Cat Harness Instructions

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Dogs weren’t the only ones made for walking--even the most bashful of cats might prefer a leash to a carrier. And that means a harness. While collars can work, harnesses are nearly impossible for your feline friend to escape from, giving you more control over the cat while still having a spot for those crucial ID tags.

Getting a Harness

Larger retail pet stores will sell harnesses specifically designed for cats. These are usually more expensive than dog harnesses and offer less variety. So check out those in the dog section too. Usually a small dog size fits most cats, but if you have a larger feline companion, get a medium or large. If you buy a dog harness, be sure it is an 8 or H shape--so that the leash hook is between the cat's shoulder bones, keeping pressure off the neck. You can also make your own from an old belt or cord purchased from a fabric store. Measure around your cat's neck and torso to figure out how long the harness needs to be. (See the reference article, How to make a harness for your fat cat, for instructions you can adapt to your cat's size.)

Putting It On

Unless she's a young kitten, your cat probably won’t like wearing any harness (or collar) at first. In fact with some cats, you might need to start out with a collar and work your way up to the harness. When ready, put her head through, then each front leg. There is usually a small buckle near one leg you'll need to clasp to keep the harness on. When tightened, one finger should fit snugly between the harness and the cat, which ensures it's tight, but not too tight. To start out, place the harness on your cat for a few minutes at a time--gradually working up to having it on all day. Be sure to give your cat time to adjust.

Going Outside

Clip a leash on the harness and the two of you can enjoy some outside air together! You'll want to go to an area that is secure for your cat, usually meaning no other people, animals or traffic. Your cat will need time to sniff and feel safe, so you might even plan on simply sun-bathing the first few times versus walking. If your cat gets anxious or stressed (meowing loudly, having diarrhea, flattening his ears–you know how your cat acts when he isn’t happy), bring him inside and try again the next day. Eventually your cat will feel safe outside, and one day you might even find him meowing at the door begging for a walk outside.

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