When I started walking Mia I had no idea what cat harness what the best one available in the market. I had to buy a bunch of them and walked my cat Mia with them all before I could make a decision, read more about it here.
What is the Best Cat Harness?
Cat harnesses can be quite different amongst each other but the features that you need to look for on a harness for walking your cat remain constant in time. Cat harness brands will try to better solve those needs as they innovate and launch new cat harnesses in the market.
In this article you are going to learn about:
- Best types of cat harnesses
- Best cat harnesses for keeping your cat safe
- Most escape proof cat harnesses
- Harnesses that are easy to put on your cat
- Most comfortable cat harnesses for your cat
- Most durable cat harnesses
- Best cat harness for kittens
Reasons why these harness features matter:
- Escape Proof: We leash our cats to keep them restrained
- Safety: We want the harness to be gentle on our cat
- Easy to Put On: We want to minimize the stress of putting on the harnes
- Comfort: We walk our cats to enrich their lives, harness should not be limiting
- Durable: The harness should resist wear and tear and adjust as the cat grows
This article is part of our
Let's review what makes cat harnesses great and how to choose the best harness for your cat.
Differences Between Cat and Dog Harnesses
While most dogs walk on collars, cats can't. Cats are acrobats and like climbing and getting through small holes and bushes.
Cat collars have to be break-away, so if the cat gets tangled or hanging by the collar, it will break and avoid neck injury or further damage to the cat.
IT IS NOT SAFE TO WALK A CAT ON A COLLAR!
If the collar breaks away, attaching a leash to it is not the safest option, as the collar can break and the cat would be set free into the wild.
Cat collars should be a breakaway, for that reason cats can't walk on a leash by a collar, as it could break and set them free.
The only existing option to walk a cat on a leash safely today is cat harnesses. Cat harnesses are lighter, more flexible, and not as sturdy as dog harnesses. This is because cats are more flexible, agile, and sneaky than dogs and a sturdy and robust harness would make the cat plop off the floor and stop moving.
Cat Paralyzed by Harness
It is not uncommon to see a cat becoming a mannequin as soon as we put a harness on them. They become paralyzed and some even plop on the floor.
There are a couple of theories about why this happens:
Succumbing to the Harness
When cats can't free themselves from a hold, human, or predator... they will stop fighting. Apparent death, colloquially known as playing dead is a behavior in which animals take by not moving and falling on the floor on the appearance of being dead.
Apparent death is a form of animal deception. It is considered to be an anti-predator strategy, as most predators only catch live prey.
By playing dead, the cat can wait for an opportunity to run away and escape from a possible threat or unwanted situation.
Scruff Paralysis by a Harness
Where the head connects to the neck, on their back, cats have a loose patch of skin called scruff. The scruff will be used by queens to carry the kittens around. When held by the scruff, cat's become submissive and lose most of their mobility. This allows for safe transportation.
This technique is also known as scruffing. When held by the scruff, the cat adopts a defensive posture, caused by an anxiety reflex.
It is believed that cats feel a scruffing-like sensation when wearing a harness that will trigger the anxiety reflex and cause a motionless state.
Because most cat parents will get scared of their cat behaving weirdly, they will remove the harness altogether. When that happens, the cat learns that playing dead triggers harness removal.
Negative reinforcement is a type of training where we encourage animals or people to behave a certain way by removing a negative stimulus.
Cat Falls on the floor = Human Removes Harness = Falling on the Floor Removes Harness
We are training our cats to play dead by removing the harness right away.
If you want to learn how to leash train your cat, consider watching this video:
Types of Cat Harness
Cats have been walking on leashes for a few years now and the market is now filled with harnesses of different shapes, materials and colors.
The most common harnesses can be divided in 3 big groups:
String Harnesses (H-harnesses being the most popular)
H-harnesses are made of thin straps forming an H shape when looked at from above. The harness is built out of 2 rings that go on the neck and ribcage linked by a strap. The neck and ribcage rings are usually adjustable while the union strap is not.
