Trying to harness train your cat? Follow these steps and remain patient

Cat walking in harness
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The debate around indoor and outdoor cats continues to rage on, with cat parents on both sides of the argument having strong views. The pro-indoor argument is based on the dangers cats can face outside and the damage cats can cause to local wildlife. But many cat parents feel it’s unfair to keep their cats indoors in a limited space at all times.

One option for letting your cat explore the outside, as opposed to giving them total free rein, is to walk them using a leash and a harness. 

However, cats are generally not as happy as dogs to wear a harness – at least, at first. It can take a bit of getting used to for them, with some training required. Once you’ve bought one of the best cat harnesses, it’s time to get to work.

Fortunately, Holly Garcia, also known as Travel Cat Mom on Instagram, an expert on all things traveling with cats, has shared how to get your cat used to wearing a harness in a recent post.  

First of all, explains Garcia, it’s a good idea to leave the harness out around the house. This way, your cat will get used to seeing it in their environment. And, whenever your cat interacts with the harness, you can reward them with a treat or something else they like. 

If you’re wondering how to put on a cat harness without being attacked, Garcia’s next piece of advice should come in useful: “When they seem very familiar with it, try putting it on,” she says. “See how that feels, see how they react. Give them a treat, and take it off.”

Then, the next time you put your cat in the harness, leave it on for a little while longer, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend in it. Let them walk around in it, and reward them for doing so. 

When they’re comfortable just wearing the harness, you can try attaching the leash. “Follow them where they want to go,” writes Garcia, “Do not pull on the leash”. 

Once they’re comfortable with this, you can begin encouraging them to come toward you while you’re holding the leash, using whatever motivates them. Then, you can try encouraging your cat to walk alongside you.

“The key here is consistency, baby steps, and lots of patience,” finishes Garcia, who stresses the importance of taking things gradually and making sure your cat is comfortable.

Is walking a cat on a leash cruel? Some people and organizations do argue against it, but there are many on the other side of the argument too, who like to bring up some of the advantages. It can help get your cat used to a new area if you’ve recently moved house, for example, and can benefit indoor cats who don’t otherwise have any access to the outdoors. 

If you do decide to harness train your cat, however, it’s important to ensure they’re wearing a safe harness that fits them comfortably, and that you take things at your cat’s pace. This way, as Garcia shows, you’re more likely to get the results you’re after. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.