Teaching your cat to walk on a leash with a harness can open up a new world of possibilities outdoors for both you and your cat while keeping your kitty safe. However, getting your cat used to the harness before heading outdoors is key. Introducing your cat to the harness gradually is necessary for eventual walking success.
Before you begin getting your cat used to a cat harness, you'll need a few things: plenty of cat treats, a cat leash, and, of course, a cat harness. How to put on a cat harness, particularly for the first time, is the tricky part.
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Introducing a cat harness
First, introduce your cat to the harness. Place your cat's harness near your cat's food dish for a few days. He will associate it with good things that he likes. After your cat is used to seeing the harness, putting him into the harness for the first time is the next step.
Determine which type of harness you have. Several types of cat harnesses exist, and each has a distinct method for putting them on your feline. However, the two main harnesses are the figure 8 and H types.
Putting on a cat harness
Unhook the hook and loop closures or snap buckles on your cat's harness. Hold the neck portion of the harness out to your cat. Place one hand with a cat treat through the neck, and praise her when she takes the treat. Practice this part of the harness training until your cat willingly inserts her head into the neck portion.
Set the rear portion of the unbuckled or open hook and loop closures on your cat's back to acclimate her to the feel of the harness on her body. Give your cat more treats and praise her when she stands still with the open harness on her back.
Adjusting a cat harness
Stand your cat in front of you and facing away from you as you sit on the floor. Place the smaller front loop of a figure 8 or H-type harness around your cat's neck. (Note that the front loop is not adjustable on the figure 8 harness). Lift your cat's left front leg and insert it into the opening in the harness's stomach strap just below that leg.
Pull the stomach strap's loose end behind the right front leg and insert the two pointed ends of a snap clip into the square closure. Adjust harness buckles so all straps touch your cat's neck and stomach without binding. Open a cat harness vest's hook and loop closures. Center it on your cat's back and fasten the neck and stomach hook and loop tape.
Adjust the closures so the harness is snug without being uncomfortable for your cat. You should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and the cat.
Before you head outside
Clip your cat's leash onto the snap on the rear of his harness and allow him to drag the harness behind him indoors as you follow him to familiarize him with the leash and the walking process. Introducing your cat slowly to the feel of the harness and leash before you head outside will help ensure your outdoor walks are successful rather than a battle of wills. Ultimately, you want your cat to actually want to go on a leash walk.
Make sure that your pet is up to date on all vaccinations before walking him outdoors, where he is more susceptible to diseases than in your home. Walking outdoors safely can be enriching for both you and your cat as long as your cat stays healthy.