Cats are very stubborn and independent animals, which can make training cats more challenging compared to training dogs. Dogs love to please their owners, while cats can seem somewhat aloof. Learning how to harness train your cat can be a total disaster if you’ve never put a harness on a cat before, or you’re thinking you can wing it and your cat will learn to tolerate it over time, without using any training techniques. This article will go over the proper steps and techniques you need to use when harness training your cat to make this job enjoyable, simple, and effective.

harness training a cat

Tips on How to Harness Train a Cat

Many families enjoy going camping or long cross country road trips with their pets, since it’s a great way to bond. But if their cats don’t have proper training, have never worn a collar, and don’t know how to walk on a leash, pet owners often have to leave their cats at the house. If you and the family are planning a trip this summer, you’ll need to get started training your cat to walk on a leash outside and wear a harness, right away, to ensure they’re ready in time.

Harness and Leash Use

Some pet owners want to harness train their cats so they can take them outside for some mental stimulation and physical exercise.

Whether you want to take your cat for a walk outside around the block, or you want to closely supervise them as they spend some time outdoors, training them to use a harness and leash comes with plenty of benefits. When trained, you can take your cats with you for a stroll or on your next family vacation. It can also make it easier to take your cats to the vet. While some cats may refuse training in the beginning or they have a tough time getting used to wearing a collar or harness, there are plenty of tricks you can try to encourage them to tolerate it.

Keep in mind, training can take several days or months, depending on your cat’s personality, age, and whether or not your cat is very shy or adventurous. All cats will love the opportunity to explore the great outdoors, however, many do not like the feel of a harness or the fact that their owner is the one in control of where they go outdoors. With this guide, you will learn how to properly train your cat to tolerate and even enjoy their time in their harness. Keep in mind, it’s important that you don’t skip any steps, never yell or scold your cat during the training process, and keep plenty of snacks close by until your kitty gets used to going outside wearing a harness.

Getting Started

Before you begin training a cat, you’ll need the following supplies:


Treats should be used to motivate your cat during training indoors and outdoors and can be used to reward them for positive behavior. Bring along plenty of small snacks or their favorite food and award your cat while you work. This positive reinforcement will encourage your cat to stick with it and not try to escape or lash out.

Use the Best Cat Harness

can in the best cat harness

The type of kitty harness you use can have a big impact on how well training goes. If you use a low quality kitty harness, one that’s uncomfortable or not adjustable, your cat will be less likely to tolerate a training session. The best cat harness will be padded in all the right places and will allow you to adjust the fit so your cat can’t escape by backing out of it. It also shouldn’t be so tight that it causes sores or chafing.

Get a Friend or Family Member to Help

During the training process, get an extra pair of hands to help round up your kitty if they escape or to hold the cat as you put the harness on and adjust it will be invaluable.


A clicker training tool can be used to help cats make the connection between tolerating the harness and getting treats. If your cat is already clicker trained, it will make this job much easier. This technique is pretty simple to use. When your kitty is behaving well and not trying to make a run for it, you’ll hit the clicker and reward your cat with a treat.

Introducing the Harness

This will be a very delicate process for your and your kitty. The goal is to show your cat that a harness and a leash are objects that they shouldn’t fear. When you first introduce the harness, avoid trying to put it on your cat. Instead, simply leave the leash and harness out, placing them on the floor next to the cat.

If your cat seems nervous about the harness being out, leave it lying around until your kitty becomes comfortable with seeing it.

If your pet doesn’t seem to care about the harness at all, you can try to encourage them to interact with it.

If your cat seems pretty relaxed with the harness out, then it’s time to proceed to the next step. If your cat becomes irritated at any time during training, don’t force it. Take a long break or wait a day.

Allow Your Cat to Investigate the Harness

cat learning a harness

Before you place a harness on your cat, let your cat inspect it. If your cat isn’t interested in the harness at all, you can encourage them to investigate it by placing treats on and around it. Once they approach the harness, you can give them more treats.

If your pet has had a bad experience with harnesses in the past, then you may be stuck at this step for days. However, with patience and plenty of treats, your cat will learn that it’s safe to approach the harness.

Repeat this step for a few days. Once your cat is shoving their face into the harness to eat their treat or searching for more, then you can continue to the next step.

Putting the Harness on Your Cat

The goal for this step is to teach the cat to put their neck through the harness as you hold that part up. This will help to create positive association with wearing the harness, as opposed to restraining the cat to place it on them. This step must be done carefully and slowly.

Begin by holding up the harness, with the neck hole open at head height for your feline. Be sure that the straps are very loose for this step, so there’s a huge opening. Your cat will be interested in investigating the harness, sniffing and hoping for snacks once they see it. Continue to reward your cat for touching it or sniffing it as you hold the harness in this position.

