Updated: Mar 10
Harnesses: the “walking shoes” for your adventurecat
When choosing a harness for your cat, think of it as if you were looking for a good pair of walking shoes for yourself.
🥾 Why shoes?
They are essential to going outside and they can significantly affect how you feel about walking somewhere.
You need to find the correct size for you, and that might vary slightly depending on the brand.
There is no one type of universally “perfect” walking shoe. It all depends on what makes YOU feel most comfortable and enables YOU to walk confidently, without having to worry about the shoes falling off your feet, causing you pain, or injuries.
An identical pair of walking shoes that your friend with the same shoe size swears by, might still cause you agony, make you miserable, and ultimately put you off walking altogether.
All this is equally true for most cat harnesses!
2. No escape-proof harnesses? – Yes, but some harnesses are safer than others.
You may have already come across the saying, “no harness is escape-proof” (even if the manufacturer makes claims to the contrary). This is why it is essential to take precautionary measures, such as:
microchipping your cat and making sure your details are up to date
have your cat wear a collar with an ID tag that includes at least your phone number
potentially have your cat wear some kind of tracking device
work as much as you can on basics, such as building up trust with your cat and recall training
However, I find that, while no harness might be 100% escape-proof, there are significant variations in the levels of security that different types of harnesses provide, both in general and for different individual cats.
For me, the crucial question is:
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT FOR MY CAT TO ESCAPE THIS HARNESS?
From my experience, harness-escapes usually occur when something unexpected happens, and I am sure we can all agree that a cat’s reactions are a lot faster than a human’s. If all your cat needs to do is walk backwards, squeeze their shoulders, and slip out of their harness from one second to the next, then this is either not the right harness for your cat, or you have fitted it incorrectly. Even if your cat has lots of adventuring experience, and is usually great at recall, if they get spooked enough, it's likely their primal flight instinct will override all of this. It is important to me, therefore, that I can trust a harness to hold my struggling cat at least long enough so that I can react to the situation and do whatever needs to be done to counteract an escape (e.g., make sure there is some slack in the leash, and/or get to my cat, pick them up, and ideally put them in a carrier). All this might just be a matter of seconds, but having a harness that’s secure enough to hold your panicked cat for those few seconds at the very least, can make all the difference between having a safe cat, and having a lost cat.
3. How to find the right harness for your cat
Some general tips:
Avoid the very cheap run-of-mill pet store harnesses; they are likely bad quality and not safe at all.
Look for harnesses that have been created specifically for cats. (Avoid dog harnesses!)
If your cat is still growing, you might want to wait before investing in an expensive harness, unless it has a wide adjustment range.
When measuring your cat, check if there are specific measuring guidelines on the website that you want to order the harness from, and follow those. If unsure about the size, try to get in contact with the business and ask what they recommend.
Whenever you are fitting or adjusting a cat’s harness, make sure to do so while your cat is standing.
Generally, the rule of thumb is to make sure that you can only slip one finger under the harness (when the cat is standing), and that’s supposed to be a sign that the harness is tight enough. – To be honest, though, I’ve never quite understood how to do this right. I mean, Percy is super squishy... Basically, make sure it's tight but doesn't cause your cat discomfort. You might want to try out different settings indoors over the course of a few brief sessions so as not to irritate your cat too much by fiddling around all the time.
If you are using a harness that's still fairly new, it's good practice to take a second harness along as backup (if you have one). Obviously, avoid using a new harness for big adventures until you've used it at least a few times in a safer outdoor setting.
If despite your best efforts, your cat keeps being reluctant to put on their harness and go outside, it’s a good idea to try out using a different style of harness and see if this makes a difference. It might not, and the issue might be something else entirely, but you won’t know until you’ve tried.
Disclaimer: The following reviews are based on my experience with Percy only! A “negative” review therefore only means that it does not work for Percy, and I always try to explain why. It is, therefore, not meant to reflect badly on the specific brand/company in general. No reviews are sponsored.
“SurferCat Harness” by SurferCatMav
- Percy’s all-time favorite go-to harness!
