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How do I harness train my cat?

 

Before you start…

You’ve decided you want to let your kitty feel the fresh air in their fur, but it’s too dangerous to let them out on their own and you don’t have a garden or it’s too impractical to cat proof it… the solution? Harness train your fur baby and take them for a walk! Or – more realistically – let them take you for a walk!

 

If you decide to do this, and you live near any other humans, be mindful that you will get stared at! :shock: People will think you are some kind of nutcase, so one of the things you need to have in preparation for this is a thick skin! :D

 

Choosing your equipment

After you’ve decided you don’t mind being laughed and/or stared at, the next thing you need to consider is the type of harness or jacket you wish to buy and the type of leash too.

 

Harnesses come in two basic types: Straps and Jackets. As long as you buy good quality products, both are fine to use, it really comes down to personal preference. We actually have both, as modelled by our very own Lula :) We find the jacket is quite a bit easier to get on than the straps, and also if you have more than one cat sharing the jacket, you can adjust the size easily using the velcro; with a strappy one, it’s a lot more fiddly to adjust the sizing. You can find jackets for sale on our store here.

 

Snow Bengal Cat
Lula in her pretty harness jacket – this was handmade by Butterfly Cat Jackets

 

Snow Bengal cat
Strappy harness

 

Whichever type of harness you use, make sure it is secured sufficiently so there’s no room for your kitty to wriggle out, but don’t make it so tight that they can’t breathe! Make sure you can fit two fingers between the jacket or the straps and your kitty.

 

Leashes: again the type of leash is down to personal preference – you can get both fixed and extendable leashes. We have a small extendable dog leash which gives our kitties a bit of freedom should they find a nice smell to follow ;)

 

Now for the good bit!

You’ve bought your equipment, you bring it home, you manage to get it on your kitty with only light-medium scratch marks (don’t worry – the scars will fade in time!)…. you open the door ready to greet the world when …. nothing!!! Your kitty is laying on the floor, and all of a sudden has gone from graceful feline to a lump of rock! Moreover, a lump of rock that just will not budge, no matter how much you try to show them how nice the fresh air is! Eeek! What now?

 

Patience is the key…. Some kitties may take to their harness and leash straight away, many will not. Most should do with a lot of time and patience though! :)

 

Start off with small steps. Indoors. Put the harness or jacket on them and give them a treat or two. Leave it on for only a few minutes. Repeat a few times during the day and for the following days, leaving it on for a bit longer each time. Play with your kitty’s favourite toy to distract their attention from the harness/jacket so they get used to moving around with it on.

 

Once you feel they’re comfortable with the harness or jacket and they’re moving around freely, try attaching the leash and repeat the whole thing. Start off with just a few minutes a few times a day and build up over a few days.

 

Things going well? Now you can try going outside. Remember though, that the world is a much scarier place for a little kitty than for a big human and sights & sounds you take for granted might be quite scary for your cat! So when you first go outside, restrict your walk to your own garden if you can, or somewhere quiet at least. Build things up as before, start off by doing only a few minutes that you can build up over time :)

 

Follow these steps and we’re sure you will be successful! Our Lula is not the easiest cat to train… so if she can do it, most can! She happily trots around the garden and the field now taking our mummy for a walk!

 

Snow Bengal cat
Lula is very comfortable and loves going out for a walk

 

But remember there are some kitties who just are not comfortable going outside and who don’t want to go for a walk, so don’t try and force the situation – if they’re happy being indoor kitties, then that’s what they need to be!

 

Good luck to you!

54 thoughts on “How do I harness train my cat?”

  1. Thank you for this very enlightening article!
    Lula is a beautiful, beautiful kitty and I guess if she can do this then maybe I should try it with my kitties as well!

    1. Thank you, Colleen! There’s no harm in trying :wink: Good luck, and please let us know if you need any further advice :grin: xx

    2. my 3 year old tabby took to the leash & harness & loves to walk.i did’nt even have to train him when i adopted him at one,he went right to it the day i brought him home!!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful and helpful article!! We would love to extend our outside exploring <3 <3

  3. Oooh Lula you are a wonderful model for the jackets! And blue is definitely your color. Thank you for this very helpful information. Your friend Linda xxxxx

  4. Thanks for the info BCW.. I had my bengal kitty out for the 1st time but he just stood still in the park (next to the bushes) not walking much.. Even if he walks, he would take small step by step not the usual behaviour he used to be when his at home.. I’m not sure whether he is afraid or scared.. Just no sign of being that way tho.. His just motionless but sniff alot.. Or maybe his uncomfortable with his leash..I’m just pity him cos I’m afraid he might be bored at home cos my home is not that spacious.. ;(
    The best part is since I’m from Asia, people stared at him & say how gorgeous he is cos they never seen any cats with that kind of fur markings.. Not much people knows about Bengal here in my country.. They are consider rare breed & exclusive & quite expensive to adopt.. For me, yes, he is expensive..for the love of Bengal & their silky pelt fur..
    Overall his doing really fine since day 1 I got him 3 weeks ago (21june2013).. His 100% toilet trained & that’s the best part..
    I’m trying to get him a jacket harness but too bad it can’t be found in my country.. They are only available in UK, I believe.. ;(
    Well, should invest a lil for his harness n comfortability sake..

