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How to harness train your cat

How to harness train your cat
by Lucinda Beeman

Read time: 4 min

You’ve seen the pictures: cats confidently exploring the great outdoors in stylish harnesses. It’s a sight to behold. And you might be thinking, “Could my cat pull this off?” 

The answer is yes — if you’ve got patience and a good sense of humour. Because harness training your cat isn’t just about looking Instagram-ready. It’s about giving your feline friend a safe way to explore the world. So here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Choose the Right Harness

Not all harnesses are created equal. And you’ll want to find one that’s comfortable, secure, and easy to put on. Look out for:

Fit: It should be snug but not too tight. You should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and your cat’s body.

Style: There are H-style, vest-style, and jacket-style harnesses. Vest and jacket styles tend to be more secure. And harder for cats to wriggle out of.

Material: Soft, breathable materials are best. Because your cat’s comfort is paramount.

Step 2: Introduce the Harness

Don’t just slap the harness on your cat and expect them to love it. It can be a process.

Familiarise your cat: Leave the harness near your cat’s favourite spot. Let them sniff and investigate it.

Give treats and praise: Every time your cat shows interest in the harness, reward them with treats and praise. To create a positive association.

Step 3: Putting on the Harness

Now comes the fun part: getting the harness on your cat without a full-blown battle. You’ll need:

A calm environment: Choose a calm, quiet time. When your cat is relaxed.

A gentle approach: Gently slip the harness over their head and adjust it. Go slowly. And reassure your cat with a calm voice. (And Nibbles.)

Short sessions: At first, just leave the harness on for a few minutes. Gradually increase the time as your cat gets more comfortable.

Step 4: Getting Used to the Harness

Your cat might feel weird in the harness at first. They might freeze, flop over, or do that hilarious backwards walk. It’s all part of the process.

Distract them with play or treats while they’re wearing the harness. And let them wear it around the house under your supervision. Gradually increase the time they spend in the harness until it feels like a second skin.

Step 5: Introduce the Leash

Once your cat is comfortable in the harness, it’s time to introduce the leash.

Attach it to the harness while your cat is indoors. Let them drag it around for a bit to get used to the feeling.

Then pick up the leash and follow your cat’s lead around the house. To get them used to the idea of you being attached to the other end.

Step 6: Outdoor Adventures

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: taking your cat outside.

Start in a safe, enclosed area like your backyard. The outside world can be overwhelming at first.Keep initial outdoor excursions brief. Let your cat explore at their own pace. And stay calm. Because your cat will pick up on your energy. Your confidence will help them feel secure.

Step 7: Gradual Exploration

As your cat becomes more comfortable, you can gradually expand their outdoor territory.

Let your cat dictate the pace and direction. (This is their adventure, after all.) But always be vigilant for potential dangers like dogs, traffic, or other hazards. And make outdoor time a regular activity. Consistency helps reinforce positive behaviour.

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