If you want to take your cat out for walks, a leash and harness must be used. But you’ve gotta get the best cat harness and leash to keep them safe. No matter how obedient you may think your cat is, you must keep them under control if you want to let them explore the wider world. But, just as importantly, you must ensure you have them within easy reach to protect them from other dangers.
When choosing the best leash and harness for your kitty, there are many things to consider. First, you must make sure that it’s comfortable enough for them; otherwise, you’ll struggle to get them to wear it, and it has to be safe too.
Also, only some cats can be walked. While some breeds are more likely to enjoy walking, remember that each pet is an individual, and you should only force a cat to wear a harness if they want to. You can try different options to find a comfortable one, but the last thing you want to do is cause a dent in your bond with your cat by making them do something they hate.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at the best cat harnesses and leashes and what you should be looking for when choosing one.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cat Harnesses and Leashes
There are four main factors you need to think about when choosing a cat harness and a leash.
More relevant to harnesses, choosing one that’s the right size for your cat is vital. Buy one that’s too small, and your cat won’t be comfortable wearing it – it’ll be tight, potentially painful, and could harm them. More likely is buying one too big, which could make it easy for your cat to slip out. Cats are brilliant escape artists when they want to be!
You need to check the design of the harness and leash so that you don’t accidentally choke your cat while walking them. They shouldn’t be putting pressure on your cat’s neck – this is why you don’t use a leash with a collar. The leash needs to not tangle and is resistant to knotting. A confident cat will happily roll around on the grass during a walk, and you don’t want them getting caught up or suffocated.
There are different styles of harnesses and leashes, so you’ll want to look at all of them before you decide on which to buy. Ideally, you’ll buy one your cat will like, and then you’ll be ready to enjoy walks. But if your cat doesn’t like one style of harness, you may want to try another. Also, the style can contribute to how hot it makes your cat – so consider choosing one with breathable cotton or other mesh fabric.
Any harness and leash will come under pressure on a walk. It would be best if you had something that won’t snap at the first sign of your cat pulling on it. Look for tough materials like nylon or denim, but also make sure they don’t have sharp edges that can dig into your cat’s head or neck.
Cat Harness Styles
There are three main types of cat harnesses you can choose from.
They are so named because they look like the letter ‘H’ when unclipped and laid out. They’re the most minimal type of harness, consisting of a strap for the neck and a strap for the upper back, typically just behind the legs. These straps are connected by one single strap.
Some cats and cat owners prefer these harnesses because they have the least material and contact with the cat’s body. But they can also easily slip out if the harnesses aren’t correctly fitted.
Cat Vest Style Harness
The vest-style harness comprises more material – it usually clips around the neck. Still, it has an almost v-shaped vest covering the entire upper chest. These harnesses are sometimes called step-in harnesses because the cat can literally step into them.
In addition, they tend to be more secure than an H-harness. In addition, they do a better job distributing pressure, making them a good choice for energetic cats that like to pull on the leash.
A jacket harness is sometimes called a butterfly harness because of how it looks spread out on the floor when unclipped. It’ll cover the entire upper half of a cat’s body, almost down to the belly, barring the legs and head. Only some cats will feel comfortable wearing one of these harnesses since they are more restrictive and are in more contact with the cat’s body. Still, they are some of the most secure.
Cat Leash Styles
Just as there are three types of harnesses, there are also three main cat leashes you can choose from.
Standard Flat Leash
A standard flat leash is just a regular leash, but rather than a cord, they’re almost like a flat tape shape. This helps to prevent knots and makes it easier to untangle. Also, because the leash is a fixed length, that flat shape makes it harder for cats to get tangled in the leash if they start rolling around.
But be aware that if you need to grab the leash to shorten it – if an unleashed dog is nearby, and you need to protect your cat – you can only do it manually. It might pull on your cat, causing some discomfort. Also, it’s the type of leash that’ll take up the most storage space at home.
A bungee leash is a coiled elasticated leash with some give to it. It will keep your kitty closer and allow them to get excited and explore something interesting without a sharp pull on their neck or torso. Because it coils back up, it is easier to store, but the spiral nature means it can get more tangled, and you still don’t have complete control over your cat since it can pull away from you.
Retractable leashes offer the most control over your cat, allowing you to control the length of the leash and keep your feline friend close if you need to. However, this also makes them more restrictive and can be frustrating for cats that like to wander. Some cats may also dislike the retractable leash’s noise, which can prevent them from wearing it.
Long-haired Cats and Harnesses
Long-haired cats can provide unique challenges for owners who want to walk them. Just check out this post on Floppycats’ Facebook page about harnesses and you’ll see some of the challenges.
Finding a harness that’s a good fit over all that fur, keeping your cat snug and secure, can be tricky. But if it’s a Velcro harness, as many of them are…well, you’ll likely spend a lot of time cleaning the Velcro pads of all that loose fur that clogs it up. If you don’t, the Velcro will become weaker, making it a lot easier for your cat to break free of the harness, which is a safety risk.