    Once again thank you for your info.. U r too kind..& I Love ur spot n lula!! ❤❤❤

    Go Bengal Go!!

    1. Patience and persistence, Nico, that’s what you need :) The lady we got our jackets from at Butterfly Cat Jackets makes them in the UK but she does ship world-wide, so you should be able to get one if you wish <3

  5. Jackets arrived today I’ve laid them over there backs Benji has fallen a sleep cuddling his lo not quite what i had in mind lol

  6. I used to walk a few miles nearly every evening down our country road. My faithful long hair calico mama kitty would follow me the whole way. Seldom had a car pass us and we could hear them for a long way off. Kitty would just get off the road and I would stop, then continue the walk after they passed. I’m sure it was a sight to have a cat following me like a dog! The same cat fishes in the lake from the shore. She’s quite successful!

  7. You didn’t mention how to stop her paying attention to the leash. Because most of her toys are rope based so how can I make the distinction between just the leash and the the toys?

  8. We just adopted a blind bengal cat that had run away from his cattery. He needs mental and physical stimulation so I thought I’d try walking him. Would you suggest a vest or a harness?

    1. Awww… I hope your new boy settles soon, Robyn. We use harnesses, they are very strong and have been tested on Bengals of all strengths and sizes :) You can find them on our store if you would like to see them :)

  9. I’m considering this because my younger kitty, Lilly, is trying to bolt out the door if I’m not careful. She sees me feeding two strays outside, so maybe that is why… not sure. It alarms me because I know that the world IS a scary place out there and I don’t want to lose her. When she gets out, she hides under my car right there in carport, and I can usually get her to come out with a toy or treat… so I try not so scare her, but I get so upset and scared when she gets out… I thought maybe teaching her to walk on leash would satisfy her. Her buddy, Simone, doesn’t seem to have much interest. I had Simone out in a harness when she was young, and she managed to get out of it when she got spooked, and scared me, too. Plus, she didn’t seem to have much desire for going out… but maybe if she saw Lilly go, she would. But another reason, I don’t want to use a harness.

    1. Sorry to hear that, Christine. Our harnesses are very safe, we’ve not heard of any kitties escaping from them.

  10. Please help me my new Bengal is driving me nuts. He is a neutered male cat 2 yo who is used to a harness as he was brought up by a vet who had him for round 2 years. He travelled from QLD to melb to Tassy in a cate crate. The well behaved Bengal i thought I was getting is wrecking my house. He jumps up on curtain rungs tv heat pump wardrobe. He has a cat scratchy thing he climbs and lays on at the top. When I took him out for his first walk he was very timid and one time he escaped the house and i didnt think I would ever get him back but after a 2 hour play up trees and under houses and on the roof of my house he decided it was time to come inside which I was very grateful for. Ever since his little outing all he does every day apart from racing over and up the furniture is sit at the door and howl. I’ve taken him out in his harness but he just tries to run away as fast as he can. He scratches me when I try to pick him up. He won’t let me hold him close like a cat I was hoping for. Any way I’d be very grateful for some advice as I don’t want to give him up but don’t know how long I can handle this
    Thanking you in advance
    Roz

    1. Hi Roz. We’re sorry to hear this and sorry we’ve taken a little while to respond. It sounds to us like your Bengal needs a lot more activity and play time! Try walking him just round your yard to start with until you both get used to each other. Also, play interactive toys with him such as the dragonfly we sell or Da Bird etc. You need to play with him for at least 10 minutes per session, 3 times a day. Bengals are not like most cats – they need lots of activity, just relying on him having a scratcher isn’t enough. Is there any way you could cat-proof your yard, or part of it, (see our other article on how to let your cat out safely), so you could safely let him outdoors more often, on his own?

  11. Hey Guys, great articles on here, Bingel
    Is about fifteen weeks old now and has had his second vaccine a week ago and so I have had him on an extendable dog type lead in the garden but only with a kitten collar (which I remove when he isn’t on the leash). A harness looks better though so I will see if you have any that would fit him. My vet told me not to walk him outside as a dog could get him though. Mayb I could try and find a so field or a no dog zone. X

    1. Hello Carla! We would certainly recommend one of the harness jackets we sell on our store, they are much better than using collars :) We sell kitten-sized ones, but if you need any help, just let us know! :)

  12. Hi! Thank you for this wonderful Bengal resource. I want to train my Bengal to be comfortable outside on a leash and would love to walk her around the block to rein in some of her excess energy! I like the idea of getting her used to being outside in a small area first, and I do have a small backyard behind my apartment, but my upstairs neighbor feeds some of the neighborhood cats (there’s about 3 of them) and I don’t know if the scents of 3 strange cats would be too much for her to handle while also adjusting to a harness and leash?

