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There are many reasons we take our cats out hiking, camping and traveling with us. It provides them with endless stimulation, decreases the frequency of unwanted behaviors at home, allows them to get the exercise they require without being an “outdoor cat,” and helps to strengthen our bond with them. Not to mention the benefits of never having to find a pet sitter!
When you decide to take your cat out, either exploring the backyard or on a multi-day hike, the first thing you’ll need is the right harness. A collar is great for attaching ID tags and a bell, but is dangerous to use with a leash, as the cat’s trachea is very delicate.
If you have an adult cat you’ll have many more harness options, because several made for small dogs will work. However, if you’re starting with a kitten, the number of options is limited, and you will probably have to buy a new one every few months as your little friend continues to grow.
When Fish and Chips were about eight weeks old, we started them out with a figure-eight style harness that was made for teacup dogs. This style harness is not ideal, because it’s easy for cats to wiggle out of, and tightens up as they pull, so it can be uncomfortable. But we never actually walked Fish or Chips with this harness on – we just wanted something small enough to fit them so they could get used to wearing one right away.
The next harness we tried was the Petsafe Easy Walk Come With Me Kitty Harness. This harness is quite unique in its design and highly adjustable, making it great for a growing kitty. It also comes with a neat little bungee leash that works well for “backpack training”, allowing your cat to easily 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 because Fish was getting too strong for a narrow harness.
Next we purchased them both vest-style harnesses. These harnesses are often the most comfortable for your cat as the weight and pressure tend to be better distributed. That also makes them great for strong kitties, because they’re very secure and don’t have pinch points like strappy harnesses.
Fish loved it and still uses this variety. He’s currently wearing the Puppia brand harness. 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 that it had to slip snugly over his head and ears when being put on and taken off, so Chips went back to wearing the Petsafe harness for a while.
We’ve also tried jacket-style harnesses, like the Kitty Holster, which is designed for cats that tend to slip out of their harnesses. We found it was unnecessarily bulky for our cats. Fish and Chips are trained well enough now that we don’t worry about them wiggling out of their harnesses and running away. And, since neither of our cats were able to walk comfortably in the Kitty Holster around the house, we never tested it on the trails. That said, it gets reviews online from many pet owners – so it could be a great option for your feline friend!
You can also get 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 we don’t use it when we’re on long hikes so he doesn’t overheat.
Fish and Chips are also complete opposites when it comes to putting their harness put on. Fish gets excited because he knows it means we’re going outside. Chips, on the other hand, usually hides under the bed. Many people are surprised to find out he still hates getting his harness on after all this time – but once he’s out and about, he forgets all about it.
To help make Chips more comfortable donning harness, we searched for one that would be easy to put on and wouldn’t have to be adjusted once it was on … and that brought us to a H-style harness.
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 them to rub under 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 pretty 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 ideal harness for him. Luckily, with the rise in popularity of “adventure cats,” companies are starting to make more cat harnesses, making it easier and more comfortable for both you and your furry friends to hit the trails together!