If you have a long-haired cat that you want to walk, consider harnesses that don’t use Velcro at all – either those that your cat steps into or ones with clips. And if you are using a Velcro harness, maybe schedule walks for just after a brush so you’ve at least removed some of the loose fur, and then make sure to clean the Velcro regularly.
Best Cat Harnesses and Leashes for Your Kitten
Here are some of the best cat harnesses, including some with leashes.
A thin vest-style harness suitable for dogs and cats, this option is made from an all-weather breathable mesh fabric with a simple step-in, clip-and-go fastening design. It has a reflective strip on each side to keep your cat visible, not that they should ever wander off too far, and double D-rings for attaching the leash (not included). Many sizes, including those specific to small cats, are available, from XXXS to XL.
This harness is made with a padded air mesh in a vest and designed to be escape-proof but also immune to choking. Available in a range of colors and two sizes (Xtra-Small and Small), it uses plastic buckles rather than Velcro, with 4 adjustment points to make it easy to fit onto your cat. A standard flat leash is included.
This simply-designed H-harness has adjustable nylon straps for the neck and back. In addition, it has a metal loop on the central joining strap to help distribute the pressure evenly when your cat does pull. It’s a good choice for cats that feel uncomfortable with the enclosed feeling of a vest or jacket, but not if they’re likely to try to escape. The leash that comes with this harness is a simple flat nylon design that won’t knot tightly.
This jacket-style Kitty Holster harness has a large Velcro fastener and no other clips or straps. The idea is that it should be more comfortable for your cat to wear. It comes in various sizes from XS to XL, which should make getting one close to your cat’s body size easier. It also has a cotton lining for extra comfort but is still ultra-lightweight. No leash is included.
This vest-style harness is made from a soft mesh material that is comfortable and gentle on your cat. It’s fixed with plastic clasps, which could be a good solution for long-haired kitties that get their fur caught in Velcro closures, and once it’s adjusted to the correct size, it can work as a step-in harness. Unfortunately, this one has no leash, so you’ll need to buy one separately.
This soft vest harness is designed for puppy training and could also be a good choice for some cats. It’s a step-in harness with a single Velcro fastener that’s kept more secure with a plastic buckle strap. It spreads the pressure evenly when pulled by the leash buckle and has a lightweight material that will keep your cat cool. But, of course, you’ll need a separate leash.
For UK Cat Owners
There are some great choices for British cat owners who want to buy a harness locally. These have been recommended by Facebook friends and are worthy of your consideration. It’s worth noting that both of these stores ship internationally.
Some beautiful designs are available if you want to try one of these jacket-style cat harnesses for your kitty. They’re made to measure, too, so you can be sure of a perfect fit. Their website includes details of the measurements you’ll need to provide. Unfortunately, they don’t come with a leash (or should that be ‘lead’ for British owners!) so make sure you buy one elsewhere.
Cat Harness Training
It’s very likely, your cat won’t take to wearing a harness immediately. There’s an element of training involved in getting your cat used to the harness and in how to behave when on a walk.
Cat Harness and Leashes FAQ
Can you walk a Ragdoll Cat on a leash?
While not every Ragdoll cat will take to walking (mine didn’t), they are a breed that loves to stay close to their owner and follow them around. If you convince them to accept the leash and harness, you can definitely walk them on a leash.
Make sure to walk them only in areas you know are safe – they’re a gentle, soft-natured breed and need to be well looked after.
Do Ragdoll Cats like to go outside?
Ragdolls are playful, energetic, and curious cats. The outdoors can be interesting to them as it gives them space to exercise and many new sights and smells to explore. However, they aren’t very adventurous or the best at looking after themselves in intimidating situations.
It would be best if you didn’t let your Ragdoll wander outdoors unsupervised. And they don’t need to be taken for walks either – it’s okay for your Ragdoll to be an indoor cat, provided they have toys to help them exercise. They may also be happy on outdoor adventures in your backyard when you can keep a close eye on them.
Are dog harnesses and leashes an option?
There are many more options for dog leashes and harnesses than specific cat ones – that’s understandable considering how dogs need to be walked, while for cats, it’s optional.
Ideally, you would avoid buying ones marketed for dogs and instead buy one you know is designed specifically for a cat’s body shape and size. Some smaller dog harnesses might suit larger cats, but check the sizing carefully. Small sizes for dog harnesses can still be quite large.
How do I make sure that the harness will be a good fit?
The only way to ensure you get a harness that will be a good fit is to measure your kitty. You’ll want to measure them around the neck and the upper torso behind the front legs to find a harness designed specifically for your cat’s size.
And suppose the harness you’re looking at doesn’t give dimensions. In that case, you could try messaging the manufacturer, but it might be better to consider another option. You might buy a harness that’s not a good fit, and then you’d have the hassle of returning it.
How do you make sure your cat is strapped on tight enough?
It would be best to be careful when tightening a harness for a cat. This is because cats are more agile animals than dogs and can slip out of anything that isn’t secure. But simultaneously, you want to avoid crushing your cat by having the harness too tight.
