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The Four Types of Cat Harnesses: Which One Is Right For Your Catventurer?

Updated: May 3

There is a seemingly overwhelming number of different types of cat harnesses on the market. Read on to discover the four main types, as well as their advantages and disadvantages to help you find the one that's just right for you and your catventurer.

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Whether exploring a backyard or hiking the trails, a good harness is an essential item for any catventurer. There is a huge range of cat harnesses available on the market and choosing the right harness for you and your kitty can be an overwhelming task. So to help out, Catventurous has broken them down into 4 main types. Within each main category, there are variations on the basic design in terms of quality, specific style and practical aspects, and we have assessed the general advantages and disadvantages of each type.



1. The H Harness


One of the most common, budget-friendly, readily available and potentially safest harness designs, the simple version of the H harness is made up of two loops – one smaller for the neck, one larger for the belly – joined by a central strap. Both neck and belly loops are usually adjustable. The central strap (the horizontal bar of the H) often sits at the centre of the upper back, as seen in the image below, but may also sit at the chest, The straps help to stabilise the design and to distribute forces away from the neck. There is a variation sometimes called a Roman harness that has both back and chest straps between the two loops for added security, as well as more favourable force distribution away from the neck. Certain versions must be placed over your cat’s head, which some cats may not be comfortable with.


The simple H harness has the benefit of being easily adjustable and is usually pretty simple to put onto your cat. They are also quite discreet and lightweight with thin straps so your cat may not even notice that he/she is wearing it. The H harness may therefore be useful in initial indoor training for adult cats or for young kittens. However, the thin straps may also make this one of the least supportive harness designs, which might also be an advantage in not restricting your cat’s movement.


Although favoured by some well-known companies, we do not consider the basic H harness to be absolutely escape-proof. For improved security, ensure that both loops are adjusted to fit snugly (but not tightly), especially the belly strap. Some cats can back out of the belly strap with their front legs and then the neck loop may slip quite easily over the cat's head allowing them to escape if this harness is not well fitted.


The other major disadvantage of the H harness is that it can place excessive forces around the neck if your cat pulls on the leash. If this is a concern but you still like the H harness for other reasons, choose a Roman harness variation with both back and chest straps for added security and better distribution of resistance forces as he/she pulls on the leash. There is, however, a slight compromise with how easy this version is to put onto your cat. In addition, chest straps may cause anxiety and stress for some cats as they rub against the chest and belly, the area of the vital organs.

SIMPLE H HARNESS Image: Shutterstock

ROMAN HARNESS Image: Canva

Advantages:

  • Readily available at many pet stores

  • Easily adjustable

  • Easy to put onto and remove from your cat, especially the simple version

  • Discreet and lightweight

  • Does not restrict movement when well-fitted

  • Suitable for initial indoor harness training

  • Suitable for hot weather or to place under or over a sweater in cold weather

  • Budget-friendly

  • One of the safest harness designs when well fitted


Disadvantages:

  • May not be escape-proof for some cats but is hard to escape from when well-fitted

  • Risk of resistance forces around the neck

  • Not the most supportive

  • Roman harness version may be a little less easy to put on and take off your cat

  • Some versions must be placed over your cat’s head

  • Roman harness design may rub chest and underbelly areas



2. The Figure 8 Harness


The basic version of the Figure 8 Harness comes in the form of a figure 8, with two loops – one smaller, one larger – joined by a sewn join or central clasp, which usually falls or fastens somewhere around the shoulder blade area on your cat’s back. These harnesses are similar to the H harness in terms of both their advantages and disadvantages. However, the Figure 8 Harness has the added advantage, depending on their design, that they will tighten when resistance is applied. This feature may add security but, for some, this may also provide a disadvantage with regards to comfort.


As with the H harness, we do not consider these harnesses to be 100% escape-proof but some versions have an additional vertical chest strap in their design (see image) for added security, as well as more favourable distribution of resistance forces. The Figure 8 harness should also be well fitted to help prevent escape.


FIGURE 8 HARNESS Image: Canva

Advantages:

  • Adjustable

  • Relatively simple to put onto and remove from your cat

  • Usually discreet and lightweight

  • Does not restrict movement when well fitted

  • May tighten with resistance for added security, depending on the design

  • Suitable for initial indoor harness training

  • Suitable for hot weather or to place under or over a sweater in cold weather

  • Budget-friendly

Disadvantages:

  • May not be escape-proof for some cats

  • Risk of resistance forces around the neck in some versions

  • Not the most comfortable and supportive

  • May tighten causing discomfort with resistance, depending on design

  • Some versions must be placed over your cat’s head

  • Rubs against chest and belly area



3. The Vest Harness


A quick browse around social media will show you that this type of harness is very popular. As a design, it is usually easy to put on your cat, adjustable and generally quite supportive and comfortable.


This design usually consists of a chest support and two leg holes, the straps of which draw together and secure with a clasp or by attaching a leash at the back just below the shoulder blades. The leg straps are often adjustable and padded and breathable versions are available.


This design does not usually have a strap against the neck and resistance forces are absorbed by the chest. Again, we do not consider this design escape-proof and some cats may be able to quite readily wriggle free from it. This may not be a good choice for anxious cats as the chest and underbelly parts of these vests may rub against the area of the vital organs, which can cause further stress.


VEST HARNESS Image: Canva

Advantages:

  • Usually adjustable

  • Relatively simple to put onto and remove from your cat

  • Supportive at the chest area for good distribution of forces

  • Good choice for cats who pull on leash

  • Some designs tighten with resistance for added security

  • Padded and breathable options available

  • Popular among catventurers


Disadvantages:

  • May carry an elevated risk of escape

  • May be uncomfortable and bulky for some cats

  • Less discreet and lightweight than some other harnesses

  • Can restrict movement and allow for easy escape if poorly fitted

  • Padded versions may increase risk of escape

  • May tighten with resistance, depending on design

  • Some versions must be placed over your cat’s head

  • Rubs against chest and belly area



4. The Cat Jacket or Holster


These types of harnesses have multiple variations and we consider these be the most secure and ‘escape-proof’ option (but still not guaranteed, especially if poorly fitted). In general, jackets or holsters fasten around the neck and the belly with wide straps. Some versions wrap around the whole neck, chest and belly area, which can have a calming effect through hugging the torso. They may fasten on topside or underside with Velcro or clasps.


These harnesses are usually comfortable and supportive for your cat, with a favourable distribution of resistance forces, making them a good choice for cats who tend to pull on leash. They are certainly less discreet and lightweight than the H and Figure 8 harnesses and may take longer for your cat to get used to but some cats might enjoy the added support.


Some versions may restrict movement but this is usually not an issue if the harness is well fitted. They may also be slightly more difficult to put onto your cat but, depending on their design, they may also be easier for some. Velcro versions may collect grass, seeds and dirt over time but can be cleaned with a fine toothed comb. These harnesses can often double as warm jackets or cute and stylish cat fashion and many custom options are available.