Why does my cat calm down when I put a harness on?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

When you put a harness on your cat, it is not uncommon for them to exhibit signs of distress or unease. This is because the sensation of the harness triggers a survival response in many cats. Imagine if you were suddenly grabbed by a predator, you would likely freeze or fall over in an attempt to play dead and avoid further harm. Similarly, cats instinctually respond to the feeling of being restrained by a harness in a similar way.

This instinctual behavior is deeply ingrained in cats and is a result of their evolutionary history. Cats are natural predators, but they are also prey to larger animals. When they feel the harness, it can trigger their prey response, causing them to freeze or fall over as a defense mechanism. This behavior is an attempt to make themselves appear less threatening to potential predators and avoid further harm.

To help your cat overcome this instinctual response to the harness, it is important to create positive associations with it. One way to do this is by using a highly attractive motivation, such as a favorite toy or treat, to encourage your cat to move and explore while wearing the harness. Start by introducing the harness in a calm and gentle manner, allowing your cat to sniff and investigate it at their own pace. Gradually, begin to associate the harness with positive experiences, such as playtime or treats.

Patience is key when helping your cat adjust to wearing a harness. It may take time for them to become comfortable with the sensation and overcome their instinctual response. Offer plenty of praise and reassurance during the process, rewarding your cat with treats and affection whenever they show signs of relaxation or willingness to explore while wearing the harness.

Personal experiences and situations can also play a role in helping your cat calm down when wearing a harness. For example, if you have successfully used a harness with a previous cat, you can share that story and explain how it took time and patience but eventually became a positive experience. This can help reassure cat owners that their own cats can also adapt and become more comfortable with the harness over time.

The instinctual response of freezing or falling over when a cat feels a harness is a natural survival mechanism. However, with patience, positive reinforcement, and the use of highly attractive motivators, such as toys or treats, you can help your cat overcome this response and become more comfortable wearing a harness. Remember to provide lots of praise and reassurance during the process, and be understanding that it may take time for your cat to adjust.