Is harness training right for your cat?

As a hardcore cat parent, you want to do everything you can to enrich your cat’s life. And particularly if you have no outdoor space of your own, harness training can really help your cat. It means they can experience the outdoors with you, in safety and confidence.

But before you start the training, it’s important to know: harness training isn’t right for every cat. Some cats will thrive on exploring new places with you. Others will find it stressful. But how do you know if harness training is right for your cat? How can you tell if your cat is a homebody at heart or a pioneer with itchy paws?

Here are some clues to help you tell the difference.

Personality


Personality can help predict whether harness training will suit your cat. It’s no guarantee though, since cats can behave differently in new environments. Some cats are bold when they feel secure within their homes, but become anxious when they leave. Others seem shy and retiring but training can build their confidence and spark their curiosity. Even so, the following traits are a good sign that leash training might be right up your cat's alley:

  • Confident and easy going: There's not much that will spook them.

  • Curious: They're nose first into anything new and keen on the outdoors.

  • Sociable: Always in on the action and they don't mind visitors.

  • Energetic: The world is their playground.

  • Easy to handle: They're comfortable with being picked up when necessary.

Age


You can harness train your cat at any age, as long as they’re at least eight weeks old. The experience is a little different for kittens vs. adult cats though, so let’s break it down. Kittens are very adaptable and receptive so they take to training more easily than adults. However, because they are small, signs of resistance or discomfort may be subtle. It's important to pay close attention to their body language to make sure that they're within their comfort zone. Experiences at this age can be formative so it's best to go slowly to build their trust.


Got an adult cat? Unlike old dogs, old cats can learn new tricks. It just may take a little longer. They need more time to adapt to the harness and to the new routine, but with time and patience, adult cats can be trained just as well as kittens.


Breed


Whether you’ve got a rescue cat or a pedigree cat, any breed can be harness trained – it’s largely about their individual personality. That said, some breeds do tend to take well to training. Bengals in particular are curious explorers – like KatKin cat Milla on the KatKin Club House. Likewise, Abyssinian and Siamese cats are often good candidates. On the other end of the energy spectrum, Ragdoll cats also tend to do very well with harness training. Being placid by nature helps them to take new experiences in their stride.


How they respond


The best way to know for sure if your cat will enjoy harness training is to give it a go. Introducing the harness slowly, and gradually building up to outdoor training, you’ll get a sense of whether this is right for your cat – or whether it’s too much for them.

If you’re ready to get started, find out how to harness train your cat in our Harness Training 101 blog. There, we talk through the basics with certified animal behaviourist and founder of Supakit, Leili Farzaneh.

What if harness training isn’t right for my cat?


Harness training can enrich your cat’s life and mental wellbeing, encouraging them to learn new skills. But it isn’t for every cat. And if not, it’s vital to continue to provide your cat with mental stimulation – particularly activities that encourage interaction and problem solving. If your cat isn't a fan of harness training, here’s what to do:

  1. Set up a treasure hunt Nibbles are your friend. Hide them around the house so that your cat can follow their nose and find tasty surprises throughout the day.

  2. Invest in a puzzle feeder You can use Nibbles or KatKin fresh meals, depending on the feeder you choose. Or make your own by cutting approximately 1 cm holes into a plastic bottle and popping a few Nibbles inside.

  3. Encourage climbing and exploring Cat towers are great for hours of play using the vertical space of your home. An assortment of cardboard boxes also works well, especially if you move them around often to keep things interesting.

And whether you start harness training or whether you create the world’s best treasure hunt, don’t forget to share pictures in the KatKin Club House. There, you’ll find hardcore cat parents just like you – all of us all-in to give our cats the best lives every day.


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