Once the cat has figured out that placing their head near the loop of the harness earns them treats, you can stop rewarding them for each sniff.

Take it Slow

If your pet decides to place their head into the loop of the harness as you’re holding it up, that’s great. If they don’t put their head through the harness, put the harness over the cat’s  head and around the cat’s neck, using treats to keep them calm. Regardless of which method you use, you shouldn’t expect your cat to place their head all the way into the harness on their own at first. Once your pet is comfortable with placing their head through the loop, you’ll want to begin phasing out any treats you’re using to lure them in. The goal of this step is to have your cat place their head all the way through the harness and wait there for you to give them a treat.

If your cat is now willingly sticking their head through the harness and staying there once you let go of it, you can move on to the next step.

Make Adjustments for the Proper Fit

For this step, you’ll need to buckle and adjust the harness. If your feline isn’t comfortable with you adjusting the harness and clipping it under their belly or the cat becomes agitated, try again later.

Once your cat is comfortable, you can work on loosening or tightening the straps of the harness.

Walking Around in the Harness

Now is the time to work on helping your cat get used to the feeling of wearing their harnesses indoors before you even consider going outside. Leave the harness on for five to ten minutes. Focus on your cat while they’re wearing the harness and give them plenty of love and treats, in addition to positive verbal praise.

Find things for your cat to do that’s distracting and exciting. This can involve bringing out the laser pointer or feather wand. The goal is to get your cat to feel comfortable when you’re putting the harness on and when they’re moving around in it.

Extend the Length of Time They Wear the Harness

walking with cat on a leash

Gradually work up to longer periods of time that the cat wears the harness. Ideally, over time, your cat will become so used to wearing it that they will forget it’s even on. During this time, avoid leaving your cat unattended since they can easily get caught on something, which will cause them to freak out, ruining your weeks of successful training.

The next step is to attach the leash. Some felines will be okay when you attach the leash, but other cats will become anxious and may even refuse to move. If your cat is skittish, you will need to use the same steps that you did to get them used to wearing a harness, which involves leaving the leash out so they can investigate, placing treats on and around it, and helping to familiarize them with the leash to teach them that it’s harmless.

Training a Cat to Walk on a Leash

Leash training a cat can be trickier than harness training. First, attach the leash to the harness and allow them to drag it around the house as they walk around and play with you. Having a good time playing with you and the family will make your cat more comfortable wearing a harness and leash. Wearing the leash indoors will help your feline get used to it and it’s a great way for them to become more comfortable wearing it.

Leash Training a Cat

Walking a cat is not the same as walking a dog. Leash training a cat is different and more challenging. Most dog owners start their leash training early. Take this step slowly and have your cat wear the leash and harness indoors for a few minutes every day, before you let your cat outside on their leash. Your cat may resist walking on a leash at first, but most cats will get used to it over time.

To start walking them on the leash, begin by putting the harness and leash on and try to direct your cat where you want them to go. In some cases, leash training a cat can take several days or weeks to accomplish. Some cats will refuse to walk and will immediately fall over during leash training or try to bolt out the door once they realize they’re giving you total control of their movements. Others will be slightly hesitant but will go with the flow, excited to do some exploring. In some cases, training your cat to walk on a leash can be a challenge because it can become a power struggle. If your cat is comfortable with the leash on, let your cat walk around the home as you hold onto it and speak calmly to them.

For leash walking practice around your home, keep treats on hand and teach your feline that they will get rewarded for good behavior.

Once your cat allows you to control where they go, you can head outside to practice some more.

Outdoor Exploring Tips

cat exploring the outdoors

Take your cat outside for an adventure and practice leash walking. It’s important to have a friend with you who can help you grab your cat if they decide to make a run for it and back out of their harness. Some cats may try to bolt, while others will be fine with walking outside slowly, so they can explore. If your feline wants to stay indoors and refuses to go outside, don’t force them. If your cat isn’t enjoying their adventure, take their favorite food and hide it all over the yard. Cats are very food-driven. This will encourage them to play outside and enjoy their time exploring.

As soon as your cat realizes walking on leashes is safe, they will look forward to their next outdoor adventure in their harness.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to harness train a cat can take several days, weeks, or months, depending on your cat. If your pet is fearful, anxious, aggressive, or stubborn, then it can take even longer. If you have a cat that’s calm and adventurous, then this training may only take a week or two. If you want to harness train your cat for an upcoming family trip, then it’s important that you begin training as soon as possible and avoid training them at the last minute. The worst thing you can do is bring out the harness, immediately put it on them and expect them to not freak or bolt out the door. With the information in this guide, you can properly train your cat to tolerate their harness and enjoy the great outdoors with you in control, safely guiding them around as they frolic and explore their new outdoor environment.