How to Harness Train a Cat in 6 Simple Steps
You’d be surprised to find out that most cat owners don’t know how to walk a cat.
Most of them don’t need it; they prefer to use a carrier when taking a cat for a walk.
And others are confused as to how the process goes.
Here, I’ll show you how to harness-train a cat in 6 simple steps.
That way, you’ll know how to walk your cat easily without putting up with its wrath.
Before You Start
Whether you already have a harness or not, you’ll need to make sure you have the right one.
There are many types of harnesses for cats and they range in all sorts of different sizes etc.
Check out my post on the best cat harnesses so you know you’re working with the right one in the first place.
Step 1: Get Your Cat Familiar with the Harness
Cats perceive anything they’re unfamiliar with as a threat, even if it’s a harmless ball. The first thing you should do is to get your cat accustomed to the presence of the harness. There are several ways to do it.
For starters, you can leave it in the room where your cat stays the most. Simply put it on the floor and let your pet see it often. Over a few days, move it closer to the cat without getting its attention.
You can also grab it casually, from time to time, and put it back in its place. That being said, bear in mind that you shouldn’t put the harness on the cat on these days, nor approach it while holding it.
When your cat starts acting at ease around the harness or is indifferent towards it, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Step 2: Use Your Secret Weapon
Cats are simple creatures. You give them treats; they give you what you want. That’s why your pet treats are your secret weapon in this case. You’re going to use it to lure the cat into wearing the harness.
Firstly, lay the harness on the ground and let your cat approach it. Meanwhile, grab a couple of treats and hold them in your hands. If your cat is stubborn to approach it, put the treats on the harness. Afterward, wait until your cat touches it and reward it with a treat.
You’ll likely need to do this repeatedly for a couple of days, especially if your cat has had an unfortunate encounter with a harness before. You can also do it more than once in one day if your cat is up for it. Next, your cat will be comfortable enough to touch the harness and sniff it.
This step is all about building trust with your cat. If it feels afraid to approach the harness at first, it’s totally fine. In this case, leave the treats on a close distance from the harness and repeat until the cat feels safe to touch it. All things considered, don’t force your cat into touching it. That defies the purpose of the whole process.
Step 3: Let Your Cat Be in Control
Letting cats have too much control is a bit risky. They’ll likely start their plan of action to take command of the world, and it won’t be pretty. That’s why you’ll only let your cat be in control enough to wear the harness by itself. The purpose of this step is to teach the cat that you won’t force it to wear the leash. That way, it’ll submit on its own.
The first thing you’ll do is to open the neck clasp of the harness wide and hold it in line with your cat’s head. When your cat draws near to the leash, reward it with a treat. Let it sniff around it and hold back on the treats a bit. Once it starts poking the loop and tries to put its head through, reward it again.
Keep in mind that it won’t fully wear it for the first time; you’ll likely need a few tries until it happens. But you’ll eventually be there. At the end of this step, you should be able to leave the harness on your cat’s neck when it’s waiting for its reward.
Step 4: Secure the Harness
How do you teach a cat to walk on a leash if it doesn’t let you fasten it? Technically, you can’t. That’s how essential this step is. The fact that harnesses must be secured on the belly doesn’t sit well with a lot of cats.
On the contrary, some cats are completely okay with it; they won’t care what you do after they have the leash around their necks. If you have one of those, you’re lucky!
All you have to do is keep giving the cat treats while subtly messing with the harness. A few touches here and there without actually doing anything will put your cat at ease. Next, start positioning the straps under the cat, where they should clasp together. Leave them there and reward the cat again.
Your cat will eventually approve of what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to secure it without much hassle. Nevertheless, if it shows any sign of discomfort, hold back, and treat it again.
Step 5: Get Your Cat Familiar with the Harness: Take Two
For the first time, you were getting your cat familiar with the harness as an object in the house. This time, you’ll let it get accustomed to moving around with it. The first step to achieve that is to let it wear it for a while every day. During this time, try to make it fun for your cat by playing with its favorite toy or offering it a treat.
In that manner, your cat will get used to wearing the harness. It won’t cause any distress anymore.
Step 6: Time to Go Out
After this step, you’ll know how to train a cat to walk on a leash perfectly. If your cat is comfortable with the harness, but still cautious with the leash. You can use the same method you used with the harness, and then move on to this step.
When you take your cat out on a leash for the first time, it’s preferred that it be a quiet, non-crowded place. Also, I recommend that you lift it when going out of the door, so it knows not to go out on its own.
Let your car explore its surroundings while standing carefully close to it. Make sure to keep the leash a bit loose. After a few trips in this manner, the cat should feel safe with the leash.
However, there’s a chance that it may freak out for the first time or so. In this case, you should have a heavy towel with you. Once you see your cat alarmed, wrap it in the towel, and carry it to safety.
Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for; your cat is walking on a leash comfortably!
All the effort you put in the training will be worth it, then.
I hope you have fun walking trips with your little furry friend.