Are Cat Harnesses Cruel? (Complete Analysis)

More Meows is an Amazon Associate. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. We may also earn commissions if you purchase products from other retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

Cats are crazy pets!  They tend to enjoy the freedom they have to roam around the house, but what about when you want to let them explore outside?  Cat harnesses are a popular way to let your cat explore outdoors.  But are cat harnesses cruel?

No, cat harnesses are not cruel.  If misused, cat harnesses could harm a cat.  If used properly, cat harnesses provide a valuable way for an owner to let their cat explore the outdoors while maintaining control and ensuring your cat will not get lost. 

Some might say that it is cruel to put a cat harness around a cat’s body, but for safety reasons, it is necessary these days because you do not want your cat running off or getting injured. You can keep your cat close, and you will be happy you are using your cat harness if your cat tries to take off on you!

Read on to hear more about cat harnesses and if they are cruel!

Are Cat Harnesses Safe or Cruel?

Cat harnesses are a great way to keep your cat secure under your watchful eyes. Though it is wise to use cat harnesses, it is opposed to a cat’s normal nature, and your cat will need to get used to the harness.

Using a harness is for the cat’s good, much like ensuring your cat wears a cat collar. Harnesses have simple clips from which you can quickly get your cat situated into it.

Your cat may not like the harness at first.  In fact, your cat may wonder what in the world you have just attached to her body.  If you are patient and use the harness correctly, she will likely get adjusted to the harness.

You should also keep a close eye on your cat while she is wearing the harness since it could irritate her skin if you leave it on her for a prolonged period of time.  Surprisingly, this is actually very similar advice if you were to put clothes on your cat!

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) published precautionary advice to cat owners about cat harnesses. The advice was that walking outside with your cat with the harness and holding the leash could potentially cause your cat stress.

So, in this situation, a sense of control is vital. And, when your cat walks with a harness, it prevents them from having their control.  That being said, your cat still has the opportunity to experience life outdoors and even pretend to hunt!

Cat harnesses will help you keep control over your cat and are a great option for walking your cat outside. Attaching a leash to a collar is a worse option because you have much less leverage with the leash if it is attached to the collar around a cat’s neck.  Other options you might have are cat backpacks and cat strollers, but to be honest…a cat harness will give your cat a better opportunity to experience nature.

And…It is safe because there is little chance for a cat to slip out of the cat harness provided you put it on correctly.

Cat harnesses continue to gain popularity because they give owners some control over their cat while still giving their cat a great experience outdoors and keeping her safe.

Kudos to cat owners that take their cats out on walks.  Your cat probably won’t thank you for the walk in the cat harness, but it is awesome that you care so much about enriching your cat’s life.

Do Cats Act Weird When You Put a Harness on Them?

Yes, your cat might act weird when you put a harness on him or her for the first time. Your cat may feel weird when you first introduce the harness to them because it is something new that you have strapped to their body. This is a normal reaction for a cat and over time your cat will get used to wearing the harness.

Your cat may not have the foggiest idea how to respond to the harness. It’s a good idea to start small and gradually get your cat more comfortable with the harness.  Bring the harness out every day so your cat can wear it for a few minutes.

Maybe even spray some catnip spray on it to help your cat feel more comfortable – catnip spray is generally my go-to anytime I want to tell my cat, Charlotte that this is an area where she belongs.  I’ll spray it on her cat condo / cat tree or even her cat bed.

One thing to note is that your cat will have a better experience in the cat harness if you ensure that it fits her correctly.  During one of these opportunities that you will have to introduce her to the cat harness, you should take time to size it appropriately for her.

Think about how you wear well-fitting clothes.  She will be much more comfortable if you size up the harness appropriately.

Make sure you have room for one finger to fit into the cat harness and when you are checking it out on your cat, make sure she is unable to slip out of it.  The last thing you need to happen when you walk your cat is her slipping out of the cat harness and running off.

What are the Benefits to Cat Harnesses?

There are many benefits of cat harnesses. These benefits are discussed below:

  1. A Cat Cannot Slip Out Easily

Your cat will look adorable in a cat harness.   Try to choose one that is good quality. There will then be fewer chances that your cat might slip out of the harness.

