If you want to keep your indoor cat from becoming fat, bored, or developing bad habits, you need to provide it with enough activity and a variety of stimulating environments. Playing and taking their cat for a walk on a leash can really help, especially if the cat is the only pet in the household.
I often get asked, when is it too late or too early to start leash training a cat and the answer is that leash walking a cat has no age limit as long as you keep your cat's wellbeing in mind.
Regardless of the age, you need to properly harness train your cat and ensure they have all vaccinations up to date.
If you want to take your kitten on a leash, you've likely found out already that there's a wide variety of cat harnesses and sometimes it's hard to find the best. Consider checking this article to find out which different types of cat harnesses are available.
In this article, I would like to help you understand what's the best harness for walking a kitten or a young cat.
Are Harnesses Safe for Kittens?
You can walk your kitten in a safe manner and a harness is the safest way to do so. Even more so, kittens will learn how to enjoy walking on a leash faster than adult cats, so if you want your cat to accept a harness and learn to walk on a leash right away, you should start when they're still young, as kittens.
Leashes should always be attached to a harness instead of a collar while walking a cat but more on this later in this article.
At what age can you harness a kitten?
During the first 16 weeks of a cat's life, cats take everything with curiosity, and using that period when they are not afraid will play to your advantage. Having a strong bond with your cat will help.
In a recent study from the Anthrozoology Institute, they wanted to learn how socialization reduces fear in small kittens when they transition to the adult stage.
They researched the effects of handling during the socialization period on the subsequent development of behavior problems and the cat–owner bond has been investigated in kittens homed from rescue centers.
In this study, owners of additionally socialized kittens reported significantly higher emotional support from their cats, and fewer of these cats exhibited behavior indicative of a fear of humans, compared to cats that had received standard socialization.
This is the same for leash training for your kitten. It's part of their socialization period and you should begin at an early age, as soon as your cat has all the vaccinations up to date.
What kind of harness is best for kittens?
I have been walking my cat Mia since she was 12 weeks old. I've tried numerous harnesses I even posted reviews about most of them. Here's a short sample of some of the adventures my cat Mia and myself have been into.
During the process of harness training my cat and walking on a leash for 2 years I've learned a few things that we need to consider when getting a harness for a small kitten:
- Lightness: Kittens are lightweight and they can't carry a lot of weight around. The harness we use for them has to be light so that they can walk and move freely
- Safety: Kittens have small neck bones and ribs. A harness for a kitten should protect those areas carefully so in case of a fall they don't break
- Difficulty to Escape: Cats are very flexible and kittens even more. Like water they say... you don't want your kitten to escape near a passing car or a dangerous place. On the good side of things, kittens don't run much, so worse thing that could happen if you are in a safe area is that they hide in a hole or climb a tree.
- Comfort: While being able to move freely is important, as long as they can carry the harness around (lightness) they are going to be fine.
- Easy to Put On: Kittens just don't care. If you do a proper harness acclimatation, kittens will allow you to put the harness on and off without a fight.
I designed the OutdoorBengal Escape Proof Cat Harness so that cats that are beginning their journey have the best chances at succeeding.
It's small, minimal and comfy and has designed to be escape proof, with a unique design that increases restrained when you most need it: when your cat is pulling backwards trying to escape the harness.
This harness is ideal for young cats and kittens since it allows them more freedom of movement but protects their chest and neck with a small neoprene pad, like a vest-style harness but a lot lighter.
The side straps will adjust to your cats size as they grow, lasting them for at least a year if not more!
- Escape Resistant - Hard to escape from
- Comfortable - Reduces escape attempts
- Light - Allows them to move freely
- Safe - Protects their chest if they pull
These priorities will remain as a kitten becomes an adult, and from more to less important are going to be:
- Comfort: The #1 reason why your cat will want to go out is because they enjoy it. A comfortable harness will help you achieve that.
- Easy to Put On: Adult cats can become sensitized to the harness easier than kittens and the process of putting it on and of should be as seamless as possible
- Difficulty to Escape: While trained adult cats won't try to escape, it still is a fairly important point, particularly for cats starting out
- Lightness: Adult cats can take more weight and despite lightness is not as importnat, there's no bulky harness that's comfortable so it gets covered with point 1
- Safety: Adult cats' ribcages are not as weak as young kitten ones, so protecting their neck and chest, while still important, falls at the bottom of the list
Cat Harness vs. Collar
Collars are useful for attaching identification and rabies tags but are not ideal for walking your cat. Cats' sensitive throats are easily injured by the strain of being led about by a leash and collar, particualry kittens.
