Gatos Guide to Cat Harnesses
To let your cat enjoy the outdoors safely, you may use a harness and leash.
1. Types of harnesses
There are three types of harnesses that you will most likely find in sizes for cats:
Figure-8 harness – probably the best choice for kittens, because it can be adjusted to almost any size. But, many people find it difficult to use.
H-harness – fastens around the neck and around the body. There are many choices, from traditional dog harnesses to lightweight styles made specifically for cats. Once fit, you will seldom need to adjust.
Step-in or two-step harness – gaining in popularity, it offers more adjusting options and goes on with only one clasp. With the harness on the ground, place the cat’s front feet inside the two loops, pull the ends up and snap the clasp.
Jacket harness – a cross between clothing and a harness, the head goes through a fixed neck in the jacket and a strap around the waist secures the cat.
2. How to measure for a harness
Measure your cat’s girth (waist) at the point behind the front legs, in the “armpit” area. Measure before you buy, as once you put a harness on your cat, it is not returnable.
3. Choosing a harness
For cats, choose a harness that is lightweight, with thin straps, not too heavy or bulky. Make sure it is adjustable in every way and look for small fittings that are not too heavy for a cat. Cat harnesses are available, and some small dog harnesses may be acceptable. If you do not see the right size for your cat, ask if different sizes can be ordered. The correct fit is the most important consideration.
4. Fitting a harness for your cat
The first time you adjust the harness, take the time to make it fit correctly. Make an approximate fit, before trying the harness. Adjust the straps until the harness lies close to the body without squeezing or pinching. There should be room for your finger to fit between the harness and neck, but the second strap around the girth can be snug.
If the cat can get the harness off, it needs to be adjusted.
5. Getting used to a harness
Start when the cat is young, if possible, but it’s never too late to train a cat to use a harness.
Choose a time that your cat is tired and less likely to struggle with you. Have a favorite treat ready, such as a spoonful of tuna. Put on the harness (no leash) and walk away. Pay no attention at all. The cat may “freeze” or struggle to get it off. Come back in a few minutes, take off the harness, give praise and give a treat. Wait a few hours and try again, staying away longer. Repeat as needed over a few days until the cat is comfortable in the harness.
Now, add the leash. You may see the same behavior as before. Use the same technique again.
Practice with the leash inside before trying it outdoors. If the cat likes to go out, it will soon associate the harness with the pleasure of going out and things will go much smoother.