Most cat harnesses consist of two or more belts that will tighten around your cat. You’ll find that many companies that make cat harnesses will expect that your cat should fit nice and tight in their product; they may even guarantee it!

  1. Easier to Use a Leash on a Cat With a Harness

It will be a much better experience for you to use a leash on a cat harness instead of using a leash on a cat collar.  A cat harness gives you some control while still giving your cat the freedom to walk around and explore.

With a cat collar, your cat can end up whipping around with the leash and it could actually be dangerous.  I actually saw this happen when I was a child and tried walking my family’s first cat, Harry.

He liked being outside, but it was a real challenge with the leash latched to his collar.  Definitely not something I’d recommend.  Get a cat harness instead!

  1. A Cat Feels Comfort in a Harness

Once cats get used to harnesses, they will grow to like them, feel comfortable, feel safe, and associate them with going outside – a positive memory for them. The main advantage for you is you’ll have more control over your cat.  So, she will be comfortable, but you will rest easy knowing she’s not running off.

You’ll need to follow some steps to ensure the comfort for your cat:

  • Test out any harness inside the house a few times before taking your cat outside. Get her used to the harness.
  • Try using the harness on your cat with a leash. Let your cat get used to being on a leash.
  • Practice tensioning the leash while indoors, you may need to do this outdoors. It will get you ready for the real thing.
  • Now, try going outside for a few minutes with your cat. Gradually, you can build up to more time outside.

What are the Drawbacks to Cat Harnesses?

While having many benefits, there are also drawbacks to cat harnesses, which are discussed below:

  1. Challenging for Some People to Use Cat Harnesses Outside

It may be challenging for some people to use a cat harness.  You may have trouble figuring out how to size the harness correctly for your cat.  Or, maybe you are not good at walking your cat.

If this is the case for you, I would consult a cat trainer to work with your cat and give you some tips.  People and cats are trainable!

Veterinary Practice News says that you have to check frequently and make sure your cat’s collar is not getting excessively tight.  This is also good advice for a harness.

  1. Safety Hazards with Cat Harnesses

A cat harness is generally pretty strappy and could get caught on things such as branches.  This could provide a bad experience for your cat and even be dangerous.

How do you avoid this?  You need to keep a good watchful eye on your cat while she is wearing a harness.  If she is getting near something she can get tangled on, take action and do something about it.  Get her away from it or pick the thing up and move it.

  1. It Can Be Weird for Your Cat

Some cats may have weird experiences with cat harnesses because they aren’t used to having something strapped to their bodies and it freaks them out!

You can try resolving this by taking it slow with introducing your cat harness to your cat.  Every day keep it on her a little bit longer so that she can get used to it.  Maybe even spray it with some catnip spray so she knows it is just for her.

Can I Walk My Cat on a Leash?

Yes, you can walk your cat on a leash. It would be best if you let your cat walk ahead of you when walking with a leash. It is even better if you are using a cat harness instead of just latching the leash to her collar, which is not a good idea.

Don’t pull the leash aggressively.  My advice is don’t be planning on going anywhere in a hurry.  Let your cat take her time and explore.  Remember, this is a big deal for your cat.

To start out, it is a good idea to just stick to walking your cat around the house or apartment building outside.  Then, when your cat is used to being on a leash you can take some longer trips if that is what your cat wants.  Remember this is less about you getting a good walk in and more about providing enrichment for your cat’s life.

If it is hot out, make sure you are not keeping your cat outside too long and to give your cat water.

Walking your cat on a leash is also a good alternative to owning a cat door.  Owning a cat door and letting your cat explore on her own outside carries it’s own risks, which can be quite damaging, like wild animals such as raccoons.

Remember that walking with cats is much different than with dogs. So, you should take a few steps and then stop for some time so your cat can take in the sights, smell the fresh air, and figure out where she wants to walk next.

Remember, don’t be aggressive with your cat on a leash.


A cat harness is not cruel and when used correctly, can provide some real quality time for a cat owner and a kitty on walks.  Be patient when you are walking your cat in a cat harness, your cat isn’t a dog and these walks will be different.

Expect that your cat is going to want to move slowly and smell the fresh air, but don’t be surprised if her hunting instincts kick in a little too and you catch her trying to stalk any nearby creatures.

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

Recent Posts