Training Cats to Walk With a Harness


Although cats are notorious for being lazy, they do require daily exercise. Depriving a cat of physical stimulation can cause many negative behaviors that are caused by pent-up energy.

Walking cats not only provides physical stimulation but also mental stimulation as they get to see and interact with many different people, animals, and objects along the way.

Leash training a cat and taking her on daily walks is a great way for cat owners to make sure that their kitties don’t have a lot of pent-up energy that will likely cause them to misbehave.

While some cats may not like the idea of walking on a leash due to their independent personalities and limitations due to health, most cats can be successfully trained to walk with a harness that is attached to a leash.

It’s important to keep training sessions short and consistent. Cats who understand how a clicker works are once again much easier to train to accept and walk on a leash.

Cat owners need plenty of patience, tasty treats, a good harness that the cat is comfortable with, and a lightweight yet strong leash that can be attached to the harness. It’s highly advised against only using a leash to walk cats.

Therefore, owners need to purchase a comfortable and lightweight cat harness that can be securely connected to a leash. Lightweight cloth or nylon harnesses are highly recommended while chains and leashes should be avoided.

Leash and Collar vs. Harness
Lightweight harnesses are highly recommended for walking cats instead of using a collar or simply using a leash. A harness attaches to a cat’s body securely. However, a cat can easily slip through a leash or a collar during walks putting her in danger.

It’s best to purchase a comfortable and lightweight harness that can be securely attached to a leash when training the cat. Step One: Introduce the Harness
Making the harness register in the cat’s memory as a positive experience is important for training a cat to walk with a harness. Leave the harness where the cat usually hangs out.

Sound the clicker and offer her a treat as soon as she sniffs or touches it. Repeat this step until the cat is comfortable touching the harness and looks at the owner after doing so anticipating a treat.

Step Two: Try the Harness On
Now that the cat has learned to associate the harness with a positive outcome, it can be easier to carefully and gently slip it on her.

It’s important only to slip it on to her without fastening it until she gets a little more used to it. Sound the clicker and offer her a treat quickly after slipping it onto her net. It will help establish that wearing the harness is a positive experience.

Putting on the harness right before feeding the cat a meal is a good way to not only distract her from the strange sensation but also register the activity as a positive experience in her mind. Repeat this step for a few days until the cat is comfortable wearing the harness and considers it to be something positive.

Once a cat is comfortable with the harness slipped onto her body, you can gradually start to try to fasten it. Sound the clicker and offer a treat as soon as the harness is fastened. Offer more rewards while using the clicker whenever the harness is adjusted until a comfortable fit is established.

A harness should only be tight enough so that the owner can slip two fingers beneath it while it’s fastened. Start leaving the harness on for a few minutes. Reward the cat for being relaxed with the harness on. It can be kept on if she seems to be comfortable in it.

If the cat shows signs of discomfort, gently offer a treat to distract her and remove the harness. This step should be repeated until the cat is comfortable wearing the harness while it’s fastened. Step Three: Attach the Leash
The cat should be comfortable wearing the harness for at least ten minutes at this point.

It’s time to start attaching the leash to the harness. Gently clip the leash to the harness followed by a click and a treat. Keep the leash loose and follow the cat with the leash on. Offer her a treat as a distraction and remove the harness and leash after a few minutes.

This step should be repeated until the cat is comfortable wearing the harness with the leash attached to it and walking with the owner following her holding a loose leash. It’s important not to tighten the leash during this step.

Step Four: Get the Cat Used to Leash Tension
This step focuses on training the cat to get used to the leash being a bit tight. Gently fasten the harness and attach the leash to it.

Leave the harness behind her and let her freely move around. Sound the clicker when the cat moves and offer a treat. Repeat this step until the cat doesn’t mind moving around with the leash freely hanging behind her. It’s important not to go outdoors during this step to avoid distractions. Furthermore, owners are advised against leaving their kitties unsupervised with the harness or leash attached.

Step Five: Start Walking the Cat Indoors
By this stage, the cat should be comfortable wearing the harness with the leash attached to it. The leash isn’t completely loose since there is some tension due to its weight. Put the harness on and attach the leash. Let the cat move around with the harness dragging behind for a few minutes. Sound the clicker and reward her. Hold the leash and start following her. Try to gently change her direction by applying a small amount of tension on the leash. Sound the clicker and offer a reward when she responds. If she doesn’t, loosen the leash and let her move around for a few minutes before trying again. Eventually, the cat should be comfortable with walking on the leash while responding well when tension is applied on the leash and when the owner wants to change direction. Step Six: Try Going Outdoors
Now, the cat is ready to slowly walk outdoors while wearing the harness. Fasten the harness onto the cat and attach the leash. Walk inside the house for a few minutes. Then, open the door and toss a treat outside to encourage her to go out.

The treat shouldn’t be tossed more than a foot away from the door. If the cat goes out to accept the treat, sound the clicker, and offer another reward. If she is hesitant do not force her to go out. Simply walk indoors for a bit and end training for the day.

Eventually, the cat will be comfortable walking on the leash outdoors. Gradually increase the amount of time they walk outside. Remember to reward her for calmly walking on the leash.

Keep training sessions short so that they end on a positive note. It helps cats take up training well. Eventually, the cat will be comfortable going on walks with its owner while on the leash.

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