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Why Does My Cat Hate His Harness? (Discomfort or Fear?)

If your cat hates its harness you may be wondering why this is happening and what you can do about it…

Why Does My Cat Hate His Harness? 

Many cats do not like harnesses because it triggers their survival reflexes. When a domestic housecat feels the harness wrap around their upper body (primarily their upper neck scruff region) their instinct is to freeze and go limp which can make it seem like your cat hates their harness. 

So, now you know. But, do any cats like wearing harnesses? What are the benefits of them? What are the disadvantages? Keep reading for these answers, and more…

Do Cats Like Wearing Harnesses? 

Cat with leash.

Cat with leash.

Every cat is different which means some cats like wearing harnesses and others do not. Some cats will enjoy wearing their harness and will get excited when you bring them out because they will know that means they get to go outside.

Other cats will not like their harness because of the compression it causes on their body and the natural fight or flight instincts it causes. In any case, you should evaluate the way your cat is acting and determine whether a cat harness is good for your feline specifically.  

What Are the Benefits of a Cat Harness?   

Having your cat leash trained means that they can go places with you and explore the world. The same feline who has been trapped in your house, staring out the window gets the opportunity to romp around and see the outdoors!  

Leash training your cat is a great way to bring them everywhere with you and take them on adventures they would have never gone on! It also guarantees additional safety for your furry friend. Given that there is a fire or other emergency, your pet is leash trained and ready to listen. 

What Are the Disadvantages of a Cat Harness? 

One of the biggest disadvantages to leash training your cat is their increased enthusiasm for going outside. Cats are natural hunters, and they spend a lot of their time looking out windows at unattainable prey. Once you begin taking them outside, that prey seems so much more attainable!  

If you are going to leash train your cat you need to establish important door boundaries and teach them proper door etiquette, so your adventurous feline does not go running out the door! 

How Do You Know If Your Cat is Comfortable in a Harness? 

You can tell whether your cat is comfortable simply by observing its demeanor. If they are acting the same way in their harness that they do out of their harness, then they are most likely fine. A little bit of apprehension and nervousness is to be expected at first but if your cat is falling over, refusing to move, or exhibiting signs of illness then those are clear-cut signs that they are not okay.  

On the other hand, if your cat is doing any of the following things, these are signs that they are happy in their harness:  

  • Playing with toys 
  • Eating food or treats 
  • Purring 
  • Sunbathing  
  • Closing their eyes at you 
  • Mixing, dancing, making biscuits, etc.  
  • Letting you pet them 
  • Has a tail straight in the air 
  • Rubbing on your legs 

These are tell-tale signs of a happy cat! If your cat is doing any of these things that means that they are most likely happy and comfortable in their harness. 

How Long Does it Take for a Cat to Get Used to a Harness? 

Typically, your cat will adjust to its harness after about 10 – 15 minutes. Then, they will accommodate themselves to their harness and you can begin your leash training process somewhere quiet and indoors. This grasping sensation around their body can be especially intimidating for cats that are not held often so it can vary from cat to cat.  

Your cat might act a little strange when they first begin wearing their harness but that is nothing a little distraction cannot fix. Try giving your feline friend some treats or distract them with their favorite toy so their mind is taken off their physical discomfort. After those few minutes, they will sure to have forgotten about the annoying thing around them.  

How Do I Get My Cat Used to a Harness? 

Before taking your cat outdoors in their harness, you should have them get used to wearing their harness indoors. This way, you can observe their behavior about their new collar and leash train them inside your home comfortably.  

In addition to settling your cat’s mood and allowing your furry friend to get emotionally adjusted, letting your cat accommodate themselves inside is a safety blanket for any other mishaps like purchasing the wrong size harness! A mistake like this could be detrimental to your cat’s safety outdoors. 

The more often you have them wear their harness, the more they will get used to it. If you are trying to make your cat an avid walker, then you should have your cat try their harness on daily so they can get used to it. 

Remember, they probably do not hate their harness; they just need a little bit of motivation to get themselves accommodated to their new adventure gear!  

Give them a treat

White cat with leash.

White cat with leash.

To motivate your cat, give them a treat and some friendly words of encouragement starting with the time you put the harness on and ending with as you take the harness off. This way, your cat associated the harness with positivity!

Is it OK to Keep a Harness On a Cat? 

How long you can let your cat wear their harness is up to the temperament of your cat. It is not recommended to let your cat wear their harness all the time, however, unless it is safety approved for falling.  

Wearing a harness at all times can be dangerous to your cat’s health but if they are emotionally okay with it and the vest is not putting them in danger then wearing a harness for a long duration is not going to harm your cat. 

Are Cat Harnesses Cruel?  

Cat harnesses are a fun and safe way to explore the world and enjoy life with your furry friend by your side. Harnesses are a much safer option for walking your cat than simply attaching a leash to their collars because it gives you more security and a lot of models also provide handles to grab your squirmy feline so you can grab them in the case of a not-so-friendly confrontation. 

Harnesses are great for cat owners. Unfortunately, if your cat harness is used improperly it can hurt your cat which is why you need to read the measurements of your harness carefully, pay attention to your cat’s sizing, and be careful when training your cat.  

At What Age Can You Leash Train a Cat? 

The earlier you leash train your cat, the more comfortable they are going to be with their harness and the easier it will be to teach them compared to an older cat who will already have their social habits deeply ingrained. 

Remember, you can leash train your cat, however, the walks you will go on with your car will be much different than walks you would go on with your dog. Unlike a dog who you can give cues to and lead, a cat is more explorative and will likely want to venture on its own. In fact, if you are not careful enough, they will probably crawl right up a tree! 

That is why training them at an early age is more beneficial because you can create cues for your cat like owners do with dogs (not that your cat will always listen to them though!).

Lindsey Browlingdon