Pet owners, like those who have dogs do not think twice about walking them with on a leash and a harness. For cats, it’s a little bit of a different story. It is not that cats can’t use harnesses and leashes.
It is just that cats are not very welcoming to the idea so much. This leaves you no choice but to have a little more patience when you try to put your cat in a harness.
The most important thing to remember is to give them a harness that will give them comfort.
Measure A Cat For A Harness
Allowing the cat to explore the outside world with less supervision can sometimes be terrifying for fur-parents. The risk of feline running away or getting attacked by another animal are just two of the many reasons that even I share with other cat-owners.
I have to admit, I had hesitations about letting my cat go outside even when I’m there to supervise. Cats are quick and they can squirm and wiggle from you no matter how safely you try to hold them. I thought so long and hard about getting them on a leash.
When I finally did, I realized it wasn’t as simple as putting the dog on a leash. There were preparations and pieces of training. One of which is measuring your cat for the harness.
Deciding on Size for Your Cat's Harness
When you’ve finally decided to go for a harness for your cat so you can take them on a walk outside, it is vital that you get the correct size of the cat to prevent uneasiness for them in wearing such.
In order to do that, you can start by having a flexible fabric measuring tape. If you don’t have one, you can sort to any normal string that you can hold up against a wooden or metal ruler to measure later.
Cats have certain parts of their body that they are not really comfortable to be brushed or touched. They are not so fond of being in a harness nor being measured for such or any clothing.
So, to start measuring them, you want to begin by distracting them with something interesting. For instance, entice them with food. You can go with delicious cat treats or wet food. Strategically place the food where you can position your cat for easier access to their body as you measure them down.
There are two spots that you would want to take the measurements of for harnesses. The first is around the neck where your cat’s collar is. The second point is behind your cat’s front legs.
With your cat standing (preferably), have the tape measure ready. You will want to run the tape measure around the girth area. Measure the whole girth, either by cm or in. Hold the measuring tape with just the right tightness enough for your cat to still be able to breathe and move easily.
For the front measurement, run the measuring tape from your cat’s shoulder blades, around the fore of their breast bone, and back again.
The back measurement should be as easy as getting the front measurement. Again, you will run the measuring tape from your cat’s shoulder blades, around the back of their legs, and then back again.
Measuring Cat for Harness Tip
Make sure that the tape measure passes snugly just behind their elbows.
Once you get the measurement, add a couple of points more to get the right size. For instance, if by running the measuring tape tightly around your cat gives you a measurement of 16 inches, you will want to add 2 more inches. That makes the size 18 inches. 18 inches is the size you will want to get for the harness.
Measurements also depend on the harness manufacturer’s specifications. So, take for example a harness that asks for the sizes of chest, stomach, and neck. Make sure to note down all of those measurements to guarantee an appropriate fit.
You always want to make sure they are snug fit so that your cat won’t be able to easily escape. Even if you have not witnessed your cat being an escape artist the whole time you have been together, trust me, you should prepare for when they release the inner Houdini in them.
As a general rule, a good fit is that of which would allow you to put a finger in between the harness and your cat. The feline should not have any challenges in breathing or walking. To put it simply, it should be a snug fit.
This is especially helpful particularly by the time you start getting them used to be in a harness. Cats will sure want to explore as you walk, however, there will be a few things during the walk that may cause them to panic. When they panic, they become wriggly. That is what you need to prepare for. A harness that is tight enough to prevent escape.
A bit of good advice is to look for a harness that is adjustable as a potential harness to purchase. Such a harness allows you to modify to ensure it is properly snug onto your cat.
Harness vs Collar
Absolutely, you should not try to walk your cat in a simple collar. Not only is it effortless for cats to slip out from a collar, but walking them with a leash attached to a neck collar is really risky.
For cats, always use a harness, as collars put all pressure on a cat’s neck and throat. Thus, in case of a sudden movement, a collar may cause neck injury and chocking.
Cat Harness Styles
Choosing the best harness for your cat is an important part of making sure you are equipping them right for their simple outdoor walk or great outdoor adventure. The best harness is one that will keep your moggy safe and comfortable as he walks and moves.
Harnesses are mainly important since leashes are not recommended to be attached directly to a collar. Contrary to dogs, cats’ throats are soft and they can choke easily if walked with a collar.