The SurferCat harness is a simple but well-made H-style harness, created by the wonderful Kayla, pawrent of the famous “SurferCat” Maverick @sufercatmav. This has been our go-to harness for over six months now, and both Percy and I are very happy with it. (We have a growing collection of 10+ SurferCat harnesses for every occasion!)
I trust that it is one of the safest harnesses out there (- provided it is fitted tight and correctly - especially the chest strap - as with every harness!!). Despite having gone through several scenarios that made me worry that Percy might escape, so far, he has never managed to get out of it.
It is easy and quick to put on and take off: One clip for the neck strap, and one for the chest strap, and that’s it.
Percy clearly considers it the most comfortable harness. It is minimal and does not inhibit his movements, thereby helping him to feel more confident than in a more encumbering harness. - For more info on how cat harnesses can influence your cat's confidence, and why the SurferCat harness has been designed the way it is, watch this short video by @surfercatmav.
This harness is likely to be easier for most cats to get used to than most other harness types. Percy needed no time at all to adjust to it.
It is extremely adjustable, so you do not have to worry about getting the wrong size for your cat, nor need to get a new harness when your cat’s size changes. There is only one standard size that will fit most cats. However, they do also have a separate option for XL cats, and occasionally also make customized tiny kitten harnesses upon request.
The harness comes with great instructions for how to start out getting your cat used to wearing a harness, which is especially useful if that’s your cat’s first-ever harness.
It’s great for warm weather because it won’t make your cat hot, and good for cold weather because you can easily layer a sweater or jacket on top of it (provided they have a leash-opening at the back).
It’s great for travelling and any other situation where your cat will have to wear their harness for an extended period of time.
They come in loads of amazing colors and patterns!
Hand-made and durable!
Cons (- not really that con):
Although secure, it provides less support than other styles, which can be an issue if your cat tends to pull a lot or is likely to have sudden zoomies (- both is true for Percy). Before trying it, I did worry that this style of harness might choke him or be bad for his neck in general. However, this turned out to be barely an issue. Although there are occasions when I would appreciate a harness that provides a little extra support, I find that all the substantial advantages and all-around comfort of this harness by far outweigh this very occasional draw-back, and Percy seems to agree. Moreover, the SurferCat harness is designed in a way that the bit that connects the neck and chest strap can easily swivel from one side to the other. That way, the pressure gets distributed better and overall reduces the stress on the neck. - Additionally, I am also using a shock-absorbing leash attachment to minimize jerking.
At $29.99 for all but the plain styles, they are pricier than most standard commercial H-style harnesses. However, there are always offers, like “Buy 2 Get 3”, a substantial discount for all 5 of one collection, discount codes, various other offers with which you can occasionally get a free harness thrown in for certain orders, and the customer service is unbeatable!
“Walking Jacket” by SafetyKatz
- Safe and comfortable
This is a harness we use occasionally, especially for situations where I feel like having some extra support might be good. I’d say, this is Percy’s second-favorite harness, but if he’s got the choice, he’d still go for the SurferCat harness instead.
It is very safe (- if fitted correctly!!), and so far, Percy has never escaped it.
By covering greater body surface areas, it provides a good deal of support.
It is very well-made from quality materials, and is even reversible!
It does not restrict movement, because it is made out of soft fabric only, and has, like the H-style, only a neck and a chest strap.
It provides a little bit of insulation for cold weather, and you can still easily layer a sweater or jacket on top of it.
It comes in many great colors and patterns, and you have the option to add a reflective strip and embroidery.
Because both straps are velcro, you can’t adjust the tightness once your cat is wearing it (- other than by completely opening a strap again, which you might not want to do once outdoors). It’s also difficult to adjust correctly if you have a cat like Percy who won’t stand still while you’re putting the harness on.
The sound of velcro opening is something that some cats need to be gradually accustomed to. (- That was no issue with Percy though).
The velcro strips are very long, so the size is adjustable. But it’s not ideal and makes it, therefore, more important to order it in the correct size right away.
It’s not ideal for very warm weather, because it can cause your cat to get hot more easily.
