What's the Best Cat Harness and Leash? - Cat Info Detective

What’s the Best Cat Harness and Leash?

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Greetings feline adventurers! Are you looking for the perfect cat harness and leash so your cat can explore the world with you?

You’ve come to the right place.

Skye Blake here, with what your cat wants you to know about harnesses and leashes.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it!

paw prints coming in from a distance

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian or trainer) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides and explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, linking you to experts on each page. 

All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

Why Use a Harness and Leash?

cat in field wearing harness-side view

Most people are used to cats running around outdoors or staying indoors, so it seems weird to see a cat wandering around on a leash.

People walk dogs, not cats, right?

Well, it’s becoming more popular… many of my fellow felines enjoy being outdoors and people like taking us on hikes, bikes, camping trips and sailing!

Will My Cat Go for Walks?

Tabby cat looking in window

To figure out if your cat would love to explore with you, there are a few things you can do. Discover what your cat likes at “You & Your Traveling Cat“.

Then, if you’re cat’s a good candidate, you’ll want to get a harness that works for her and train her to be comfortable wearing it (“Leash and Harness Training Your Cat“).

Training your cat in preparation for going into the great outdoors together is important in case of emergency or if your cat gets loose.

tabby cat wearing harness

Many people think training cats is impossible, but (shhh… I’m letting the cat out of the bag) most felines can be trained if you understand what motivates us!

Discover training how-to’s at…

persian cat walking wearing vest

The 3 Cat Harness Styles

calico cat wearing collar

So, what types of harnesses are available and how do I find the best one for my cat?

Can I use a collar with a leash attached like I do for my dog?

First, it’s important to use a harness rather than a collar for walking with your cat.

tabby cat wearing collar sitting on speaker

Attaching a leash to a cat’s collar can be dangerous. Our throats are soft, and we can easily choke if you pull hard on it.

A harness has to fit comfortably and be snug so your kitty can’t wiggle out of it.

If you end up in an emergency situation with a panicky cat, you’ll appreciate having him in a securely fitted escape-proof harness that won’t choke him.

silver, grey cat on leash looking up

You’d be surprised at how well we cats can wiggle!

There are three basic harness styles available for use with cats, varying in price and quality…

  • H-harness
  • Vest
  • Jacket
Outdoor tabby cat on alert

Many manufacturers claim their harnesses are escape-proof. Take that with a grain of salt… your feline Houdini will prove them wrong!

Having a proper fit is the key to any harness being both comfortable and escape-proof.

H-Harness (Lead)

cat wearing H-harness & leash

The H-Harness (a.k.a., lead) is simply a strap that fits around the throat (like a collar) and another around the torso under the front legs.

Clip the leash on the strap that attaches the two main straps together. That way pressure is distributed when the leash is pulled taut.

bengal cat walking-harness, leash

Many cats like them because they’re comfortable and cover less of the body.

Just be sure to fit the harness correctly (they’re adjustable) so it’s comfortable for your cat.

If your cat’s an escape artist, it’s best to use either the vest or jacket style.

Vest Harness

cat wearing plaid vest harness

The second type of harness is the most popular one.

It’s a cloth or lightweight mesh vest that wraps around the body below the neck with a clip on the back for attaching the leash.

Mesh allows more air circulation than cloth, which is good for hot weather.

tabby cat wearing vest harness; indoor/outdoor cat

Vests cover more of a cat’s body and distribute pressure better than the H-Harness, which is good for cats who pull a lot on the leash or try to wiggle out of the harness.

Some have reflective bindings and/or LED lights attached, which are a great feature for locating your cat, especially at dusk or nighttime.

Vests for small dogs work well for larger cats like Maine Coons.

Some cats don’t like having a vest go over their head and prefer ones that clip around the body and neck.

Jacket Harness

cat wearing blue jacket harness

The third type of harness is a jacket that wraps more fully around the body than a vest.

These are more secure than H-Harnesses and have a clip on the back for the leash.

The jacket fits better on some cats, who find them more comfortable than other types.

Some cats, however, don’t like these as well as the vests or H-harnesses. Know your cat.

orange, ginger tabby cat sitting yawning

These harnesses usually use Velcro® to close them around the cat’s body and some cats don’t like that sound.

If that’s the case with your cat, you can desensitize her using treats, patience and praise.

Once she associates the sound with good things, she’ll be more accepting of it.

Life Vests for Water Adventures

canoeing into sunset - man

An important harness is the life vest for water adventures… a must when boating or swimming with your cat.

Yes, there are some cats who love the water!

If your cat hates water but you’d like him to go canoeing with you, it might not work.

dog wearing yellow life jacket

Try training him just as you do anything else… with time, patience, treats, and lots of attention!

He just might realize water brings treats and love and decide it’s not that bad.

But don’t push it too far too fast. Some cats will never take to water and are better off at home.

bull terrier running through water wearing life jacket

Know your cat… if she loves water, swimming or boating, you’re golden, just be sure she’s wearing the life vest at all times.

Yes, cats can swim, but a life vest will help you see and grab her, as well as help keep her afloat.

Some life vests have a neck float or chin pad to help keep kitty’s head out of the water.

dog wearing orange life vest

Currently there are no vests specifically made for cats, but small to extra small dog sizes can be adapted to cats.

Get your cat used to wearing the life vest slowly, just as you do a regular harness.

Test it in the bathtub or kiddie pool so she can get used to what it feels like in the water.

cat lounging on pier by water

Work slowly and carefully watch her reactions along the way.

Find out more about boating with your cat at “What Mode of Transportation Are You Using?

The Best Type of Leash

cat leash regular orange

Now that you have the right harness for your cat, what’s the best type of leash to use with it?

Most harnesses come with a leash, but they’re also available separately.

Lightweight is best since your cat won’t feel its weight.

dog, cat leash

Some people like retractable leashes because they allow your cat to roam without you having to follow closely through brush and up trees.

Bungee leashes stretch to allow your cat to wander and pull similarly to retractable leashes.

Sources of Harnesses & Leashes

retractable leash - black

Harnesses and leashes are available at pet stores, company websites, and supplier sites like Chewy and Amazon.

Each product description has a measurement chart to get the correct size. Be sure to properly measure your cat for the right fit.

Traveling Together

tractor trailers traveling on a highway

If you’re moving or taking your cat on an adventure, there are things you should know before you go.

Discover more at… “Traveling With a Cat“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

“7 Cat Life Jackets That Will Suit Your Feline Perfectly” (happywhisker.com)

“77 Things to Know Before Getting a Cat”, by Susan M. Ewing, Companion House Books, Fox Chapel Publishers International, Ltd., 2018, pp. 153-6

Amazon

“BEST CAT HARNESS: HOW TO FIND THE ‘PURRFECT’ FIT”, by China Despain, Adventure Cats™, Gear & Safety, April 17, 2021

“CatWise”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2016, pp. 265-7

“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting & Owning a Cat”, by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D., Alpha Books, Penguin Group (USA), Inc., New York, NY, 2005, pp. 193-4

“Think Like a Cat, How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss”, by Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, Penguin Books, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, New York, NY, 2000, 2011, pp. 92-4

“Total Cat Mojo”, by Jackson Galaxy with Mikel Delgado, PhD, Tarcher Perigree, Penguin Random House, LLC, New York, NY, 2017, pp. 251-253

What Kind of Harness Does Your Cat Need?“, by China Despain, Adventure Cats™, October 17, 2015

Updated April 14, 2024

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