Harness Training – Teaching an Old Cat New Tricks.
Updated: 3 days ago
It's commonly said that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but I found it easy to teach our six-year-old cat to love his harness. Finding the right harness took some effort as we tried at least half a dozen before finding one that worked well. Chuck was a bit chunky, so finding one that fit him and he couldn't easily back out of took some time. We eventually found the Kitty Holster harness which was easy to put on and take off and he couldn't back out of it as easily. However, getting the right fit was a challenge for our chubby cat. The harness fit around his tummy but was too big around his neck. I solved this problem by ordering a Velcro extender strap which made the harness fit perfectly.
For harness training Chuck, I first allowed him to explore it while it was off. I placed it in his usual sleeping spot so that it would have his scent. After a few days, I put the harness on him while it was not attached to a leash, and let him wear it around the house. Finally, I took him to our backyard with a leash attached. At first, I tried to keep the leash slack and followed his lead. The leash would only get tight when I needed to keep him out of an area or an item that was unsafe. I kept these training sessions short at first, gradually increasing the length of time as he got more comfortable. I also gradually gave a slight tug on the leash to guide him in the direction I wanted him to go. I've read that it's good to reward with treats, but Chuck responded best to praise.
Once your cat is harness trained, it will likely insist on going outside. Chuck was no exception, as soon as he knew what the harness meant he would get excited to go out. Be prepared for this and train them to sit still while you put the harness on. I did this by patiently waiting for him and as soon as he sat rewarded him. When Chuck saw us pick up the harness or heard us say, "Ready to go out?" he would run to the door, even bringing the harness to us himself.
Chuck On A Walk
Although the harness we found for Chuck was designed to prevent him from easily getting out, it was not foolproof. If he became scared or really wanted something, he would back out of the harness and run for home or our trailer. To prevent this, I stayed behind him. If you are in front it is easier for them to get out of the harness. If I wanted him to change directions, I called him or gave a slight tug on the leash from the side. It should go without saying that your cat will not enjoy being dragged. Unfortunately, I have seen it done.
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