Teaching Your Cat to Wear a Harness

Many cats who were once outdoor cats and then become indoor cats, or are merely filled with energy, as most young cats tend to be, require large amounts of exercise in order to be good companions. Cats who do not receive appropriate amounts of exercise tend to be destructive and/or aggressive.

Your approach to training your cat must be 100% positive as cats will not perform just to please you. They perform to please themselves. Therefore, they must see something in it that benefits them. Cats must be motivated and the best means of doing this is with food; and a hungry cat.

Initiating Motivation

As cats must be hungry in order to be motivated, you may need to skip a meal, or two, prior to starting the harness training regimen. During this time, test out some cat treats and see which ones are most attractive to your cat.

The following are a few suggestions of high-value treats:

  • Cooked Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Canned cat food

Your cat will let you know which she prefers by instantly eating the treat. Once this is established, use these treats only for training sessions and each treat must be earned by your cat performing something on cue.

If your cat tends to use her teeth when she takes the treat, place the treat on a small spoon.

Training Harness

There are several types of harnesses available for cats.

  • H-Harness – has a loop that goes around the neck and one around the body with easy clips and adjustable straps – great for any cat.
  • Velcro body harness – wide bands that go around the neck and body, with Velcro attachments and a D-ring for the leash – good for cats under 15 pounds.
  • Figure 8 Harness – features loops for the legs and a clasp over the shoulders – not recommended as many cats can squirm out of these.

Acclimation to the Harness

Lure your cat’s head through the neck loop, using the treat. Remain calm and patient, allowing the cat to sniff the harness or even rub against it. This is how cats leave their scent on an object and become comfortable with it. Repeat the luring action until the cat will instantly put her head through to get the treat. Be consistent with always giving her the treat when she does so. Cats quickly learn to avoid doing something if it does not prove rewarding.

Once your cat will easily put her head through the neck loop, give her a few treats as you clasp the belly band behind her forelegs. Continue to remain calm and offer treats as she acclimates to the feel of the belly band.

Some cats will freeze. Some might slink low and try to hide. Others will merely remain with you, eating their treats. Regardless of the reaction, remain calm and continue to offer the treats. Don’t chase your cat if she runs. She will eventually come out of hiding and when she does so, give her rewards and praise and remove the harness.

Continue applying the harness until the cat takes little notice of it and remains near you accepting treats.

Adding a Leash

When your cat is acclimated to the harness, it’s time to add the leash. For many cats this can be another big step; others it won’t matter at all.

It is best to not use the leash at this time. Merely allow your cat to drag it around to get used to the feel and presence of it. Continue to offer your cat treats whenever he ignores the leash.

Now that your cat can wear a harness it’s time to teach him to walk with you while wearing it!

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Can a cat wear a harness?

Most cats can be trained to walk on a leash, but certain feline personalities are more accepting of new experiences like donning a harness and walking outdoors. ... Some cats may never be comfortable on a leash or outdoors due to age, health or personality, and you should never force your pet outside of his comfort zone.

How long does it take for a cat to get used to a harness?

Your cat should be comfortable wearing a harness for 10 to 15 minutes before starting to work on leash training.

Is a cat harness a good idea?

In such circumstances, having a cat wear a harness with you holding the leash is a very good idea just in case your cat gets loose. Otherwise, it's more than likely your cat will be just as happy if he never sees a harness, much less wears one.

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