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Choosing the Best Harness for Your Cat

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The best cat harness will not only be comfortable, it will keep your feline adventurer safe. Choosing the proper harness depends on your cat’s age, shape, and preferences – get the pros and cons of four different styles of harness.

Chips the kitten on a log wearing a red cat harness

There are many reasons we take Fish and Chips hiking, camping and traveling with us. It provides them with endless entertainment, results in better behavior at home, allows them to get the exercise they need without being “outdoor cats,” and helps strengthen our bond with them.

Of course, there’s also the added benefit of never having to find a pet sitter!

Chips the cat perched on a woman's shoulder wearing an H-style cat harness

When you decide to take your cat outdoors, whether exploring in the backyard or for multi-day hikes, the first thing you’ll need is the right cat harness. Collars are fine for attaching ID tags and a bell, but it would be dangerous to attach a leash to your cat’s collar.

With an adult cat you’ll have more harness options, because several made for small dogs will work. However, if you’re starting with a kitten, the options are limited. And you should plan on buying a new harness every few months as your little friend continues to grow.
Fish the kitten on a red blanket wearing a green cat harness

Starting with a Kitten Harness

When Fish and Chips were about eight weeks old, we started them out with harnesses in a figure-eight style that were made for teacup dogs. This style of harness is easy for cats to wiggle out of, and tightens up if they pull, so it can be uncomfortable.

These harnesses our purposes because we didn’t walk the cats on them. We just needed something small enough to fit their tiny kitten bodies so they could get used to wearing them from a very young age.

Cat Harnesses for Adolescent Kittens

After a couple months, the boys graduated to the Petsafe Easy-Walk Come With Me Kitty Harness. This harness is uniquely designed and highly adjustable, making it great for growing kittens. It also comes with a neat little bungee leash that allows your cat to jump down when riding on your shoulders or backpack.

Both Fish and Chips used these harnesses for the first few months of adventures with us, but we eventually moved on to a different type for safety reasons.

Chips the grey kitten on a log in his red cat harness

Vest-style Cat Harnesses

Next we purchased them both vest-style cat harnesses. These are often the most comfortable for your cat as they more evenly distribute weight and pressure. That also makes them great for strong cats, because they’re very secure and don’t have pinch points like the strappy harnesses do.

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Fish loved his vest-style harness and is still using this design. He’s currently wearing the Puppia brand harness, which fits him nicely and comes in a fantastic variety of colors – allowing every cat to look his best.

Chips, on the other hand, tried it a few times and decided he’s not a fan of vest-style harnesses. Our cats have very different body shapes and we found that on Chips the vest was too bulky. He also disliked having it tugged over his head and ears when being put on and taken off. So he went back to wearing the Petsafe harness for a while.

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Small kitty sleeping on a pillow

Other Cat Harness Options

In the search to please Chips, we’ve tried jacket-style harnesses, like the Kitty Holster, which is designed for cats that tend to slip out of their harnesses. We found it to be unnecessarily bulky for our cats. Fish and Chips had difficulty walking comfortably in the Kitty Holster around the house, we never even tested it on the trails. That said, it gets great online reviews, so it might be the perfect option for your feline friend!

Another possibility are what I call “designer” jackets for cats. Some of these can be used as harnesses, and are also quite fashionable! Chips has a little leather biker jacket from the AllCatsGood Etsy shop that he seems pretty comfortable in, though it would be too warm to use on long hikes.

The Best Cat Harness for Chips

Since Chips is uncomfortable in a harness that goes over his head, we searched for one that would be easy to put on and wouldn’t have to be adjusted once it was in place. That brought us to an H-style harness.

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It should be noted that H-style harnesses are not super-secure and would not be ideal for strong cats or escape artists. They are, however, a good option for docile cats that require a lightweight harness. We started out with one made for dogs, but found that the fabric straps were too wide, which caused chaffing Chips’ little arms.

After searching high and low for an H-style harness that was the right fit for Chips, we discovered one at our local grocery store! The harness was inexpensive, fits him fairly well, and has little skulls on it to match his tough-guy personality.

This is what he’s currently using, but it does move around on him a bit. It’s not perfect … so we’re still hunting for the perfect harness for him. Luckily, with the rise in popularity of “adventure cats,” companies are starting to make more cat gear, making it easier for you to find just the right cat harness for your furry friends!

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  • Kathy Osborne says:

    I have 3 rescue boy cats Stripes 8yrs old inside cat, Grey 3 inside/outside cat. My baby Trouble not yet a yr old 4 page polydactyl cat inside so far. I want to take them cross country this summer. Stripes is only one had harness on before. And he & Trouble love riding in vehicles. But grey not use to riding in vehicle will have a 24 ft motorhome for a while.. how soon should I start breaking them to the harness if I am leaving in late spring
    Also they are fixed. And I take Stripes out for recess since baby. Should I keep them harnessed at all times while moving? How often does suggest letting them wear it at a time to get use to it? Should I take them out separately? Do they make an escape-proof play yard for cats? What kinds of things to be aware of outside the normal?

    • Amy at says:

      Hi Kathy! It sounds like you have a great trip in the works and I’m sure you and the cats will have a blast. My advice is to start the cats wearing the harness as soon as possible. How long you leave it on at a time while you’re training them really depends on how they react to the harness. If they’re very unsure, I might only leave it on for 30 seconds to a minute at first. If they’re more comfortable, maybe 5 minutes, and then slowly build up the time they’re wearing the harness.

      I would recommend having them in secured carriers while you’re driving. Being distracted by cats under your feet when you’re driving an RV isn’t good. And there are many places for cats to hide in an RV – some of which could be dangerous. Always make sure you know where all the cats are before extending or retracting any slide rooms in the RV.

      Whether you take them out separately or together is really up to you and them. If they feel more comfortable together, I’d go with that!

      Yes, they do make a type of playpen for cats that folds up. It might be something to look into!

      I hope that helps and that you all have a fantastic trip!

  • Agreed, Pamela! That’s a fantastic idea – there have been may things I’ve wanted to try for Buster and Ty, but hesitated to fork over the money until I knew it was going to work. I do hope more companies start to make options for adventure cats.

  • I’ve always thought it would be helpful for someone to open a pet gear rental business by mail. And Lindsay’s piece sharing all the thought that went into finding the right harnesses for Fish and Chips is one more reason. How much easier would it be to find the right cat travel harness if you could rent one and try it for a while before making the investment?I know from many of my cat-loving boating friends that it is just as hard finding a kitty life jacket that fits well and is comfortable.Hopefully as more cats go adventuring, comapnies will provide more options.

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