My cat really wants to get outside, he sits by the door meowing and has been chattering at all the birds outside as well. The problem is that I live in a heavily wooded area, and know that there are coyotes and fisher cats among others that live out here with me. We’ve had outdoor cats in the past, but they’ve all ended up disappearing and not coming back whatever the cause was. So, if I’m going to let my new kitty (named Beebo) out, I want to make sure it’s with a harness and leash.

However, when I put the harness on him, he just drops to the ground and doesn’t really seem to function anymore, so it clear that he does not like it. It was my dog’s harness when she was younger, and when it’s tightened all the was it’s still just a tad too big for him, so the problem isn’t the harness being too tight.

Do you have any suggestions on how I could make him more comfortable in the harness? I keep telling him “if you want to go outside, this is how we have to do it” and each time we try he doesn’t like it, but continues to meow to get outside throughout the day.

I am trying to be a reasonable father to the little guy, so I'm open to all suggestions.


1 Answer 1


Time and patience.

Cats are not dogs; they don't adjust quickly to harnesses or leashes, and every cat I've known will "shut down" the first time (usually the first several times) they're put into a harness. The solution is to give them time to acclimate to the feeling of the harness on their body, and to get used to the idea that yes, they can still move while wearing it.

Start with letting your cat wear it under supervision while indoors. Give him a limited time to be in it, then take it off and put it away. Do this regularly until he starts to adjust himself to wearing it, then let him walk around the house (with supervision so he doesn't get caught on anything, as harnesses--for good reason--do not break away like collars do) for a little while. Once he's used to moving in it, add the leash, but keep him indoors while he continues getting used to the whole setup.

Before taking him outside for the first time, make sure there's no way he can get out of the harness. Some cats can figure out how to "slip" them and get free, particularly if they start to panic. Be sure to continue to monitor your cat's behavior on the harness even after you start going outside, as he may learn over time how to "slip." My previous cat rotated between multiple harnesses; each time he'd start to learn or remember how to slip the one he was using, I'd swap to one with a different design.

Cats don't naturally take to walking on a leash as well as dogs tend to do; it's a very slow process (my last cat took a couple of years to get comfortable on a leash), and it's entirely possible he might not ever adapt to it. If that ends up being the case, you may wish to consider a "catio" (enclosed outdoor space intended to give cats a safe space where they can still have some outdoor exposure) instead of walks.

  • 2
    Thanks for the advise! Would positive reinforcement help? By that I mean giving him treats/petting him while the harness is on indoors or should I try to just let him get used to it on his own May 23, 2018 at 17:16
  • @RileyCronin probably yes. But cat's are not as trainable as dogs. May 24, 2018 at 8:32
  • Allison, We have a couple of others posts about Catio's. I have created the tag and borrowed your words to populate it I am adding it to the related questions we have existing. Thanks for your answer, here. You may find you have something to contribute to the other questions as well. May 24, 2018 at 11:53
  • RileyCronin positive reinforcement never hurts, but it's true that cats aren't as trainable, and many aren't as food/treat-motivated as dogs tend to be either. @James Jenkins, thanks, I'll take a look, though I have minimal personal experience with them so far.
    – Allison C
    May 24, 2018 at 12:45

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