Walking my cat named Dog or whatever
April 19, 2019 9:05 PM   Subscribe

Is this really the most recent thread about harness/leash training a cat? There's lots of good information about the training aspects, but many of the product links are old. What's new in cat walk fashion (sorry) since 2012?

We adopted approx-5-year-old Maggie Murderface two months ago. As far as we know she's always been an indoor cat. We hadn't planned on harness training her, but she's interested in the outdoors and very chill, so we think she might take to it. What are her best harness options in terms of safety/ease of use/returnability if she hates them?
posted by doift to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
We didn’t stick with it but the Kitty Holster is pretty good.
posted by impishoptimist at 9:12 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


Seconding the recommendation for the Kitty Holster. I found that it was flexible enough for the cat to wear it without doing the weird hunching that cats do when they feel something on their back, but also large enough in terms of surface area that the cat can't wiggle out of it. It comes with a dense pamphlet of information on getting your cat used to wearing a harness. Before getting that one, we tried a Yizhi Miaow brand cat harness in several sizes that the cat absolutely hated, due to how stiff it was.

When we first got the cat she was an escape artist who wanted to run out the door any chance she got, but when we put the harness on, she refused to walk outside. I suspect that the constricting feeling of the harness made her feel unsafe in case she needed to run to safety. She got over it once we carried her out into the yard and made her walk back to the door under her own power a few times. Now she'll happily put on the harness, step out the door and sniff around the yard for a while.
posted by arcolz at 9:34 PM on April 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


I use a Kitty Holster too with my cat. She is an indoors cat except when I take her for "walks" (more accurately, she wanders around leashed and I follow her through our fenced-off yard while doing Duolingo). I wish I could tell you how to train your cat, but mine literally required no special training to accept the harness. I showed it to her, she didn't freak, I put it on her, she didn't freak, I took her outside, and her little cat brain went, "Ding! Kitty holster = going outside for a walk." Now she meows hopefully whenever I show it to her and that's her signal for "Let's go for a walk." When I want to take her back inside, I just tell her it's time to go in and pick her up and that's that. (Mine loves being picked up and snuggled.)

I can't promise it will be this easy for you--my cat is abnormally chill--but it's worth a try, especially if you have a quiet space close to home where you can minimize things that might spook her.
posted by yhlee at 9:37 PM on April 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


I definitely had to try multiple harnesses before I found one that my cat would tolerate. My cat is a sensitive sort who refuses to wear a collar and who is also NOT at all comforted or calmed by having fabric of any sort wrapped around her (Like, that thing they do at the vet's office where they wrap anxious cats in towels to calm them down? Makes her straight-up MURDEROUS). I tried a couple of the popular shirt-style harnesses and getting them on her was awful because she hates feeling wrapped up so much. What eventually worked best for her was just a regular old-fashioned, lightweight strap-style cat harness with those plastic click fasteners that are super quick to open and shut (to minimize the handling involved in getting the harness on her). She collapsed dramatically and ostentatiously pretended to die the first few times I put the strap harness on her. But eventually she learned to associate it with both 1.) treats (which I would give her for successful non-bitey harness donning) and 2.) outdoor excursions, and also realized that the harness was not going to eat her and that she could, in fact, walk while wearing it. Now she is happy when I bring the harness out. Getting her used to it just took time, treats, and patience.

I am also careful to give her verbal cues whenever possible, when I need her to stop (Like, "Stop. No street," Or "Stop. Don't eat that.") so that she isn't startled when stopped by the leash from getting into trouble.

She has pretty much naturally learned with practice about how long the leash is, and how to pull on it gently to indicate to me a direction she wants to go in.

She doesn't really "walk" in terms of going in a specific direction for more than a few feet at a time, but, I don't think most cats really do. "Walking" most cats should probably be more properly be called "wandering the cat."
posted by BlueJae at 6:36 AM on April 20, 2019 [11 favorites]


Rupert wears a Kitty Holster as well, although lately he's been going for walks wearing his life jacket because boating season is coming soon and I want him to get used to it. This is the year we try to determine whether he might be interested in/comfortable/unafraid going out on the water.

We take Rupert for walks so he gets to go farther away than the immediate back yard and explore natural landscapes. Eventually we were able to let Rupert off leash when we were in the yard gardening or reading because he stays close to us. He comes when called, so when he's off leash he is not allowed to venture further away from us than roughly the length of his lead, or about 25 feet. He's easy to grab because he's used to the idea that he's always close to us outside and that we control him, so if necessary we can always walk right up to him and scoop him up when it's time to go inside.

It took about two years of only letting him be outside on the leash before he was allowed outside without it, but only in our presence, then another two years before we reached the point we're at today, which is that he has a kitty door to a screened in porch that is always available and then another one from the porch to the outside that is only open when we're home and awake, and never after dark. We can hear him open that door and we call him back home after about 20-25 minutes. Rupert seems to know how long that is because he often comes in just as we're about to call him anyway. We can usually see him out the window and it seems to be the case that as far as Rupert is concerned he doesn't get to visit the fun areas without being in his harness and on his leash. Then again, he is a very good boy and super-compliant, especially for a cat. He will go to the place we store his harness and ask for walks.

Anyway, we practice two kinds of walks: "free exploration," where we follow Rupert wherever he wants to go around our property, which includes woods and grassy fields. He has favorite spots he wants to visit. His leash is about 25 feet long (it's retractable) and he has been able to catch shrews, voles and field mice while securely attached when we weren't paying attention and failed to realize he'd locked on to movement in the grass. And a few snakes. And lots of toads and frogs. And once a baby rabbit. A chipmunk. And a bird. Rupert usually drops them when so directed, but in short, he's lethal even when leashed and doesn't know his limitations; he chased an adult fox the other day for about 25 yards, while off leash, in a rare violation of his practice of sticking right next to us/the house. But then he came right back.

The other kind of walk we call "directed," and that means we keep the leash tight, at about six feet, hold it straight up and cause him to walk at our sides. We practice this by walking up and down the driveway and its purpose is so he can accompany us when we go for our own walks on our neighborhood roads (no sidewalks) and because we spend two months of the year somewhere cars are much more common and he can't go outside unaccompanied ever. Every outing includes both kinds of walks so he stays in practice.

The plan for the boat is to go on walks to the boathouse (probably via a combination of both kinds of walks), which is about half a mile away, and then let Rupert explore the boat and feed him high value treats there, probably daily for a few weeks. He'll probably nap in the boat with me and we'll just hang out in it together, all of this while wearing his life jacket. Then I'll turn on the motor and just idle it in the boathouse. He loves the car, so this should go ok. Eventually, I'll take him out for a really short, slow and smooth rides with no chance of him getting wet (there are places on the boat for him to take cover if he wants). I hope it works out!
posted by carmicha at 12:33 PM on April 20, 2019 [4 favorites]


The one trick I've noticed with the Kitty Holster is make sure to measure and get the right size. One of my cats was between sizes so I went with the larger one because he's a big dude, and he seems to hate it a lot more than the smaller cat. He is less used to the concept though than the little cat who gets so excited when I bring her harness out. She also has a Kitty Holster. They are wonderful. Just make sure it's tight enough so a good jerk on it won't allow the cat to explode free.

This is a testament to how much freedom of movement they can give a cat, while also being secure: this weekend I had the little cat out on her harness, and when a very dumb bird flew too low over her, she did a backflip in an attempt to catch it, and very nearly did.
posted by possibilityleft at 6:37 AM on April 22, 2019


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