Some H-harnesses don't have the union strap and both rings are attached to each other at the top, behind the head.
This harnesses tend to be very light and give a lot of mobility.
H Harnesses are very safe, as buckles make it more difficult for the cat to sneak out, but in case of accident they are very thin and more prone to create a neck injury if the cat were to get tangled and hang from it.
There are other variations of the H harness made of strings, displayed in different ways.
Jackets or Full Body Cat Harnesses
As their name indicates, jackets are full body cat harnesses that cover most of the cats torso. The extra area distribute pressure very well and are the safest type of harness to prevent injury.
The main problem with jacket harensses is that they are more prone to creating scruff paralysis on the cat as they cover and restrain a large area of the cat's body.
Jackets, as they distribute pressure, are also easier to escape from, particularly if the cat gets tangled.
Step in cat harnesses are a type of jacket harness where you first introduce the cat's front paws and then you secure the harness.
They are suposed to be easy to put on but on cats that are not having it, while their paws are open and their claws are out, this type of harness can be very difficult to put on.
Vests are a combination of the other two type of harnesses. They have some strings that make the harness more lightweight and also offer some sort of padded area to secure the chest safely.
This harnesses combine the best of both worlds but don't offer the extrem lightweight and safety from the H Harnesses nor the snug fit from the jackets.
This harnesses are usually very easy to put on and off, securing first the head and then buckling the chest area through lateral straps.
These type of harness are usually the best solution for most cat parents as it offers most of the benefits existing in the other type of harnesses.
Because they range in shapes and features, you can take it to the lightweight side if your cat is a safe cat and you are comfortable with it, or more to the padded side if your cat is mroe comfortable with a snug fit.
Hybrid Cat Harnesses
You Might be asking yourself... is there a cat harness that has a blance of the above? The answer is yes.
Outdoor Bengal's cat harness has a combination of straps an mesh to make it safe for your cat, very difficult to escape from and lightweight and comfortable.
What to Look for on a Cat Harness
Harnesses change all the time but the things that you need to look for on a cat harness remain constant in time.
Difficulty for the Cat to Escape From the Harness
Take a look at the type of harness you need for your cat. If your cat is already comfrotable with the harness, you probably don' t need an H type harness and can provide something more comfortable for your cat.
If you want to take your cat to places where escaping would not be a problem (no predators, no cars, no places to hide) then consider going for something lightweight and comfortable. Otherwise, go for maximum safety to prevent your cat from escaping and causing a major problem.
Ensures the Cat is Comfortable Wearing the Harness
Fit is something that's overlooks by most cat parents when first purchasing a harness. We don't always have available a measuring tape and the cat might not be around when we are buying their harness but it's worth waiting.
Make sure you know your cat's girth before buying a harness. The proper harness on the unproper size can help your cat escape or can make your cat uncomfortable and you don't want any of those.
Also, if your cat plops on the floor due to the scruff paralysis, consider moving to a lighter harness. Vests and H Harnesses are best.
Easy to Put On and Off to Minimize Stress on the Cat
Some cats get really anxious when wearing the harness for the first time. Step on and jackets are a lot more annoying to put on than H Harnesses.
If your cat is one nervous cat that doesn't like harnesses, go for something easy to put on so that you minimize the stress before starting a walk. Keeping the process going smooth is the best thing you can do to help your cat enjoy going for walks.
Cat Should be Able to Move Freely
As your cat and you become more comfortable walking on a leash, prioritizing agility, freedom of movement and comfort should become the #1 priority.
The cat will be happier on a harness if they can feel like they are not wearing anything.
H Harnesses and Vests are ideal for cats that are good at walking on a leash.
Best Type of Cat Harness
The best overall cat harness are vests. They will offer great freedom for most cats and they are almost as escape proof as H Harnesses. However, every cat is unique and you should consider what is that harness that answers to your cats needs best.
Prioritize safety, then easiness to put on and finally comfort and freedom for the cat.
If you want my opinion, the best cat harness is this one.Stay Wild, Stay Safe, See You Outdoors!
Albert & Mia