Why harness a cat? Don't they hate it?
Depends on the cat! Some actually enjoy being accessories (before or after the fact), going places with you and being admired by passersby. The rest might still have to be prevented from fleeing if startled while already stressed - such as when they're handled by strangers at vets' offices or adoption events. I once saw airport security make a passenger remove a VERY nervous cat from its already-X-rayed crate while they disassembled and carefully examined every piece - and then somebody in the nearby arrival aisle tripped the "wrong-way" alarm, strobes and sirens and all. . .
Depends on the harness too! When I realized I had a foster-cat amenable to leashed walks, I tried several different harness types to see which she liked best. That would be the type I'd try out on new candidates. I discovered:
- Like me with scuba gear, they prefer minimal weight, bulk, stiffness, and hard lumps.
- They don't like having their heads pushed through a tight-fitting loop that bends back their ears, eyebrows, and whiskers on its way on or off. However, they don't seem to mind putting their heads into a bigger loop that clears all their various protuberances.
- They have no patience for prolonged fiddling to get the harness on and adjusted properly.
- It shouldn't be easy to put the harness on inside-out or backwards, or get the straps twisted.
- If there is a "wrong way" to put it on, the goof should be detectable well before the very last step.
- Goofs should be fixable without taking the whole thing off and starting over.
- Size adjustments should be quick, smooth, and not require much iteration.
- Most dogs usually take a Terminator-1 approach to escape, leveraging their musculo-skeletal strength, momentum and, well, doggedness. Therefore, they need every bit of that Mil-Spec material and hardware you find on dog harnesses.
- By contrast, most cats (also ferrets, rabbits, rodents, otters and others) escape more like Terminator 2 They change shape, shift their centers all over the place, even seem to temporarily liquefy, vaporize, or fold through some eldritch parallel dimension. They don't need as much ruggedness, but they need a shape that will adhere to their contortions like white (or brown, red, black, or purple) on rice without blocking their breath or circulation.
Escape shouldn't be absolutely impossible, because "what if" they get the harness caught on something and can't summon human help? But it should either require emergency adrenaline or prolonged work on the cat's part; it should stay on unless it really needs to come off.
Harnessing a non-consenting cat can be very difficult. Kittens, on average, tend to be most open to new adventures. I've also had good luck with young "re-entry moms" who get fidgety and bored once they're spayed and the kids are growing up and moving out. Unfortunately, the "backpack-type" buckles and clasps on commercial harnesses can be too small for grownup helper-monkey fingers to operate easily and yet still too big and bumpy for kittens to wear. The parts for this harness are soft, flexible, and lightweight without being too fiddly.
Commercial cat harnesses retail for $10-30. Kittens outgrow them quickly, Some cats shred the outer surfaces. Adopters often ask if their new cat can keep the harness. I don't have the heart to say no or charge them extra (I do draw the line at letting them keep my iPad with the hiccup.com games for cats though). These harnesses can cost less than $2 each to make, and can be a kids' class project. The second one you make will probably take you less time than reading this page. And if a piece gets messed up, it's easy to replace it or re-use other pieces.
Props to (non-marshmallow) peeps:
- Thanks very much to DoggieStylish, whose "Small Dog Harness out of Grosgrain Ribbon" Instructable pointed me in the direction I'd been looking for.
- Models courtesy of Captivating Cats Rescue in San Jose, CA. LOLworthy Norah just got adopted - Yayyy! Unsettlingly clever MaReine (who TOOK OUR SIDE DOOR APART!!) and her intrepid sons Giacomo and AnDe have their "spades & newts," shots, chips and are ready to take over your world. . .