Whether it’s on walks with Moss or online on Instagram, people are always curious about how we harness trained our kitten. We’ve all seen the viral videos of cats and kitten’s who refuse to walk or even stand up in a harness and whilst they are very funny, I feel for you if that’s the situation you are facing whilst attempting to harness train your cat. I hope that this blog post can give some helpful tips on how to keep your cat happy whilst wearing a harness!
We adopted Moss when she was 6 weeks old and aimed to make her first few weeks as stress-free as possible. We picked her up in a regular cat carrier and she was absolutely fine with the car journey. As stated in my previous post, we had decided prior to adopting Moss that we would harness, lead and backpack train her and would start this from a young age. After 2 weeks of living with us we decided that Moss trusted us and seemed comfortable enough to begin the training. To start with we would put her harness on her once a day for a maximum time of 10 minutes and let her explore as normal without the lead or any special attention. At first she did seem to wobble as she was so tiny that the harness looked rather bulky even on the smallest measurements. After a week of this, again when Moss seemed comfortable, we started to attach the lead to the harness and let it follow behind her on the floor around the house. Overall, she was doing great inside and we started holding the lead. Importantly, she was deciding where and when to walk, we were careful not to pull her but to redirect with verbal praise and treats.
At this stage, Moss would accompany us on short walks (up to 30 minutes) being held in Megan’s arms or inside of her jacket whilst wearing the harness and lead. We were yet to find a backpack we found suitable and Moss’ vaccines were slightly postponed due to COVID-19 measures in the UK. Again, she seemed curious of being outside and did not show any fear of strangers, dogs or cars whilst being held into Megan’s chest.
Her first time walking outside was on a secluded dock during one of our walks where she explored for around 15 minutes. This time would be extended every walk, over a period of weeks and months, however, we always keep the option of the backpack and myself and Megan available. Moss knows that she can jump up onto us or into her backpack if she ever feels threatened, scared or just lazy! I wish I could have a backpack ride sometimes!
Important Points to Remember
It is important that you remain calm whilst training your cat as you want it to be a fun and stress-free experience and environment for them. To do this, make sure you provide short sessions and keep it engaging for you and your pet by using verbal praise and their favourite treats. Remember that attempting to drag or forcefully move your cat on a lead will make the experience less enjoyable and does not reinforce positive behaviour. Walking on a lead should be their decision. It is clear to us that Moss loves being outside with us but for some cats it may not be suitable.
2. Ensure the harness fits correctly
Moss’ harness was large on her as a kitten and we were careful not to take her outside until it fit more snug and comfortably. Make sure that you feel that the harness is suitable for your cat, this may take a few different attempts with different styles of cat harnesses. As Moss began to grow we picked up a new mesh-front style harness instead of the classic ‘H shape’. We were excited to try it out as Moss does sometimes pull on the lead, when we aren’t going fast enough, and we thought the larger surface area of the mesh harness would eliminate the chance of hurting her chest. Moss is quite a small cat and the harness was too big behind her head and could not be adjusted. We didn’t see this as a problem at first, as she always walked ahead of us and we would never pull the lead over her head. One day on our walk I bent down to pick Moss up as she seemed spooked (this happens fairly often, perhaps due to the presence of strangers, animals, cars or strong winds). Instead of allowing me to hold her, she bolted causing me to drop the lead which chased behind her. The whole situation occurred so suddenly and the next thing we knew she was around 14ft up a tree, her harness and lead tangled in a nearby bush. Luckily, we were near to a local cider factory and they provided us with a ladder which allowed Moss to jump into her backpack. It was a scary experience and we will never use anything other than a fully adjustable ‘H shape’ harness (as pictured above) again. It may also be worth attaching an ID tag to your cat’s harness or collar as an extra precaution.
3. Remember why you want to take your cat outside
Taking your cat outside with you helps to keep your cat safe from getting lost or injured outside in busy areas whilst also providing protection to local wildlife. It also provides an experience for both you and your pet and can help to provide enrichment and strengthen your bond together. We’ve found many new walking trails which we would never have explored without Moss. She prefers trail paths in comparison to open spaces and has walked entire routes with us for over 2 hours.
4. It’s ok to make mistakes
For many people, walking their cat is a new experience that is slowly gaining popularity worldwide. Like us, you may never have owned a cat before and it is important to remember that it probably won’t go perfectly the first time you try harness and lead train them. The key is to keep trying, remember these keys points and most importantly, enjoy your time spent with your furriend.
Thanks for reading our second blog post, if you’d like to help us improve then you can let us know what you think over at our Instagram!
Beth, Megan and Moss x