Why do cats act weird when you put a harness on them?

Yes, many kitties can be trained to leash walking. Just like any pet, cats also need gentle instructions to do something that is foreign to them. You may probably hear some cat owners saying they’ve tried walking jackets or harnesses and their cats do not like them.

Why cat won’t let me put a harness on

Cats who haven’t experienced anything on their backs would usually act as if they have been caught by their predator. Because of that, they act weird like freeze, flatten, or fight back. Luckily, gentle training can help overcome this response. 

The cat will act weird because it is not natural for them to wear a harness. You can make your cat feel sage about the harness by introducing it in the right way. Find out how on this page.

How to introduce a harness to your cat 

  • Every cat will have her or his own unique reactions to cat harness training. Therefore, feel free to modify the steps we’ll list below to fit the specific response of your cat. 
  • Don’t push your cat too fast. Allow your cat to let you know when he is ready for the next least walk training by relaxing and simply enjoying the process. Make sure to keep the process positive and always have treats ready. 
  • Let your cat get familiarized with leash and harness by placing them beside his sleeping spot for a few days. The leash and straps can also be dragged so he can play with it, making it an exciting activity when he gets used to having them around. 
  • Once your cat is already familiar with his harness, you can slowly place it on your cat’s back for a short time and then remove. Repeat this process, adding a few more seconds each time you place it on his back, until he is comfortable with it.  
  • Next, slowly close the collar around your cat’s neck for a few seconds while giving him his favorite treat, and then remove. You should repeat this step too, adding a few seconds each time. Once your cat is already comfortable with the collar around his neck, slowly close the clasp of the torso and then repeat. Make sure to give him treats and praises each time. 
  • Once he’s already comfortable wearing his harness, bring out a toy that he loves the most and have interactive playtime with him while wearing it. It will get your cat used to the harness while having fun with you. 
  • If your furry feline acts uncomfortable or afraid, reassure him that he’s safe and take his harness off. You can try it again on him later if he’s already more relaxed. Forcing your cat will only give him bad associations with cat harness training.   

Common questions about walking your cat 

How can I train my cat to walk outside? 

At first, consider walking your cat around the house until he’s moving normally with the harness on. Introducing your cat outdoors is a different step and must be done slowly. Make sure to choose a quiet and safe location to start just like an enclosed deck or yard. If your cat has never been outside the house, you will need to get your feline companion comfortable with the outdoor first. 

What to do if my cat is not comfortable outside? 

To begin training your cat to be familiar outside, pick him up and then take him outside. This can train him to not dash out on the door by himself. Once he’s outside, you can be able to encourage more movement with his favorite treats. If your cat gets frightened, put him back inside the house right away. Never let your cat pull back on his harness to try to escape from it. 

What is the best position when leash walking my cat? 

The most ideal position for you to stand or while walking is behind him or to the side. You can guide your cat with gentle pressure sideways on the leash. Do not let your cat get too far away most especially if there’s dense bush around. It’s not safe to let your leashed cat climb trees as well. 


When training your cat to walk outside in a harness, always bear in mind that cats tend to respond more on positive reinforcement training. This “positive reinforcement training” is done the moment you reward your feline companion for displaying a positive behavior during the process. When harness training your cat, giving him treats from time to time while he’s wearing the harness is a good idea. 

As a cat parent, you should understand what rewards or treats your cat responds to. These may be toys, praise, pats, games, food treats, etc. These are the rewards you should use in order to encourage your cat to wear his harness and leash. Also, always remember that if your cat gets away, don’t try to chase after him. Instead, sit on the ground, grab some treats to offer and call him. You should stay calm and entice him to come to you without trying to force him.

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