The price depends on the size you order: $25 - $31 (plus extra for reflective strip and/or embroidery), and $3.50 shipping (within the US). Although more expensive than commercial harnesses, the quality and durability you get with the SafetyKatz harness likely makes up for that price difference.
“M1 Lightspeed Harness” for Cats by KiloninerPets
- Safe, versatile, and durable, but not the best for comfort
This is probably one of the most badass cat harnesses out there! We have used this harness a few times, and I’m hoping to use it again more in the future when Percy gets generally more comfortable and confident outdoors. He clearly finds it less comfortable than the harnesses described above, but it doesn’t seem to affect his movement either.
It seems very safe. Percy has never escaped it (- although, this is based on limited experience).
It provides great support! It even has a handy loop on the back, where you can hold your cat or (only in cases of emergency!) pick them up when they might be completely out of control and in danger.
Every single strap is widely adjustable.
The quality is ace – probably indestructible.
I think it would not cause your cat to become hot in very warm weather. The back-plate might even work as a great sun-shield.
You can personalize it by attaching velcro morale patches both on the back and the chest!
It comes in 5 different camo/army-style colors – including pink camo! (- definite “pro” for me, but might be “con” for some)
It's not the most comfortable harness out there, but not the worst either. (At least, in Percy’s opinion.)
Putting it on and getting all the straps adjusted correctly can be a bit of a hassle.
Although it does come in 3 different sizes and is adjustable, I guess that it would generally fit cats that are on the larger side better (e.g. Main Coons; Bengals) than more petite cats. With 11 pounds, I’d say Percy is somewhere in the middle there.
With $50 - $60 (depending on the size), it’s definitely on the expensive side. However, unless you’re attacking it with scissors, it’ll probably last you forever.
Side note: This harness is regularly worn by one of the most badass adventurecats out there, Gary from @greatgramsofgary !!
“Come With Me Kitty Harness” by PetSafe
- Cheap, comfortable, and safe with minor adjustments
This was the second harness I got for Percy, and he really liked it! It’s a Y-style harness that is almost as minimal as the H-style harness but puts less pressure on the neck.
But there is one issue: There is a little rubber ring on the back of it, that I suppose is there to stop the straps that go around the lower neck area from becoming too loose. But that ring isn’t doing its job. This wasn’t a problem as long as we were able to use the Small-size harness at the maximum adjustment. However, once I moved Percy from the Small to the Medium size, I found that those straps constantly became so loose that Percy could escape the harness with ease. I came up with a simple little trick though, which solved that issue, and made the harness work very well for us for the couple of months that we used it regularly.
Here is a link to an Instagram post about this, where I explain this trick and demonstrate in a video how I adjust the harness properly while putting it on.
Provides a good level of comfort by being minimal, which also makes it easier to get used to.
It CAN be quite safe, if fitted correctly. After I had made the adjustment (see IG link above!), Percy never escaped this harness as long as we used it.
If you are worried about the pressure that an H-style harness might put on your cat’s neck, this might be a good alternative to try out. (It’s likely less safe than an H-style harness though).
It’s great for very warm weather as it won’t make your cat hot. You can also easily layer a sweater or jacket on top of it in cold weather. (I even put it over Percy’s sweater a few times, and that worked well for us too).
At $16.95 on Amazon, it’s pretty affordable! It also comes with a 4ft bungee leash, but I’d recommend using a longer leash.
It comes in 6 colors, plus a blue glitter version for a few extra $.
It CAN be very unsafe and tricky to fit correctly. (See IG link above for how to make it safer and adjust it properly!)
Percy has a very broad chest, with a rather sharp protruding breastbone. Therefore, the strap that goes along there usually ended up stuck on either side below one of his armpits (or whatever the cat-equivalent for armpits is). He didn’t seem very bothered by it though.
It’s durable but will fray quite a bit.
“OutBound Cat Harness” by CatAbout
- Clever design and safe, but not comfortable for Percy (wrong size?)
This is a very clever but little-known harness! It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into the creation of this harness I think this harness might work great for some cats but sadly doesn’t go very well with Percy’s particular body shape. It’s possible that if I had ordered it one size up, it would work much better, but I honestly don’t know.