A good rule is a two-finger rule.
When your cat is strapped into the harness, you can get two fingers between the harness and skin without considerable effort. Still, it’s a good tightness if you can’t fit three fingers. That won’t cause your cat discomfort or let them slip out. It needs to be tighter if you can get three fingers into the gap without much effort. If it’s hard to get two fingers in there, loosen it very slightly.
Is it cruel to harness a cat?
It’s not cruel to put a harness on a cat. What’s cruel is trying to stick with a harness when it causes your cat distress, especially when you can tell your kitty clearly doesn’t want to wear one. Also, while certain cat breeds can be walked, every cat is unique; some cats don’t want to be walked or don’t want to wear a harness, making walking unsafe.
Trying a harness with your cat isn’t cruel. Trying different types of harnesses with your cat is also okay if they don’t like the first. However, persisting when your cat refuses to wear one and is clearly upset is cruel. If your cat isn’t suited for walking, you must accept that.
What type of leash is best for cats?
A cat’s best type of leash is just a standard flat leash. It’s the hardest leash to get tangled, and when it does, it won’t knot as tightly as a round leash could, so it’s easier to free your kitty. On the other hand, retractable leashes can get tangled, and the noise can upset cats. And bungee leashes have the same tangling issue and are harder to control your cat.
Why shouldn’t you put collars on cats?
This is a personal decision based on where you live, your neighborhood’s potential dangers, etc.
It would be best if you only used a breakaway collar. A cat’s collar needs to separate when pressure is applied. If the collar isn’t a breakaway, your cat could get caught by it and potentially hang themselves on a fence.
Some owners like to add a bell to a collar to give birds and other wildlife a fair warning that a cat is approaching. However, the cat could get its claws stuck in the bell, causing other medical issues. So if you want to use a collar, make sure it’s a breakaway one, and be careful of using a bell that could hurt your cat.
Also, it would be best if you didn’t use a leash with a collar the same way you might with a dog. Cats’ necks aren’t as strong as dogs’, and if they pull away from you in excitement on a walk, you will likely hurt them. So, it’s best to always use a leash with a body harness.
And if you’re using a breakaway collar, then using it with a leash means that the cat will likely escape as soon as they do pull. So, a harness is always best. But be careful never to leave your cat tied up with a harness and leash. Because they’re inescapable, they can’t get away from any predators.
How do I choose a cat harness?
When choosing a cat harness, consider what you know about your cat. For example, is it sensitive about things touching its skin? Are they adventurous and energetic and more likely to want to wander off?
If your cat hates anything touching them, then you’ll want a minimal harness – an H-harness is probably the better choice. However, safety is a bigger priority. So, if you’re concerned your cat may try to wriggle free or pull away to explore, a more secure harness like a vest or jacket-style one is the way to go.
Once you’ve decided on a style, think about the connection type. For example, long-haired cats can cause all kinds of problems with Velcro, but step-in harnesses can be tricky to put onto a cat, while ones with clips can be less comfortable.
With the style and clip type decided, you need to measure your cat and find one that’s a suitable size for them.
Is it okay to leave a harness on a cat?
It would be best to never leave a harness on a cat once you’ve finished your walk. No matter how comfortable the harness might be, it’s still not going to be as comfortable as not wearing it. Plus, it stops your cat from grooming itself.
Put a harness on your cat for short amounts of time when you’re training them to get used to it, then for the duration of a walk, but remove it when you get home. This helps your cat get used to going on a walk and knowing that the harness will be removed again.
Why can’t cats walk with a harness on?
Cats can walk with a harness on. Cat harnesses are designed to allow complete freedom of movement in the legs – otherwise, what would be the point?
If you’ve put a harness on your cat and they aren’t moving, it’s less likely to be a “can’t.” It’s probably just that your cat “won’t” walk. On the other hand, it could be a mutiny from your kitty. That’s fine – give your cat a little time to get used to it, but remove the harness if they show signs of discomfort or distress.
With training, cats will often be okay with a harness, but if they aren’t, you’ll either need to try a different style or accept that your cat isn’t walkable.
Are cat harnesses and leashes safe?
Cat harnesses and leashes can be safe if you get one designed for cats that are a good fit and that doesn’t have any hazards that could cause your cat to suffocate. However, you should never leave your cat unattended in a harness or leash since even the safest ones could cause problems if they get caught on something.
Make sure the harness is a solid fit so that your cat isn’t at risk of escaping, but ensure that it’s got enough give that it isn’t putting unsafe pressure on your cat’s neck or body.
When buying a cat harness and leash, you must take your time with your decision. Getting one that’s safe, secure, and a proper size is imperative. And then don’t give up if your cat doesn’t take to it immediately – training and familiarity are essential. But at the same time, don’t force your cat to wear one if it hates it. Walking isn’t suited to every individual kitty.
Do you walk your cat? If you’ve any recommendations for harnesses and leashes, please comment below.
Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,