We know that many of our feline friends love to explore, and for many of them the safest way to do so is on a lead. Whether you've been wanting to walk your cat for a long time or you're a total newbie to the idea - we have some top tips to help you get started! From finding the right harness to how to put it on, we've got everything covered so you and your cat will soon be able to take a stroll around your favourite park together.
Choosing your harness
When walking your cat, a harness and lead is the safest option as a collar is too easy for cats to wiggle out of whilst a harness is much more secure. There are three main cat harness styles, all of which will keep your kitty secure. The type you choose is down to personal preference! A H-Style Harness has three main straps - one that goes around a cat's neck, one that goes around their waist and one that connects these two straps under their belly and/or back. The double loops on this style of harness make it difficult for a cat to wiggle out of, and the buckles are easy to adjust to get the perfect fit. A Figure 8 Harness is very similar in style, one loop goes around a cat's neck like a collar, and the other goes around their waist. The Vest Harness will either fasten across your cat's back or their underbelly. This harness will have more contact with your cat, therefore some cats find these the least comfortable option as they can feel restrictive.
Putting on your harness
Actually getting the harness on your cat might seem daunting at first, especially if you have a particularly feisty kitty, but fear not! As long as you take the right steps and have some patience you'll soon have your cat out for walks! It is easiest to harness train a kitten, however an adult cat can still be trained to walk on a harness. Firstly, make sure you are comfortable with how your harness works so that when it comes to actually putting it on your cat you aren't confused and fumbling as this will likely make them anxious or irritated. Here's an easy guide to get you started:
1. Leave the harness out somewhere that your cat can see and smell it. A good place for this is somewhere near their food bowl, toys or bed. This helps them to familiarise themselves with the new object so that they aren't scared of it.
2. Once you feel your cat is ready, slip the harness on over their head.
3. If the harness is an H-style or a figure-eight style, fasten the neck straps, then secure the midsection strap and the back strap, if there is one. If you have a vest harness, place it on your cat's back, then fasten all the clips.
4. Practise walking on the harness at home first so that your cat is in familiar surroundings. After that you can try venturing into the garden or the areas close to your house.
The first time you try putting the harness on your cat, it might be helpful to have some help. While one person holds your cat, you can help place the harness on them. If your cat doesn't like this and tries to wriggle free or scratches and bites at you, this is probably a good sign they're not comfortable yet. It can help to reward your cat at every step with treats, or give them a nice big meal once they have the harness on so that they associate it with something positive.
Ensuring the proper fitYour cat should be snug in their harness and unable to get out of it on their own, but should still be able to fully move their head and legs. You should be able to fit 1-2 fingers underneath a properly fitting harness. Your cat may tense their muscles when first trying a harness on so it is important to re-check the fit once they have relaxed to make sure it is still comfortable for them.
The most important thing when training your cat is to keep calm, give them time and be sure to reward them along the way! You can read our interview with our friend Loki the Adventure Cat here to see what life can be like for a harness trained kitty, as well as to get some top tips and tricks directly from the most adventurous feline we know.