(Note: I just realized they have a very generous return policy. I really should have checked this sooner and tried to find out if I could try another size. – My bad!)
This MIGHT be one of the safest harnesses out there! The way that the design works means that the harder your cat pulls on it, and the more they squeeze their shoulders, the tighter the harness gets (- without hurting them), making it thereby theoretically near-impossible to escape. (I believe it, but Percy has only worn it a few times, so I can’t vouch for this.)
If it fits your cat well (which it sadly didn’t in Percy’s case), it might be very comfortable. Due to the elastic on top, it moves with your cat’s body, keeping it tight no matter what movements your cat makes, while at the same time not inhibiting their movement at all.
It’s really easy and quick to put on.
The elastic that holds it together on top serves simultaneously as a great shock absorber. (It might look flimsy but is actually quite strong).
Hand-made with quality leather!
You really need to make sure to get it in the right size for your cat! The only part that you can adjust properly is the straps that go along your cat’s shoulders. While you can of course adjust the elastic that holds it all together on top, it only works well within certain minimal adjustment settings. I would therefore not recommend it for young cats that are still growing.
Reasons it doesn’t work for Percy specifically: Percy seems to have an unusually large chest and very big shoulders. The part that goes along his chest bone is clearly too short for him and it can’t be adjusted. (Not sure if the length of that part varies by size, or whether that part remains the same). Because his shoulders are so big, the parts that go up behind his armpits don’t lie flat along his body. They also push out the flaps of skin below his armpits in a rather unflattering way. All in all, it seems to sit too low, which seems to make it a little uncomfortable and awkward for him.
At $46.95 it’s on the pricy side. But since it’s hand-made and real leather, the price makes sense of course.
“Supakit Cat Harness” by Supakit
- Great quality, but neither comfortable nor safe for Percy
Supakit is a wonderful business based in the UK, run by a great pair of adventurecat pawrents. They recently even brought out a harness-training tutorial, which you can purchase on their website. Their signature harnesses are very popular all over the world. Sadly, their harness did not work for Percy at all.
It’s a great quality harness, made out of very soft and supple leather or cork.
It’s easy and quick to put on, with only a single buckle on the back.
It’s probably very comfortable (if it fits your cat better than it fitted Percy), distributes pressure evenly, and provides great support.
It’s very stylish, and comes in 4 different pretty colors in leather, and 3 in vegan cork.
Supakit donates 2 shelter cat meals to a partner rescue for every order placed!
Not safe at all (- at least, not for Percy). The second time I took Percy out with it, he got spooked by a skateboarder, ran to the end of his leash, and just slipped out of that harness before I could even begin to try to do something about it. (Fortunately, this happened close to our home, and good-boy Percy just ran to our building entrance, where he waited for me.) Since the single buckle of this harness closes right on top of the cat’s shoulders, it doesn’t surprise me that it is really easy to back out of. Rather, it surprises me that others seem to consider it safe!
Although I seem to have ordered it in the correct size for Percy (Medium), it fitted Percy very awkwardly. I believe the issue was again his tall, broad chest, and especially his large shoulders. I tried out all sorts of different strap adjustments, but none seemed to make it comfortable for Percy.
At $68 + shipping costs, it is one of the most expensive harnesses out there!
Side note: After Percy escaped this harness, I did not try it again. However, I eventually passed it on to another adventurecat (– with some words of caution). As far as I know, it worked very well for them, and they have been using it ever since.
“Soft Kitten Vest” by Rabbitgoo
- Little Percy hated it!
That’s the first harness I ever got for Percy when he was a skinny 3-month-old.
It provides a lot of support if your kitten pulls a lot.
I guess it’s on the safer side if it fits well.
It might take a long time for your cat to get used to it.
It’s encumbering, potentially restricts movement (at least for some cats), and – based on my experience with Percy – it can seriously affect your cat’s confidence and thereby their overall experience of going outdoors.
Make sure to also check out the harness training tips and reviews of my fellow Adventure Cat Collaborative bloggers to get some different perspectives!
Percy's harness training story: Harness & Leash Training – How NOT to start off!
Follow Percy's adventures on Instagram: @percytheadventurecat