Harness training your cat

Thinking about harness training your cat? Harness training is a great way to keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated. Not only does it provide enrichment for your cat, but it also helps protect local wildlife by keeping your kitty under control. It is important to remember, however, that not all cats suit harness training; cats have different personality traits and preferences, and not every cat will be interested.

Before you take your feline friend anywhere, create a solid training plan. It is essential to lay the groundwork for a successful harness training journey.

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 RSPCA employee Gemma’s cat harness training in the backyard.

Consider clicker training

Clicker training is a highly effective method when it comes to harness training cats. By focusing on positive reinforcement and clear communication, clicker training can help you and your cat enjoy the process of harness training together, leading to a successful and enjoyable outdoor experience for both of you.  

Like its name suggests, clicker training involves the pairing of sound and a tasty treat to reinforce positive behaviour in your cat. You can teach your cat to associate a clicking sound with a treat by offering a treat every time a clicker is used. Aim for brief 2–3-minute sessions to ensure a positive experience for your cat; it’s all about keeping it short and sweet! Always end on a high note to keep your cat engaged and eager for more training time. 

Once your clever kitty has mastered a new behaviour, you can gradually dial?back the regular use of the clicker and treats. This helps your cat transition from relying on constant rewards to performing the behaviour out of habit and understanding.  

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RSPCA employee Gemma’s cat harness training in the backyard.

Selecting the right gear

Choose a well-fitting cat harness, a lightweight, nylon or cloth leash. Never directly attach the leash to a cat’s collar, as this may cause tangling, escape, or injury if your cat decides to pull or tug. It may also help to familiarise your cat with the sight and sound of a harness and its buckles buckling and to reduce anxiety towards their new equipment.

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RSPCA employee Gemma’s cat harness training in the backyard.

Safety Precautions

It’s a good idea to avoid sudden leash tugs and to always be considerate of your cat’s body language. If they seem stressed, it’s time for a breather. It’s all about building trust!

Always start your walks and training sessions in a safe and quiet spot. And when you finally begin your walks, remember that establishing a routine is key! Get into the habit of using a consistent phrase and a bit of leash jingling to signal the start of your adventure. One way to ensure your cat knows how to return to the safety of your side is by using safety “recall” training. This entails calling your cat’s name before rewarding them on their approach, encouraging them to return to you when they hear you call their name. For more effective training, increase the distance over time.

Remember that walking a cat is fundamentally different from walking a dog; our more curious feline friends will often tend to take the lead. Cats may chase a scent, obsess over a spot, or simply want to linger in one place. It’s a unique and somewhat unpredictable experience. Keep in mind that, when walking a cat, it’s more about their preferences than yours.

If you intend to take your cat to a new location like a park, be sure to research whether your cat will be allowed in. Be mindful of their safety and be careful to obey the law; for example, in Australia, cats are prohibited from national parks.

For transportation purposes, a cat carrier or cat backpack is strongly advised. This precautionary measure ensures they have a secure space if they become startled by a dog or another animal during the outing.

Remember, every cat is unique, and training may progress at different paces. Be patient, keep sessions positive, and enjoy the bonding experience with your adorable feline companion!

For more information on harness training follow this link.