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How to Harness Train Your Cat
Do you have a Door Dasher? A Kitty Scrambler? Do you have an Escape Artist of a kitty that every time the door opens; he tries to bolt out the door? Is the carpet by your front door thread-bare as kitty vainly tries to dig her way to freedom? You aren’t alone. Many cat owners encounter the same issues with their cats. The minute the door opens kitty leaps for freedom. Well, don’t despair! Cats exhibiting this type of behavior are prime candidates for walking on a harness and a leash. So are cats who are confident, ones who greet strangers who enter your home and love to explore every nook and cranny of your house. Harness training your cat opens you and your cat up to new adventures and endless possibilities. Unlike dogs, cats need to get used to the idea of having a harness on and then dealing with a leash. This training needs to begin indoors first.
Measuring your cat for a harness:
Before measuring your cat for a harness, it is advisable to use an interactive toy and have play time with your cat. About 15 minutes of playtime (not vigorous) but enough to tire kitty out a bit. Then follow up the end of play time with a meaty treat this will cause kitty to settle down and relax while you measure her body.
Using a cloth measuring tape, measure the girth around your cat’s chest just under the front legs. Make sure you can slip one finger under the tape next to the skin. This is the size of harness you need to shop for.
Shopping for a cat harness:
Look for harnesses that buckle at the side and not underneath the belly. Touching some cats bellies can cause a war. The D rings on the harness need to be sewed or firmly attached not glued. Attach all the buckles on the harness and pull tightly. You are looking for buckles that will release under pressure. If any buckle breaks free, discard that harness and find another. In figure-8 harnesses, if your cat is obese, she can wiggle out of this harness quickly backwards. Check out the new Kitty Holster harness. It is breathable, lightweight and secure and becoming quite popular.
Harness Training in your home:
Place the harness near the food bowl and feed kitty. She needs to get used to seeing the harness first before you put it on her. Let her sniff it and even play with it. After she has eaten, slip the harness on her (don’t buckle it) and just step back and see what she does. Repeat this process every day for about four days. On the fourth day buckle the harness and attach the leash.
Pick up the leash and let the cat have the lead. Follow her around the house so she can get used to the feel of the harness. The next day while she is in harness and lead, open the door and let her step outside.
Don’t pull her around! Let her do the exploring. If she shows any fear or attempts to leap into your arms, take her back indoors and try again another day. You don’t need to rush this; cats are scent-driven and outside there are so many new scents that could overwhelm her. Take your time.
Once she is comfortable outside let her lead you around. Keep hold of the leash and watch out for stray dogs. Carry a can of pepper spray just in case you meet an unruly dog. Keep meaty treats in your pocket so you can lure her back inside.
NEVER leave your cat with a harness and a leash unattended outside. This includes tying the leash up in your yard so she can’t escape. She is not a dog and shouldn’t be treated as such. A cat on a harness needs to be exploring and chasing scents. If she wants to lie in the grass, sit down beside her and be her protection.
Harness training your cat offers good exercise for you and your cat. It keeps your cat from being bored and decreases behavior issues. You can bond together during your walks and meet other cat lovers at the same time. Who knows, maybe you can be the first on your block to form a cat-walking group session and exercise program. Once the cat is comfortable in harness, you can use this harness for extra control during vet visits. Walking your cat outside will stop the Door Dashers and Kitty Sprinters. Keeping to a routine schedule of walks will allow kitty to relax indoors because she understands that soon the harness will appear and she will be allowed outside with her owner; a wonderful treat for both of you.