Guide to Harness Training a Cat Pt. 2
Updated: Feb 5
Welcome to Harness Training Part 2 - If you have successfully completed Part 1 of Harness Training and your cat is now totally comfy wearing/running around in one, you are officially ready for Part 2: The Great Outdoors. Maybe you want to give your cat a teensy bit more freedom to play outside (while being supervised of course) or maybe you want to take your cat on that weekend camping trip. Either way, we’ll start with the baby steps so you and your cat can feel totally comfortable.
**Disclaimer: you may stumble upon affiliate links within some of the posts. If you're not familiar with affiliate links, they're a way for me to make a commission when you click on a link or make a purchase. Don't worry, this comes at no cost to you - it's simply a way to keep this blog up and running. I would never include links to products that I wouldn't support.**
If you purchased the PetSafe Harness & Leash as I recommended in the previous post, you already know that it comes with a bungee-type leash included. Although this is a nice thought, it is pretty much useless if you have a cat that weighs more than five pounds. With a bungee leash you have little to no control over where your cat wanders, not to mention it’s very short - only 2 or 3 feet. After trying to use it for a couple of weeks, I quickly opted out and decided to look online for a leash that allowed more control over weight and distance.
After some research, I bought the FLEXI Small Retractable Leash. It’s fairly cheap, lightweight, and allows your cat to roam up to 16 feet at your discretion. I used it for Seely on all of our trips and more recently, I purchased two more leashes for our other soon-to-be-adventurer cats.
Some advice is to slowly introduce your cat to the leash - clip it on while your cat is still indoors and let him get used to before taking him outside and inducing panic. Everything you teach your cat will have to be introduced slowly, since most cats don't appreciate changes and will let you know as often as they can.
If you already have experience with harness training and have a well-seasoned cat, you may want to try upgrading to something a little more secure for long trips or more time spent outdoors. We would eventually like to travel full-time while doing a lot of camping and hiking, so we needed to acquire a more secure harness. This took quite a bit of trial and error, as our three cats are all different in size and shape.
The Rabbitgoo Cat Harness & Leash has a funny name, but is our favorite so far and none of our cats have managed to escape yet. The only downside I've noticed is the reason it’s so secure is because it has an adjustable collar that can be kind of a pain when putting it on or removing it. Like I said, no harness is perfect, but I still love this one and it makes me feel better knowing our cats are more secure.
So now we have some (semi) well-behaved harness trained cats and retractable leashes for a bit more control - all we need now is to introduce them to the great outdoors. Kind of like a mama bird pushing her baby out of the nest, it’s time to pick up your kitty and take him outside.
While my cat Seely has always had a taste for the outdoors, my other two were less than enthusiastic and tried to retreat almost immediately. Like I said, baby steps - if your cat tries to retreat, let him. You want to make your cat feel safe and “in control” so if possible, sit with the door open and let him explore when he feels ready. Some cats will dart out right away, while others may take a bit more time to explore with confidence. Soon enough, your cat will be begging to go outside for walks in his harness.
Once your cat is comfortable and confident outdoors, you have successfully harness trained your cat - congrats! Now you can let your cat experience nature in a way that's safe for him (and those wild birds) and you can totally take him on that weekend camping trip you planned. Just remember - always keep an eye on your furry companion and make sure they are safe, secure, and comfortable.
I hope you found this guide useful! ICYMI I wrote a post with 6 Tips for Traveling with Cats for those long car rides and don't miss the 7 Essentials Every Traveling Cat Needs. If you have any questions feel free to drop them in the comments below and I'll be happy to answer!