Updated: Mar 10
Let's start at the very beginning! Being a successful adventure-outdoor cat starts with the harness and leash. Outside can be a dangerous place for a cat but, there are ways to be safe about it, and using a harness and leash is a good start. I'm going to share my experience with training, review the different harnesses I've tried, and offer any tips that I can!
Disclaimer: I lived on a 30-acre ranch in Texas and had the freedom to roam outside. I was comfortable with being outside with total freedom and so, transitioning to the harness was a bit odd initially. While some cats are quick to wear the harness, they may be hesitant to step outside. Others don't like the harness but are comfortable outside. Every cat is different so the approach to training has to be different for each cat. Good luck!
I first began to harness train on December 15, 2020, when I was just a little over a year old. My human thought it would be a good idea to get me comfortable on a harness in the case of visiting the vet or other short day trips (she didn't intend for me to become an Adventure cat). She purchased a Whisker City Cat Harness from PetSmart and we tried it on at home. I actually acclimated fairly quickly (with the help of treats!) and was walking around the house with the leash and harness within the hour.
The thin straps allowed me to move without any trouble! I did not feel hindered and moved with total freedom.
Very lightweight that let me move and jump around.
The design made it confusing to put on. The straps were removable from the main harness and made it tricky because we had to essentially put the harness back together every time.
*Does not apply to all* Being a jet-black cat with a black harness made it appear that I wasn't wearing a harness. This could cause trouble in places where I'm required to wear a harness or if other people need to see that I am in a safety harness.
The second harness I tried was a GAUTERF harness, purchased on Amazon. It had reflective strips, was much easier to slip on, and had more color options! My human ordered a size small (chest 10" - 12") which ended up being too small. I was very uncomfortable and didn't have a normal range of motion. In the end, we returned this harness really quickly for a few reasons we'll list out below in our pros and cons list.
Easy to slip on (lay harness on the floor, place paws in holes, lift vest, and strap)
One single piece doesn't disassemble into pieces.
Too bulky and uncomfortable. Didn't allow for a normal range of motion.
The material was heavy and not breathable.
This harness might have worked out if I had sized up. But my vet recommend something where the arms were freer for more flexibility.
My current cat harness is a Rabbitgoo harness from Amazon. This one also came with a variety of colors, reflective strips, easy slip-over-the-head, and a clip around the body. I love that it gives me a really flexible range of motion (I move around freely and have even climbed a few trees with it on) There is a metal leash ring that allows for easy leash clipping. My human ordered a size small that has worked really well!
Very flexible range of motion
Plenty of color options
Easy to slip on (slip over the head, clip around the body)
One single piece doesn't disassemble into multiple pieces
Machine-washable (the others might've been washable also, I just didn't have a chance to wash them)
I have gotten out of it ONCE since having purchased it in June 2021, but my human wasn't attentively watching, usually, she keeps me from fighting with the harness.
Overall, this harness has worked REALLY well, it's very stylish, and offers everything I'm wanting in a harness!
Finally - once you have your harness and leash, take baby steps as you expose your feline friend to the harness!
Leave the harness out in a space where your feline friend can sniff it, bite it, check it out.
Slip the harness on, snap it in place, loosely. Let your feline friend walk around with it on, indoors.
Tighten the straps and add the leash. Let the leash drag around behind your feline friend as they walk around the house.
Holding the leash in hand, follow your feline friend around inside, making sure there is plenty of slack in the line.
Repeat step 4 in a quiet, safe, outdoor environment. Try to find a peaceful spot, like a backyard or nearby park without traffic noise or foot traffic.
Soon, your feline friend will become more comfortable with the harness. Little by little you can expose them to other outdoor environments, such as a lite hike, a quick camping trip, a kayaking excursion, and so much more! Remember: "Curiosity didn't kill the cat on the leash!"