harness train cat

How to Train Your Cat to Wear a Harness

| August 13, 2021

Before you get started, here’s what you’ll need!

  • Harness: The harness should be snug but not too tight (you should be able to fit one or two fingers between the harness and the cat).
  • Leash: Use a shorter leash if you’re new to this, or if you live in high-traffic urban areas.
  • Treats: This should be one of their favourites. If possible, use their favourite treat for this training exclusively. Use cat treats or experiment with cat-friendly foods you may already have in your fridge. If treats aren’t their thing, try a wand toy.

Now that you’ve got the what covered, let’s get started on the how.

Keep in mind, this process will likely take time and several sessions. Don’t rush! Rushing can lead to your cat developing a negative association with the harness or leash. Finally, don’t expect your cat to walk on a leash the same way a dog would. For more information and a little more help, sign up for a Feline Behaviour Consultation!

Here are four steps to harness train your cat:

Start with the harness

Don’t worry about the leash for now. Let’s just focus on getting your cat comfortable with the harness. Start by putting your hand through the ‘head-hole’ loop of the harness and feed your cat a treat. Continue to feed treats like this, but reduce how far your hand goes through the loop each time.

Eventually, offer treats behind the loop until your cat puts their head through it to access the treat. Once your cat is clearly comfortable with the harness against their chest and neck, clip the straps and feed more treats.

Practice walking inside

Entice the cat to walk forward by offering a treat a short distance in front of them. Keep the treat steady as they approach. It is important that you do not move the treat forward until they have finished it. Once they finish eating, offer another treat further away. For cats that are not food motivated, a toy can be used instead. Continue until your cat walks around your home comfortably.

Now comes the leash

Don’t go outside just yet. But now that you guys have gotten the hang of the whole harness thing, you can attach the leash and repeat step 2 a couple more times.

Explore outside!

Beyond that door is a vast world you and your kitty can explore. But don’t overdo it. The outdoors can be overwhelming for cats at first. Be mindful of outdoor surroundings that can potentially pose a risk for a domestic cat – such as wildlife or dogs.

Start with short trips, avoid busy areas, and be sure to offer lots of treats/toys to keep the experience fun. If you live in an apartment, start by taking them for walks in the hallway. After a few visits to the hallway and stairs you can take them outside to a quiet spot. Slowly increase the duration of your trips, but don’t proceed if your cat is showing signs of fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS). Signs of FAS may include a tense posture, large pupils, or flattened ears.

Still need a little more help? No worries. Our Feline Behaviour Consultations will guide you through this and so much more.