  13. Just a quick thank you for such prompt delivery! Received my two harnesses today ( will need to order another one but wanted to be sure of getting the correct size) all three cats let me put them on without any real struggle, the Velcro fastenings are great for this! All three moved around quite freely but jasper did lay down in his a little but he is a roll on his back to have his tummy rubbed sort of a guy! Minnie backed up a little obviously trying to find a way out but then decided to climb up the wire netting on the cattery office door so she wasn’t feeling too restricted. Roxy jumped on the work surface to help herself to treats, So I am very pleased with their first introduction to the harness. I didn’t leave them on too long and then rewarded their fantastic behaviour with playtime of chasing the bouncy ball for ten minutes. Xx

    1. Hello Rowena! Thank you for your feedback. We’re so pleased that the first steps in the jackets appear to have gone well, little steps at a time is the way to go and I’m sure with patience they will soon be asking to wear the jackets :) We love the velcro fastenings too – very strong, but so easy to adjust to fit purrfectly! You are doing all the right things, and we hope you can have many walks with your babies, especially when the weather turns a little nicer! xxx

  14. I have two cats they are nearly a year old and they travel with us so i have them harness and i put them on and they just jumping like rabbits and then doing the moon walk , after that it was like they were a lump of coal lol. I am putting them on and leaving them on for two hours at a time but checking them often . Thanks for you pictures too

    1. You’re welcome! The best thing with cats is to introduce things gradually and let them get used to new things in their own time :)

  15. I have a question. My bengal was a street cat before she adopted me. Our old apartment had a walled yard (about 50m with 3 m high walls) and my kitty Houdini had unlimited access to the yard. We just moved to another place with a bigger yard and she cannot roam freely. I take her out on the leash, but then she turns nasty when it is time to go inside. Is this normal in Bengals? Thanks!

    1. Hi Tammy! It’s not normal for Bengals to turn nasty like this, it sounds like she probably isn’t ready to go inside yet. You need to make it so that going indoors is associated with good things – give her a little treat or two when you go back indoors and play with her with her favourite toys. After a while, she will look forward to going inside as she will associate it with nice things :)

  16. I was wondering if you could harness train an older Bengal. I rescued a 5 year old and he was always kept inside. I wanted to try to take him outside but wasn’t sure if he is too old to train.

    1. Hi Audra! I don’t think Bengals are ever too old to learn. It may take a bit longer, and you may need to be bit more patient, but if you follow the tips in our article, you should get there eventually :)

  17. You don’t explain how to get the harness on in the first place lol. My boy is all claws and teeth. I have tried several times to get the harness on but now he recognises it and disappears when he sees it. I have left the harness lying around all over the place, but it has made no difference. He’s not scared but stroppy. It’s just as bad when we try to put him in the pet carrier but he uses it to sleep in at least once a day. He’s a bad boy.

  18. I just recently got a Bengal kitty. I am finding she is VERY vocal. She follows me everywhere I go. But she meows all the time. I am slowly getting used to it. Sooo not used to sooo much meowing… Is this normal for a Bengal? She is about 12 weeks old.

  19. Hi,

    I love your website!
    I want to transition a Bengal kitty from being an outdoor cat to being an indoor kitty. Her mom says kitty won’t be able to make the transition. Kitty is going to become our kitty and we are worried about her going outdoors. There are monkeys and other cats that are feral. Any ideas?

    Thanks so much,
    Bengal Mom

    1. Hi Bengal Mommy
      It is hard to keep a cat of any breed indoors once they’ve been used to going outside. Can you compromise at all and kitty-proof your back yard so the cat can still go out but in a safe way? Or have a catio even? If you have to keep her indoors, make sure she has lots of activity such as high cat towers, a cat wheel (if you don’t mind spending the cash on one), toys and lots of interactive play. Keep an eye out for behavioural issues such as inappropriate toileting which will probably be signs that she is stressed and refer to your vet if this happens to see if they can help with this.

  20. Hi
    I have recently bought a Bengal kitten and I have taken her out into my garden a few times. As she has only been out 3 times these sessions have been short so she can get used to it. However since Monday she now keeps making a dash for the kitchen door to get outside. I chased her around the garden for 10 minutes when she escaped trying to catch her.
    How can I train her that she is only allowed outside when she has her harness on? At the moment I am having to shut her in the lounge whenever I want to go outside.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks
    Jess

    1. It’s very difficult, Jess. I’m not sure that you will ever be able to completely train her, vigilance is probably your best bet, or otherwise maybe a catio / enclosure on the back of the house if that’s feasible so she can go out in a secure way?

      1. Unfortunately I can’t build a catio or enclosure so guess I will just have to keep trying to train her! Thanks for your help.

  21. Hi! I have a three month old, male, tiny Bengal kitty named Finnigan. I got him only two weeks ago. He is a sweet boy- even though he loves to bite (playfully)! He got accustomed to my house and the new environment in less than three hours after I got him and was already running around and playing with his toys & scratching post. However now I think that he’s ready for a walk! I have a harness, and I’ve tried to put it on him but it’s just too big! Is it okay if I wrap it twice around? How do I know if he can’t breathe? And is it a good method to put my two fingers between him and the harness when I wrap it, or will that be too loose and make it able for him to slide out (because he is so little)?

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