How to teach a cat to wear a harness

Have an adventurous kitty who always loves to be by your side? Or a feline friend who begs to go outside? In this blog we’ll break down choosing a harness, and steps to help your cat feel comfortable. 

Start with a collar 

If your cat doesn’t already wear a collar, we would recommend you get them acclimatized with this first. Should your cat become lost, a collar can help someone identify them and increase the chances of you being reunited with your furry friend. For tips to train your cat to wear a collar, click here. 

Choosing a harness: 

Choose an H-type harness or a walking jacket. 
Figure-eight type harnesses are not secure for cats. 
Adjust the harness so when it is on the cat you can place two fingers between the cat and the harness. Make sure it is snug enough the cat can’t slip out. 
For a larger cat, you may need to buy a harness made for a small dog. 

Helping your cat acclimatize to the harness 

Most cats initially dislike the feeling of the harness, so you’ll want to distract your cat in some way while the harness is on. Using treats works well here. 

Create positive associations with the harness. You can put the harness on your cat at feeding time and have him wear it for a few minutes while he is eating, play a favorite game with him while he is wearing it, or just give him a tasty treat. All create positive associations! 

Follow these steps to get started:  

Show the cat the harness, laying the harness beside the cat allowing them to sniff as you immediately provide treats, praise, and/or pets.
If the cat is not interested in the harness, place some treats or their food bowl beside or on the harness to entice them to go to it.
Continue these steps until they don’t react when picking up or putting down the harness near them. 

Putting on the harness

Lure the cat into the harness leaving the harness hanging on the cat while you feed them. Repeat this step several times before putting the harness on fully. 
Gently put the harness on the cat and reward right away with a high-value meal.
Have the cat wear the harness for a few minutes while they are eating.
If the cat is not eating with the harness on, try to engage the cat in play for a few minutes. 
Slowly increase the time the harness is on and reward during that time.
Once the cat is comfortably wearing the harness for 5 minutes or more, you can add a leash.

It’s important to supervise your cat at all times while they are wearing a harness. With patience, many cats come to accept the harness and enjoy the freedom that comes with enjoying the outdoors in a safe, supervised setting.   

Congratulations! Your cat is ready for the next step: training them to walk on a leash. Happy adventuring! 

The post How to teach a cat to wear a harness appeared first on Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.

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