So you’re looking for an adventure! Whether urban or outside, you’ll want to start your adventures on a good harness (NOT a collar!!). Before thinking about putting a harness on, make sure that your cat tolerates being touched all over. You want to make sure he’ll cooperate if he ends up in a tangle! *(You’ll want to read the article “Focus and Name Recall” in the trick cat section prior to adventuring- it will help to capture kitty’s attention in the midst of distraction).
Choosing a Harness
Do I buy a dog harness? Or a cat-specific harness? Fixed neck or adjustable? Minimalist or full of fabric?
While some dog harnesses are okay for cats, it’s important to keep in mind that cats are extremely flexible compared to dogs. If the harness interrupts shoulder movement or is easy to slip out of, it’s inappropriate. When looking at harnesses, you’ll want to search for one that is able to be adjusted on both the belly and neck area. It’s no fun when the neck isn’t adjustable and kitty wriggles a paw through the hole! If your cat will be exposed to a dirty, hot, or wet environment, it’s probably best that he wears a simple nylon harness that won’t retain heat or mud. If you’re going on a walk in cool weather and your kitty doesn’t mind the hugging pressure of a wrap, then a walking vest is an option. If your kitty doesn’t like the wrap but you’d like more support than the simple nylon, then try a mesh-front harness that’s fully adjustable. Still not sure? Contact Maestro and he’ll talk it over with you.
Set it on the floor
No, really. Just set the harness on the floor. I know you came here to harness-train your cat, but making positive impressions can take time. Reward kitty for investigating or laying on the harness. You want him to recognize that the harness means good things are about to happen!
Wearing the harness
Gently put the harness on and adjust it to be snug, but not uncomfortable. You’ll only want a finger or two to fit under the harness- it’s not a necklace! Kitty may flop on the floor or walk strangely the first couple times- this may just be part of the acclimation process. If it does not improve after multiple sessions, you may want to find a lighter and less restrictive harness. With the harness on, give treats immediately, then start to play! Encourage kitty to run and jump, as a properly fitted harness should allow a full range of motion.
Get out of the house!
If you have a safe yard, it’s time to open the door and let kitty have a sniff of the new world. If you plan on your first adventure being away from the house, you might consider a cat backpack as a safe spot. *Stay tuned for a future cat backpack article.* Keep an eye on kitty- they can quickly catch a rodent or eat a poisonous plant when you glance away! Try different times of day with different weather- some cats actually enjoy a stroll in a warm mist at night! Whatever you do, take time to smell the roses- because your cat sure will.