Safe, social adventures early in your cat's life help her respond happily to new experiences her whole life through. Outdoor adventures are no exception. Cats can be introduced to the outdoors, with harness and lead, as early as 6 to 8 weeks. Your cat learns easily in this stage of development and banks these experiences, so she will have an easier time with new opportunities in the future. If your cat is older, you can still train her to accept a harness and lead; it just may take a little more time and patience.
Harnesses and leads
Harnesses are more difficult for cats to wiggle out of than collars; they fit around your cat's girth, just behind the front legs, and also around the shoulders. Harnesses are ideal for use with a lead because they are gentler on the neck than a standard, nonbreakaway collar. To measure for a harness, take your cat's girth measurement snug against her fur, and then add 2"-3" to that measurement for comfort.
H-Style Harnesses go on quickly with life jacket-style clips that buckle under your cat's chest and neck. The Reflective Kitty Safety Collar features reflective designs for your cat's safety at night. The adjustable harness allows for a more comfortable, custom fit and a stainless steel swivel clip on the lead means no more tangling while walking your cat.
Your cat will have the most freedom when her harness is attached to the Flexi Lead for Cats. You can extend it out to 10 ft in safe areas, yet you can easily regain control and get her back at your side if you should need to - with the push of a button.
Breakaway collars, such as Reflective Safety Escape Cat Collars are a common safety item for cats. They unclip if kitty gets hung up or caught by her collar. Breakaway collars protect your cat when you let her outside within an enclosure or kennel, such as the Happy Habitat. They also give you a little peace of mind for times when she bolts out of an open door before you can stop her. However, breakaway collars should not be used with leads.
Acclimate your cat to her harness
Anytime we humans get a new pair of eyeglasses or shoes, it takes some time to adjust to their feel. The same is true with your cat and her harness. She may not like the feeling at first, but the rewards of her safe outdoor adventures are worth any initial discomfort. After she accepts the harness, you can add the lead.
Acclimate your cat to her harness and lead indoors first. While training, you should offer lots of play, praise and petting. Apply tension to the lead when your cat pulls away from you and release the tension when she calms. Give
rewards or pet kitty when she walks in stride with you without pulling.
Go outside for the first time
When your cat is ready to go outdoors, always put on her harness and lead before you go out. Keep her near the house at first. Stay away from large, open areas that may make her feel vulnerable. If you live in the city where there is a lot of foot and auto traffic, you may want to stroll your cat to a quiet neighborhood park. Let her try walking around near hedged areas of the park. If there are other pets around, wait until they leave before allowing your cat down onto the ground. If she looks stressed, offer positive encouragement. Reward and praise her when she appears calmer. Keep the first session outdoors short and sweet.
Before long, she'll welcome the sight and sound of you bringing out the harness and lead, for she'll know she is going outdoors for another adventure. Indoor cats are often under-stimulated and under-exercised, two factors that contribute to
obesity. Get your cat outdoors, safely and supervised, with a
harness and lead,
stroller, or cat enclosure.