As more people are becoming aware of the issues with free-roaming felines, there has been an increased interest in the idea of training cats to leash walk. However, for most cat owners, that comes with one big question – “How is it done?”
Generally, training your cat to do anything is not a common practice, and getting your cat to walk on a leash usually seems intimidating. Thus, choosing the right harness for your cat and training him to wear it every day is very important to keep him comfortable and safe when walking and participating in outdoor activities.
Introducing the harness to your cat
The most important thing you should do before you think of putting anything on your feline companion is to introduce him to the leash and harness as harmless objects. You can put them on the floor or on the couch near your cat sleeps. If your furry pal looks nervous the moment you took the harness out, for example, if he has been forced to use a harness and leash before and dislikes them, consider leaving it out until he gets used to the situation that the harness is in the room. This may mean leaving the leash and harness 10 feet away from your kitty at first, and that is totally fine.
Once your cat is already comfortable with his harness and leash being in the same room where he stays, move it a bit closer every day and wait until your cat is getting more comfortable as they get closer. Gradually work on this step for days until you can pick up his harness, move it around, as well as put it back down without your pet noticing. If your cat goes near you even if you’re holding the harness, slowly try to let him interact with it.
Let your cat adjust to the harness indoors
Cats can do strange things when they’re placed in a harness and leash for the first time. It is best to first let your cat adjust and get familiarized with the harness and leash indoors before you take him outside. Oftentimes, this step takes at least one week and maybe longer depending on how your feline companion reacts to it. Just be extra patient and let him wear his harness indoors (without a leash attached) for about one to two hours or day. It’s not advisable to let your cat wear a harness for more than 2 hours during the indoor training period. Praise your cat up and down as he gets used to how the cat harness feels on his body.
Common questions about how to make your cat wear a harness
Why does my cat act dead when wearing a harness?
You can be guaranteed that your furry pal will exhibit a “dead drop” response when he’s wearing the harness. This one’s very entertaining. After putting on the harness, your furry pal will sit still and then fall over sideways all of the sudden, or he will slowly drift on his side until he’s lying down. It is really funny to watch and you might be tempted to remove his harness so he will stop acting like that – but don’t! Just leave the harness on and have a hardy chuckle. Your cat will surely get used to it in no time.
Why is my cat choking when wearing a harness?
Most cats pretend they’re choking when wearing a harness, most especially if you put it on them the first time. Thus, your cat will do his award-winning furball gag routine in order to convince you to remove his harness. Calmly check to make sure his harness really is not too tight and if it’s fitted just right, then just leave the harness on your cat.
Is it okay to keep a harness on a cat?
Never leave your feline companion unattended with the harness on for a long time. If the harness gets caught on something and your cat freaks out, it is not only dangerous but it can also erase all your cat’s positive association with the harness. This means all the hard work you’ve established will be gone.
Expect strange behaviors coming from your cat when you put the harness on for the first time. Initially, most cats do not like feeling the harness on their body, so you may want to distract your furry feline in some other fun activities while he’s on a harness. You can let him wear a harness during feeding time or have him wear it while giving him a tasty treat or playing a favorite game. Add extra more minutes to these sessions to make him wear the harness longer. Once your cat is already comfortable wearing the harness for 10 minutes or more and he’s acting fine, then you can slowly add a leash.