To prevent that, cat collars are designed to be breakaway, which means that the buckle gets loose if your cat gets trapped by it. This means that it will also make it easy for your cat to free themselves from the collar.
Image submitted by J. Singh via Amazon Reviews
Walking your cat with a harness is the only recommended way because its safer for your cat and more difficult to escape.
Adult cat's harness vs. a kitten's harness
There are 2 or 3 primary attachment points on adult cat's harnesses:
- Around the neck
- Around the waist
- or Around each of the legs in 8 type harnesses.
Most adult cat harnesses are not suitable for kittens because either they won't be small or light enough or because they won't protect your kitten's neck.
It's easier to find a kitten harness that suits adult cats than an adult harness that is suitable for kittens. Make sure you measure your cat before buying a harness as it's very easy to get the wrong size.
Are Puppy Harnesses Safe for Kittens?
Choosing a cat-first cat harness is crucial when preparing your furry friend for outdoor adventures. With a properly fitted harness, your cat will be more at ease and ready to enjoy the great outdoors.
Additionally, a comfortable, light and safe kitten harness will allow your cat to hide or climb a tree if they get spooked or a dog tries to get to them, while if they wear a bulky harness they won't be able to.
How to get a kitten to wear a harness?
Put your cat on the harness without the leash. While still wearing the harness, reward him with a treat before removing it. Treats should only be given while the harness is on, never when it is off. Do this again, but this time have your cat wear the harness for longer and longer intervals of time.
You may connect the leash to the harness if your cat is accustomed to wearing it. You should start by letting your cat out on a loose leash and following it. Remove the harness and leash for a short while, and do this for a few days until your cat feels comfortable walking without restriction.
How to put on a harness on a kitten?
To properly fit your cat into its walking harness, follow the steps below:
- You should let your cat examine the harness before putting it on. You may assist your pet get used to the new harness by putting it in a place of comforts, such as their usual sleeping or eating position.
- Slip the harness over your cat's head when your cat is ready. Ideally you have your kitten on a sitting position.
- Attach the head first, as it's the most difficult strap to escape from, then
- The shoulder or girth straps next around your cat's back and secure the clips.
Don't force your cat to walk on a leash until they are comfortable walking around wearing the harness on their own.
You may initially try doing some indoor walking drills while wearing the harness. They should just get accustomed to it as part of their normal environment.
The steps are always the same but how you execute them can make a difference. Take a look at this post to learn what's the only good way to put harnesses on our cats.
What to do if your kitten doesn't like the harness?
Your kitten needs time to adjust to being contained. Some kittens might plop on the floor because they don't like the sensation or it can trigger the Pinch-induced behavioural inhibition (PIBI), also called dorsal immobility, transport immobility or clipnosis, which is a partially inert state which results from a gentle squeeze of the skin behind the neck that queens use to transport their kittens around.
If your kitten doesn't like the harness, they won't start liking it overnight. You will need to build habituation:
Let your cat explore its new harness by sniffing it. Reward them every time they take a whiff of the harness. 5 to 10 sessions are needed to accomplish this task.
Keep on rewarding with play time and treats when your cat is wearing the harness.
How to prevent a kitten from escaping a harness?
The harness should fit your cat properly. Overly loose harnesses allow more than one or two finger's width of space between the harness and your cat's body (with fur compressed).
Adjust the length of the harness straps so that one finger fits snugly between the harness and your cat's body. The harness's back straps must fit nicely behind your cat's elbows to prevent it from escaping.
Once you've tightened all the straps, it's too big if you can still squeeze more than one finger between your cat's body and the harness. Please arrange a return of your previous harness if it is returnable, and then place a new order for the smaller size you need.
The other thing that can help a cat escaping a harness is if you allow your cat go get the leash to go tense. If they turn around and back up, they might be able to snug out out the harness.
When walking with your cat, if the leash is taut and under tension, make sure that you keep it in the safe zone to avoid escapes. If you accidentally find yourself with the leash taut in the red or amber danger zones, you can do one or both:
- Move towards your cat to release the tension on the leash
- Reeposition yourself so that the leash is back in the safe zone (green)
Try to stay always within the safe zone with some slack on your leash.
Final thoughts on Kitten Harnesses:
You may start training your cat to come along on all kinds of outdoor excursions as soon as you get the suitable harness and have it fitted properly. Keep your outdoor explorations to the inside until you know your cat is safe in the harness and can move freely while wearing it.
Stay wild, stay safe... We'll see you outdoors!
Albert & Mia