Service Cats: Harnessing Kitty Has Multiple Benefits

Hello and welcome to Service Cats and Everything Feline on Friday. Our Service Cat posts aren’t intended to be an all inclusive Training Manual but rather Tips, Tricks and Techniques used/developed by myself, mommy A, throughout my many years of animal training, cats in particular. And to offer insight into your questions about Everything Feline. Always remember, successful Training is all about Repetition and Rewards. We’re asking you to submit any and all questions you may have; whether they be about training, health, diet or whatever. You can leave them in the comments below or send us an email using our contact form here. If you’ve missed any posts in this series, you can check them out by clicking the links found on our Training Tips and Everything Feline link in our menu. There is a short description of each article next to it’s respective link.

RaenaBelle in stroller with Service Cats and Everything Feline Logo

So, we’re starting over from the beginning with Zebby. Let me tell you, he is a handful. lol It’s been a while since I’ve had a kitten, and even longer since I’ve had a boy. Sometimes, he can be a bit “much”. Anyone who has ever dealt with kittens understands this. There’s nothing wrong with him, he just has more energy than the human and other cat in his home. And, his attention span is equivalent to a grain of rice. lol This often means that Raena gets frustrated with him and gets a little hissy. There’s nothing wrong with her or her response either. Kittens learn “boundaries” and thresholds (pain/time limits, etc.) from their cat mothers and littermates. However, kittens removed from their mothers too early, or those without cat moms and/or littermates have to learn those things from somewhere else…hopefully, their new human. Since I specialized in neo natal kitten rescue, I have the knowledge to train/teach Zebby.

Zebby sits attentatively looking up between mommy A's legs on floor
Mommy added sunless tanner to her ugly legs in the photo editor.

The first thing we did was put him in a harness. Harnesses tend to have a calming effect on kittens and cats. The next time your scared kitty cowers from a storm, you might want to try putting them in a harness. There’s a feeling of comfort when it’s wrapped around them. We made a few videos to show how to properly attach the harness. Be sure to buy the right size and style for your kitty. You’ll need to measure around the neck and around the chest/body just behind the front legs. Most harnesses have a margin of 2 to 4 inches in each size. If your kitty is between sizes, go up a size. We like the jacketed harnesses like the Kitty Holster seen in the videos. We recently found the catwalk harnesses made from wet suit material that we like also. The neoprene is a stretchier material, so if your kitty is a little overweight, it might be more comfortable than the traditional cotton. My only concern/issue with the Catwalk harness is the plastic O ring. If you have an overly energetic kitty, you might want to replace the plastic O ring with a metal one before taking kitty out. This is something relatively easy and cheap to do.  Both of these sites offer custom harnesses and a variety of colors and patterns.

The harness helps to keep kitty calm while still allowing kitty the freedom to be a kitty. A cat at any age can be harnessed trained. If you’re putting a harness on your kitty for the first time, be prepared for a series of reactions if your cat is over about 3 months old. Most kitties immediately fall straight to the floor and look at you like you’ve killed them. Trust me, they’re just fine. Perhaps your kitty is the one that goes “nuts” and starts jumping around and trying to back out of their “skin”. Sit back and enjoy the show, they’ll be okay and calm down in a few minutes. Or you’ve tried harnesses before and have an escape artist. Watch kitty’s surprise as he/she runs through the house to the place they caught that last harness on that pulled them free and nothing happens this time. No matter your kitty’s response, they’re not hurt and will adjust. Great rewards await the harness trained cat. Remember Training is all about Repetition and Rewards, so put kitty’s harness on daily for at least 30 minutes. Always reward kitty once they’ve calmed down with your preferred Reward method.

If you get a proper fitting harness, kitty can wear it for extended periods of time with no issues. Just be mindful of your cat, the temperatures you and kitty will be at, and the material of the harness. If it’s going to be above 80°, don’t put kitty in a fleece or fur harness. Save those for winter unless kitty happens to be a Sphynx or other hairless breed. Kitty must be comfortable in their harness before taking them out for walks or lengthy adventures. Harness and leash training can also be helpful for those “door dashing” kitties.

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I also wanted to address a question we received regarding carrier/ptu training. The question mentioned the Sleepypod specifically, but the method is the same regardless of the brand of carrier. Unfortunately for a lot of kitties, the carrier only comes out when it’s time to visit the V-E-T where they’re poked, prodded, stuck with needles and manhandled. It’s no wonder cat’s aren’t particularly fond of carriers and cars. In order to make kitty comfortable with carriers, cars, outings or anything else, we need to make positive associations for them.

Raena sleeps in carrier

Raena naps in one of our carriers. It’s left out in the bedroom all the time.

1. Leave the carrier out in a quiet spot all the time. If it’s already out, kitty has no reason to think he/she is in for a trip to Dr. Stabby and Grabby. This is also a great way to be prepared for emergencies.

2. Try covering the carrier with a lightweight piece of fabric. In other words, make it a hideaway.

3. Be sure it’s comfy. If the carrier doesn’t have a pillow or lining, place a towel or cat mat inside.

4. Hide some treats and a small toy inside.

5. You might want to try feeding kitty in the carrier. I don’t really like this method, but so long as it’s short term, it can help. Remember, if kitty is a messy eater, you’ll need to clean the carrier after each meal.

6. When you see kitty in the carrier, don’t make a huge deal of it. Mention how proud you are of them in passing and go on.

7. Once kitty seems comfortable with the carrier, begin to close it for a few minutes at a time. Always Reward kitty afterwards.

8. Take kitty for an outing. NOT to the V-E-T. If you must, just go down the walk and back inside. Be sure to let kitty sniff the air and look around from the safety of the carrier while you’re out.

Kitty will become comfortable with their carrier over time. Just be patient and Repetitive. Remember, all successful Training is based on Repetition and Rewards.

Raena sits in her catwalk harness

We’ll cover the topic of leash training and outings next time, so if you have any specific questions about harnesses, harness training, leashes, leash training, door dashing, escape artists, etc., please let us know in the comments below or via email through our Contact us page. The link’s in our menu above. Zebby’s training is going well and we’ll continue to update as we go along. Getting completely comfortable in his harness is only the beginning.

We’re linking up with Comedy Plus for Feline Friday. RaenaBelle and Zebby will be back Sunday for more fun and adventures.

Till the next time…………………………………………………………………………..Be Blest!!!

Love Ya’

Mommy A with RaenaBelle and Zebadee

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