this thing's incredible

The Best Small Dog Harness Is Actually for Cats

Photo: Liza Corsillo

If it wasn’t dangerous in a hundred different ways, I would walk my dog Uli off leash at all times. I want her to feel free rather than constricted and constantly pulled back by a leash. But that’s not safe in Brooklyn — or anywhere with squirrels and roads in close proximity. So I have spent all ten years of her life trying to find a harness she will actually wear that is also gentle on her little neck.

As opposed to collars, harnesses hold your dog around the chest and torso, taking pressure off their necks. Uli is a toy poodle, which means that, despite her rugged attitude, she is quite fragile. She weighs just five pounds and her throat is the size of one of my wrists. Almost all the harnesses we tried in her size (extra small or extra-extra small) were made of thick material better suited for a more muscular dog, or they weren’t adjustable enough to fit both her torso and her neck.

Not that it mattered. She refused to wear any of them. I had to resort to a collar and leash, which she would throw her full body weight into every time she saw a bird or chipmunk in Prospect Park, straining against her leash until she gave herself a coughing fit.

But then one day, I was stocking up on dog food at my neighborhood pet store when I spied a harness I had never seen before hanging behind the register. I was drawn to the multiple adjustable straps and the fact that it wasn’t bulky. I asked the shop owner if Uli could try it on, and as he handed me the package I realized two things: (1) It comes with a leash that’s stretchy like a bungee cord which takes even more pressure off your pet when they pull against it, and (2) this was actually a harness for cats.

After fiddling with the adjuster tabs for a minute, I strapped Uli in and attached the leash. Instead of sulking, she got up and walked over to sniff some treats and toys. This was more activity than I had ever seen her do in a harness, so I shelled out 16 bucks and encouraged her to wear it out of the store.

The straps are strong enough to hold her, but thin enough so they don’t chafe or pinch her armpits (front-leg pits?). Within a week or two she was totally comfortable running, jumping, playing fetch, and even napping in it. Now she actually wants to wear it, and when I take it out she sits down calmly in front of me so I can put it on her. This harness is also great for cats, as I recently found out from Strategist senior writer Karen Adelson, who bought a pink one back in March for her cat Lovey.

Thanks to this harness, I no longer worry about hurting Uli’s neck if I have to pull back on the leash because she’s barking at a mastiff ten times her size. The fact that it’s for cats doesn’t even occur to me anymore. I would have gladly bought her something designed for turtles or eels if I knew it would work this well.

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The Best Small Dog Harness Is Actually for Cats