Wondering how to harness train a cat? Here we discuss how to harness train and get your cat comfortable with a harness. Read on.
Harness Training for Cats
- You need a bag of your cat’s favorite treats. A helping hand is also preferred.
- Introduce the harness in the room
- Encourage the cat to investigate and interact with the harness by using treats
- Approach the harness loop to the cat’s head
- Slowly get them used to the full harness
- Let them move around with the harness to be comfortable wearing it
Introduce the Harness’s Existence to Your Cat
The ultimate goal of this step is to get the cat indifferent to bringing out and moving the harness around them. This might take a couple of days and up to a week, so you’ll have to wait.
Before you even think of putting a harness on your cat, you have to introduce the harness and the leash as a friend who came in peace. To do that, you’ll put them on the ground close to your kitty.
Patience is key. If your cat is acting nervous around the harness, you should give it some time to get used to the idea of the harness presence in the room. If it’ll help to keep it a bit further away from your cat, then do it.
Once they get used to it, get the harness a bit closer to them, and remember, patience is everything in this step.
With time, you’ll notice that the cat doesn’t care about the harness’s existence. If you’re able to pick up the harness, move it around, and place it near the cat without them noticing, you’re good to go for the next step.
If the cat still gets nervous around the leash, you still have some desensitization to do.
Encourage Your Cat to Interact with the Harness
In the previous step, patience was your game plan. In this step, you want your cat to get as much interaction time with the harness as much as you can. To begin with the interaction with the harness, you need to encourage it.
Naturally, the secret to this step should be repetition and a bag full of your cat’s favorite treats.
First, you should place the harness on the ground as usual, If your fluffball goes to the harness, reward your cat with treats immediately.
However, if they go for the treats and avoid the harness, you should encourage them to investigate by getting the treats closer to the harness.
You might even place the treat on top of the harness if your cat is having a hard time getting around the harness. Remember that once they approach the harness you should toss them another treat to get them hooked.
Whether your cat envisaged the harness before treats or after covering it with a dozen, you need to repeat that as many times as you can. You should also take away the harness and the treats for an hour or two, and bring it back out again.
This will create a good impression of the harness in your cat’s mind, as it’ll immediately remind them of something they just love. This is exactly what we’re looking for!
It’s important to keep your cool at this step and not force the harness on your cat. You might be tempted that everything is going well. However, approaching a harness in that early stage can create a bad experience with it that you might want to start all over again.
Take your time around this step. Once your cat starts regarding the harness as a treat dispenser, you have the green light to move forward.
Approaching the Harness
This step marks the first physical introduction of the harness to your cat as a harness. However, your main target here is to get your cat to put on the neck part themselves when you hold up the harness.
This step is tricky but actionable, and you don’t need anything more than what you needed in the last step. You should perform this step carefully and pace it according to your cat’s comfort level.
Before you start this step, make sure that all the straps on the harness are as loose as they can be. There’s no fitting in this step yet. This allows for a nice and wide room for your cat to get around the harness without making it nervous.
Hold the harness up at the height level of your cat’s heat so that the neck part is open. As usual, your cat expects rewarding when they sniff or touch the harness. Make sure they keep the same idea while the harness is held up.
If you face any trouble holding up the harness while treating your cat, you can always use a helping hand on that.
It shouldn’t take long until they’re used to the new position. At that point, you need to introduce the new treating system. They get treats if they get their head near the neck part opening.
Simply stop tossing it treats for every touch, and focus the treats on when your cat gets their head near the right spot. You can also wait until it centers its head properly in front of the loop, and poke its nose through it.
If the cat responds by getting its head through the opening without having a treat, that’s awesome. However, if it’s still avoiding the loop, using a treat to get its head through shouldn’t be a difficult task at this point.
Similar to the last steps, this one needs a huge deal of patience and repetition. Additionally, you won’t be throwing treats around forever. This means that you need to start phasing out any treat luring up to this point gradually.
To do this, your cat is supposed to be sticking its head through the harness waiting for the treat. Your end goal here is to be able to let go of the harness’s loop so it’s resting around your cat’s neck.
If they’re impatient about keeping the loop on, gradually use the food lure to build up waiting time. If the cat keeps the harness’s loop on their neck patiently until you treat it, you’re good to go!
Tightening the straps
Now that you’ve passed the loose approaching stage, it’s time to buckle up!
You’ll need more than two hands to toss the treats while getting your cat comfortable through connecting the buckle. This means that a helping hand is highly appreciated in this step.
Depending on the previous step, you’ll find that some cats are indifferent towards buckling the belly straps if the harness. They’ll accept that step fairly easier than usual. However, other cats will have a hard time adjusting to this.
They won’t accept clipping the buckles or adjusting the straps that easy. If your cat is one of them, then you’ve got some additional work in the previous step.
When your cat has the harness loop resting on its neck, you should give them more treats while gently adjusting the sides of the harness. You can also clip the buckles away from their body so they get used to the clicking sound of the buckles.
One they’re comfortable enough to let you manipulate the harness and clip the buckles, you’re done with the desensitization process. You then should work your way up to be able to move them around slowly and in different directions against your cat.
Remember to keep the flow of rewarding treats to encourage the cat through this important section. If at any point the cat starts to get uncomfortable, take a break and return back a few levels and work up slowly to the comfort level again.
Once your cat is fine with getting all the straps tightened and connected, reward them and prepare for the next step. If your cat needs more time or rewards, it’s important to give them what they need.
Moving around with the Harness
Now that your cat is inside the harness, you should let them get used to it one their body. The more comfortable they get, you tighter you should make it until it’s snug fit.
All that should be done indoors. Start putting the harness on for short amounts of time every day.
The cat should be perfectly fine with having the harness buckled without being uncomfortable. Once you’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to transfer the training ground outdoors.
Make sure that you bring the treat bag along. Encourage your cat to be more comfortable with the leash on by petting and letting them drag it around.
Slowly build a comfort zone where the cat is fine with you holding the leash. Once your cat is fine with this idea. Reward it by more treats and taking them out on short walks.
It’s highly essential to make wearing the harness remembered as a fun time. Slowly work your way up until your cat forgets that it’s wearing one. However, you should always keep an eye on your cat while in harness training.
If they get stuck, this might reset their whole idea about the harness. We don’t want that.
Getting along with the leash is a whole different story. However, it has a lot in common with desensitization and the gradual build-up you’ve learned in this article.