However, with the many harnesses the market lets us choose from, just how do you select the right one? The initial step is to understand the basic styles of harnesses in the market.
This type of harness is usually made of nylon. They are lightweight and they tend to not restrain the cat’s movement as much as a vest type does. However, strap harnesses are easier for a cat to slip out of.
Strap harnesses have 2 types:
- H-style harness (forms letter H) – Not ideal for strong cats or cats who have inner Houdinis. On the other hand, they are a good choice for compliant and tame cats that require a lightweight harness.
- Figure 8 harness (forms number 8) – Ideal for cats who tries to escape a lot. Figure 8 harnesses tighten when the cat pulls forward or backward.
Strap harnesses are best for the following:
- Old cats
- Composed and tamed cats
- Trained cats
- Cats who don’t like the sound of Velcros
Vest (Holster or Jacket) Harnesses
Vest style harnesses are the most comfortable for mousers since they evenly distribute the weight and pressure to the cat’s body. They are the ideal choice for strong cats because they are reliable and guarded. Vest style harnesses also do not have pinch points as strap styled harnesses do.
This type of harness consists mostly of fabric that feels comfortable against the cat’s skin. While they are not 100% escape-proof, cats will take a little bit more time and effort to do so.
On the contrary, vest harnesses have more of the materials restrict the cat’s movement. This sometimes makes the cats feel uncomfortable and restricted.
Vest harnesses are best for:
- Young cats
- Squeamish, and queasy cats
- Rescue cats
- Cats who have a history of abuse
Putting On The Cat Harness
Considering you found your cat the right harness with the right measurements, you are now a step closer to walking your cat outdoors. At first, the sight of the harness may bring confusion to the cat, but once you and the cat get the hang of it, it will be relatively easy to put on and use.
Having things strapped to the cat’s body makes them feel restrained. This results in funny reactions like falling over or even acting dead. Your first step is to get your cat comfortable with the harness before you even go further.
Putting the harness on to the cat may cause a little reluctance from them. They may run away, squirm their way out or even scratch. Scratching may not be so much of a problem if their nails are regularly trimmed.
But, some cats are also not fond of trimming nails. Thus, some cat owners refer to cat nail caps. Cat nail caps are designed to minimize damages inflicted by the cat’s sharp claws either to you or your furniture.
They are tiny plastic covers that you can glue over your cat’s nails. Cat nail caps are safe to use. You just have to know the right size for your cat. For 6-month-old cats or those that are approximately 6-8 pounds, small-sized nail cap is what you need. The medium size is for 9-13 pound cats and large is for 14 pounds and up.
Note that nail caps should be removed before going outside as it will just make it difficult for the cat to walk on rough edges. Also, one purpose of walking outside is to naturally trim the cat’s nails by getting it against the outside rough surfaces.
More Tips To Putting On The Cat Harness
Now, going back to harness..
If you can effortlessly fasten the harness, do so. If not, you may start without buckling the harness and then work your way up.
Do not leave the cat’s harness on when unnecessary. You would not want them to get caught on something and get stuck. Put the harness on your cat for short periods of time. This will not just get them used to wear it, but it will also let them accustomed to having it put on and taken off.
In any case, your cat flips over or shows irritability towards the harness, get their attention by being affectionate, offering treats, pausing and playing for a while. You may also try to put it during feeding time. That way, the cat is distracted with the food and won’t notice as much that you are trying to put them on a harness.
Training Your Cat to Get Used to The Leash
Once you have made your cat comfortable with the harness, the next step is to train them to get used to the leash. You can begin by attaching the leash to the harness and just letting your cat drag it along. After a while, you can hold it while following your cat around closely.
As you are just starting out with leash training, try as much to not lead your cat, rather let your cat lead you. Over time, you can start making gentle tugs to get their attention in moving into the direction you want.
Encourage them to head in the way you want them to go to with the help of toys or treats. A toy with a long stick is very helpful.
Difference Between Cat and Dog Harness
One last thing to remember before picking up a harness for your cat is to have a clear understanding of the difference between a dog’s leash and a cat’s harness.
As we have mentioned, never use a collar and a leash to a cat. Cats pull against the collar to try to get to where they want to go. They may do that so hard that it will result in injury for them.
Rather, go for a specially designed body harnesses that fit over the neck and the middle of the body. This leaves the pressure from tugging and pulling transferred to the middle part of the body than the neck.