Are cat harnesses and leads okay to use?

If you’ve ever felt worried about letting your cat outside, you might be considering a cat harness or lead, but wondering if they’re okay to use. Here we’ll talk all about harnesses and leads, and how your cat might feel about wearing one.

There may be several reasons why you’re concerned about your cat exploring the great outdoors:

  • You might live near a busy road
  • Neighbouring dogs
  • Perhaps your cat is nervous and you’re worried about them going missing or being stolen
  • You don’t want your cat to be hunting birds in the garden

Because of these reasons, you may be looking for a way to allow them outside while keeping them safe. This is often when a harness or lead might be considered.

How might a harness or lead affect a cat’s natural instincts?

If you take your cat’s natural instincts and responses into account, the use of a harness could potentially be a very scary and stressful piece of equipment for them.

Fight or flight

Cats are naturally a flight animal. They have a built-in response to run away from danger and to hide in a safe place, usually up a tree, or back into the home where they feel safe. Use of a harness would take this natural reaction away from them, causing them to become stressed and unhappy. This might have negative repercussions with being outside or towards the owner who is holding the lead.


Another natural instinct of your cat is to hunt. Many owners are aware of this, they might not be too keen on it, but know it will happen. Some may try to prevent this by introducing a harness and lead.  This may cause issues similar to the behaviours we see from indoor only cats, this can be very frustrating for them and in turn, could cause aggressive type behaviours towards you or others in the home, including pets.

Risks of using a cat harness or lead

One of the main risks of using a harness or lead, is losing your grip because there’s a chance your cat might try to escape and risk becoming caught. Given that cats like to climb, this could be a very dangerous situation.

Can you harness train a cat when they’re young?

All cats have their own personalities and behaviours, some might pick it up, other won’t. Generally, you may find cats are more reluctant to wear a harness or a lead. Some of the risks mentioned above would suggest it’s not safe to harness train your cat, no matter how young they are.

It’s important to consider your cat’s overall wellbeing, even if they appear willing to wear a harness or lead, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily happy about it. Especially when they’re outside wanting to play and hunt.

By taking your cat or kitten outside wearing a harness will allow them to experience a few sights and sounds while keeping them close to you. However, they won’t be able to enjoy the experience of roaming freely, while hunting and playing as they really wish to. Socialising your kitten is really important, it’s a vital part of their development. Restricting them may lead to unwanted behavioural issues.

Providing a suitable outdoor space for your cat

If you’re still concerned about letting your cat out without a harness or lead, there are several things you can do to ease your worries. We have plenty of tips on making your garden safe for your cat, read our article here.

Looking for more advice?

If you’re looking for more cat advice or enrichment ideas for your feline friend, please visit our dedicated cat advice page where you’ll find plenty of helpful guides, tips and projects.

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