How to Harness Train Your Cat


As the warmer weather approaches, leash walks don’t have to be just for Rover.  With a little time, encouragement and patience, both you and your feline family member can spend more time in the fresh air and sunshine…on a leash walk!

First, there are a few things you will need…


The harness should be snug but not too tight – you should be able to fit one or two fingers between the harness and the cat.  Ensure that the harness for this purpose is not a ‘break-away” model, as this type may release should too much force be put on it by your cat.


Use a shorter leash – no more than six feet.  This will help you maintain control of your pet.  Retractable leashes should be avoided so as to ensure your cat does not get to close to traffic or other animals.


It’s best to use your cat’s favourite treats for the best results.  And, if possible, use these treats for leash training exclusively, at least until she has it mastered. If treats aren’t her thing, try a wand toy.

Now let’s get started!

As noted above, patience is crucial to your success. Don’t rush! Rushing can lead to your cat developing a negative association with the harness or leash. Also, don’t expect your cat to walk on a leash the same way a dog would…your cat will not likely want to go too far from home.

Here are four steps to harness train your cat:

  1. Start with the harness

Don’t worry about the leash for now. Just focus on getting your cat comfortable with the harness. Start by putting your hand through the ‘head-hole’ loop of the harness and feed your cat a treat. Continue to feed treats like this, but reduce how far your hand goes through the loop each time.

Eventually, offer treats behind the loop until your cat puts their head through it to access the treat. Once your cat is clearly comfortable with the harness against their chest and neck, clip the straps and feed more treats.  Remember – patience!  Some cats will accept the harness readily, others not so much.

  1. Practice walking inside

Entice the cat to walk forward by offering a treat a short distance in front of them. Keep the treat steady as they approach. It is important that you do not move the treat forward until they have finished it. Once they finish eating, offer another treat further away. For cats that are not food motivated, a toy can be used instead. Continue until your cat walks around your home comfortably.

  1. Now comes the leash

Don’t go outside just yet. But now that you two have the hang of the whole harness thing, you can attach the leash and repeat step 2 a couple more times.

  1. Explore outside!

Beyond that door is a vast world you and your kitty can explore. But don’t overdo it. The outdoors can be overwhelming for cats at first. Be mindful of outdoor surroundings that can potentially pose a risk for your cat – such as wildlife or dogs.  Initially try your enclosed yard or just the front of the house for now.

Start with short trips, avoid busy areas, and be sure to offer lots of treats/toys to keep the experience fun. If you live in an apartment, start by taking them for walks in the hallway. After a few visits to the hallway and stairs, you can take them outside to a quiet spot. Slowly increase the duration of your trips, but don’t proceed if your cat is showing signs of fear, anxiety, and stress. Stress signs may include a tense posture, large pupils or flattened ears.

Even if you just stick to the confines of your yard, with a little time and patience, you and your cat can experience a whole new world – together!