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Types of cat harnesses: Find the purrfect fit for your kitty

Cat wearing H-harness, one of the most common types of cat harnesses
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re someone who loves taking adventures with your feline friend, doing some research on the types of cat harnesses that are currently available will ensure that your kitty stays safe and secure while the two of you are out and about. And, as luck would have it, you’ll find everything you need to know right here in this guide!

Just like the best dog harnesses for our canine companions, the best cat harnesses come in several different styles, each with their own advantages and disadvantages that you’ll want to consider. Your cat’s size, the thickness of their coat and the weather, are all things to weigh up before choosing a harness.

While cats definitely aren’t as keen as dogs to get all harnessed up so that they can venture out into the great outdoors, cat breeds that like water (think the Bengal, Maine Coon and Turkish Van) tend to be highly outgoing and love exploring, so if you have one of these felines in your family, investing in a harness is well worth it.

A cat harness is also a great idea for those times when you need to take your fur baby to the vet or for when you’re traveling and want to let your kitty out of the car to stretch their legs. A harness ensures your cat still has a good degree of freedom while at the same time giving you peace of mind that they can’t run off.

Depending on how social your cat is, you’ll want to learn how to put on cat harness without getting attacked. While some of our more extroverted feline friends will practically jump into their harness without any struggle, others will be far less keen. But before you get to grips with all of that, let’s take a look at the types of cat harnesses available and which one is right for your feline friend.

Types of cat harnesses

You’ll be relieved to learn that when it comes to the types of cat harnesses available, there are only three styles to choose from, which makes narrowing things down a whole lot easier! Let’s take a look at each cat harness in detail so that you can find the right fit for your fur baby. 

H-harnesses

Your first option is what’s known as an H-harness because when it's laid out on the floor it’s shaped like, yes, you guessed it, the letter H! These are strappy in design and provide very light coverage, meaning they’re not restrictive and most fur baby’s tend to find them very comfortable to wear.

When the H-harness is buckled, you’ll notice that it consists of two loops that are connected together by a short strap. One of these loops fits behind your cat’s front legs and around their chest while the other goes in front of their legs. 

Because the H-harness has the least amount of surface area touching your cat, they can be a really good choice if your kitty has never worn a harness before. They’re also ideal if your cat loves swimming as there’s very little material to hold water, so your cat will warm up quicker after their dip. 

That being said, the H-harness does have a couple of drawbacks that are worth thinking through. Firstly, they don’t spread the pressure as well as other harnesses, so if your cat is prone to darting all over the place, they may find the harness rubs in places. 

Secondly, unlike other harnesses which hug the body and provide fuller coverage, the H-harness is much easier to wriggle out of if you have a particularly crafty and creative little kitty on your hands. To ensure this doesn’t happen, make sure the harness fits snuggly and let your cat wear it around the house until you’re sure they can’t get out of it. 

Vest harnesses

Bengal cat wearing tuxedo vest harness

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A vest harness is a wonderful choice for any cat that is super active and prone to making lots of sudden movements. They have far more contact with the body than a H-harness, meaning they do a fantastic job of keeping your cat secure.

As you’d expect, a vest harness looks like a little sweater vest that’s been tailor made for your feline friend. They’re fixed in place with velcro or buckles and come with several straps that get secured in place around the neck and legs. 

If you’ve tried an H-harness in the past and found your cat quickly escapes from it or you have a cat who pulls a lot when you walk them, a vest harness is the perfect solution. Because they distribute the pressure evenly, they’re far more comfortable for active cats to wear.

This type of harness also tends to be made from mesh material, which makes it nice and breathable and will prevent your cat from overheating in warmer weather. You’ll find a vest harness easy to fit, but it does require slipping it over your cat’s head, which they may not like. 

Jacket harnesses

Another option well worth considering is a jacket harness, sometimes referred to as a butterfly harness because of the way it looks when it’s placed on the floor. A jacket harness is the ultimate harness for the cunning escape artist as it covers more of your cat’s body and has a tighter fit.

If you tend to have a cat who gets spooked easily or you simply find that you don’t have the control you want with a vest or H-style harness, then a jacket harness is your best bet. This type of harness fastens around the neck and chest area and is super secure, fits well, and is almost impossible to wriggle out of.

Personally, we find the jacket harness to be brilliant for colder climates as because they offer maximum coverage, they do a stellar job of keeping cat’s warm. But, if you live in a warmer climate, make sure you choose one that’s labeled as ‘lightweight’ to prevent your cat from overheating.

How to choose a cat harness

how to put on a cat harness

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You’ve likely sussed out by now that there are advantages and disadvantages to each of the three types of cat harnesses, so here’s some guidelines that can be helpful when it comes to trying to decide which one to go with.

1. Consider your cat’s size

If you have a small cat or kitten, make sure that the harness you choose is easily adjustable so that you can get the perfect fit. For large cats, you may find you’re better off purchasing a dog harness as these come in a greater range of sizes which can be great for bigger breeds.

2. Think about what you’ll be using the harness for

If you’re just going from A to B and are looking to purchase a harness to make it easier to take your cat to the vet, then you may find an H-harness to be a good option for this. They’re not restrictive, so your cat should find it comfortable to wear for a short spell, and it’ll just make it easier for you to get them in and out of the car.

For more active adventures, we recommend you opt for a vest or jacket harness. These are much harder to wriggle out of, so you’ve got a lot more peace of mind that you’ll be able to keep your cat safe and secure while you’re both enjoying the great outdoors together.

3. The climate

You’ve got a couple of options when it comes to the type of climate you’re living in. Firstly, if you live in an area that’s prone to getting very cold, you can either put your cat in an H-harness and fit a coat over the top of that to keep them warm, or you can just go straight for a jacket harness.

In warmer weather, an H-harness or a vest harness made from mesh material are both ideal options as the H-harness covers very little of the body and vest harnesses tend to be super breathable, preventing overheating. Only use a jacket harness if it’s made from lightweight material.

4. Your cat’s coat

Whether your feline fur baby has long hair or short hair can also be helpful to take into consideration before choosing a harness. Long hair has a tendency to get caught in velcro and buckles and it can also get tangled when wearing a vest. If your cat doesn’t try to give their harness the slip, you may find an H-style works well for longer-haired breeds.

5. How the harness fastens

Some cats that are particularly skittish may find certain sounds unpleasant, so if you decide to opt for a harness with plastic buckles or velcro, you may want to spend some time desensitizing your cat to the noise before trying to get them into their harness.

6. Medical conditions

This is an easy one to overlook, but if your cat suffers from any illness, you’ll want to take this into account when selecting a harness. For example, if you have a cat with asthma, avoid a harness that fastens around the neck as this can trigger an attack. 

Likewise, if your kitty has arthritis or limited mobility, you’ll want to avoid any harness that requires them to make a lot of movements to get into as this may be painful for them.

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.