The most common harness styles for cats are the figure 8 and the figure H. They take their names from their appearances when your cat isn’t wearing them. To find your cat’s harness size, add 2 inches to the measurement of her chest right behind her front legs.

Training Your Cat to Walk on a Lead

The first step to successfully training your cat to walk on a lead is to get her accustomed to wearing her harness. Start by leaving the harness out where your cat can sniff or paw at it to investigate it completely.

After a few days, the novelty should have worn off, and you can now put the harness on your pet. Your goal for the first few sessions is to have your cat adjust to the feeling of the harness on her body. You do this by slowly increasing the amount of time your cat wears the harness. In many cases, cats fight against the harness at first, but they acclimate to their new accessory after a proper introduction.

Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness, attach the lead and let your cat walk around your house wearing both harness and lead. Start to gently hold onto the lead after a few days so your cat becomes accustomed to the feel of someone else on the other end of the lead.

Although your cat is unlikely to learn to heel like a dog, she needs to respond when you gently guide her movements with the lead. Praise her when she cooperates and be patient with her when she doesn’t.

Practice in Your Yard Before Walking the Neighborhood

After your cat begins following your guidance on the lead regularly, take her out into your yard for a few practice walks before attempting to walk around your neighborhood.

When walking your cat in your neighborhood, praise her when she follows your lead directions. Be prepared to scoop her up and carry her to safety if large dogs, unruly children or other threats appear during your walk. Remember that your cat is likely to follow her own path as much as following yours during your walks, so allow her time to enjoy the stroll at her own pace.