Some cats may well be satisfied, lounging on the decking in the back garden or even staying within the confines of your home, keeping watch from the window as the world goes by. However, if you live in an apartment and want to encourage your cat to partake in some physical activity, but you’re worried witless about letting them out unattended on the busy sidewalks and pavements of your bustling neighborhood, you might be considering getting them a harness.
You wouldn’t be alone and while taking your cat for a walk is never going to be the same as taking a dog for a walk, it is becoming increasingly popular. Instagram feeds are full of cat owners, and their favorite feline friend off on some adventure together. Whether that’s accompanying you on that family camping and hiking trip, or taking your kitty with you to a friend’s house for a weekend away, if you are worried about your cat’s safety and security, a harness makes a lot of sense.
Turn Your Cat Into an Adventurer
Not every cat owner is going to be able to successfully turn their pet into an adventure-loving, harness-wearing mini tiger! Exploring the outdoors with carefree abandonment and experiencing new sites, sounds, smells, and textures. Some cats may forever be content and purrfectly happy with a life of pampered domestic bliss! For those who want to encourage their cat to feel the wind on their fur and answer the call of the wild – but in a strictly controlled environment – a harness is the perfect solution. Sure, it might take a bit of coaxing and commitment to get your four-legged friend ready to accept being in a harness, but once they do, you can both open up a whole new world of adventure together.
How Do You Harness Train Your Cat?
It’s worth the perseverance as by training your cat to walk on a leash you can significantly enrich their life and provide a new level of stimulation. It’s also a great bonding experience for you and your kitty, not to mention fantastic exercise for the pair of you. Building up skills like this will enrich your cat’s life and if you are leash training a foster animal, make them far more attractive to potential new families looking to adopt a well-trained pet.
Leash training can be undergone by any aged cat but in reality, the younger you start, the better. Lively and excitable kittens may seem like a bundle of uncontrollable furry fun, but in a lot of respects, their youth and energy makes them much easier to train than an older more worldly wise and established cat which is likely to be set in their familiar ways.
Even if your cat doesn’t immediately take to wearing a harness, it is worth persevering and being tolerant as when they do become accepting of walking on a least, you will both enjoy spending time together so much more. As with teaching a new skill to anyone, practice makes perfect along with baby steps and lots of gentle encouragement and cajoling. A few treats as incentives are recommended to get quicker results.
It’s All About Choosing the Right Harness
Before you even contemplate any training, you will need the correct sized harness for your kitty. If it’s too small, you will have no chance of training your cat as they need above all else to feel comfortable wearing it. The idea is that wearing a harness becomes so second nature that they don’t even realize they’ve got it on.
There are two styles of a harness that you can go for, Figure-8 or H-style and they are both great options. What’s more important is that you get the right fit. Before you head to the local pet store or search online, you need to measure your cat. To do this you need to take a measurement just behind the front legs, all the way around your cat’s middle then add on a couple of inches to be sure.
Your harness can always be adjusted with sliders and made snugger if necessary. Don’t ever be tempted just to use a leash on a collar as you would a dog. This can be dangerous to a cat because they have much softer throats and windpipes.
Initially Introduce Your Cat to Their Harness Indoors
Before you try putting a harness on your fur baby, allow them to sniff and play with it first so that they become familiar with the texture and smell. It’s also a great idea to position the harness next to your cat’s food so that they associate it with a happy experience. Once you get your cat safely into their harness, provide plenty of feedback and encouragement by way of treats or wet food so that they come to associate wearing the harness as a positive experience.
If your cat is particularly resistant to wearing the harness you’ve bought, it might be that it’s just too thick so perhaps try them out with one that has slimmer straps. Another trick is to give the harness a spritz with a stress relief spray which will make it seem more appealing.
Once you’ve got your cat successfully buckled up, allow them to roam around your home, freely exploring familiar territory. Visually check that their movement isn’t at all impaired, that the harness doesn’t appear to be too tight and uncomfortable and likewise that it isn’t so slack that they could wriggle free. It’s important that you practice from the safety of your home before attempting to take your cat on a leash outside.
Next, Practice Walking on a Leash
Now that you’ve cracked wearing the harness, it’s time to attach a leash and see how your cat gets on walking this way. Again, this is best done from the safety of an indoor environment and let your cat do the leading while you gently follow behind holding the leash without applying any pressure. It’s not unusual for a lead to be at least 6 ft. long, but initially, you will need to hold the leash a bit closer to your own body, say 3 feet away at the most. Have lots of treats on hand to reinforce and reward good behavior.
Once You’ve Practiced, It’s Time to Head Outside So Choose Your Spot Carefully
Let the adventures begin! Before you head out into the wilderness backpacking with your cat, choose a relatively private, quiet and safe spot so that your cat feels totally relaxed and at ease, ready to take in their new environment. An enclosed backyard or garden would be the obvious choice, somewhere away from barking dogs and bustling people or noisy traffic. You might also want to check the weather before you head out to make sure it’s not too cold, windy or raining.
Make your first adventure short and sweet. You don’t want to overwhelm your kitty. Let them roam around, roll in the grass if the fancy takes them and sniff everything in sight. If they’re a house cat, these new smells and sounds and sensations are going to feel pretty amazing for your little four-legged friend. After this short adventure, your cat is bound to have had a complete blast and be raring to go out on the harness again for more fun times in the great outdoors. It’s now that the adventure can really start.