Shira loves to go outside and with the wonderful weather we’ve been having lately, she’s even more excited about getting out. Unfortunately for her, the only time she gets to go out is when her human mom or dad is willing to go with her. Luckily for her, I have spring fever almost as bad as hers. Outings to walk the cat are becoming a regular thing. 

Just the other day I was walking Shira (or she was walking me) a couple blocks away from our house.  A neighbor pulling up to her driveway stopped in the middle of the street to say, “Now that’s amazing!” That is a common reaction when people see us out with a cat on a leash. It just hasn’t dawned them that cats can be trained to walk on leash. 

You’ll notice the above statement doesn’t include the words “just like a dog”. Nope, cats don’t go for walks just like a dog. When we walk our dog (Colter, the crazy dog) and he gets out of hand, we just give a good, hard tug on the leash and he gets the message that trotting along beside us wherever we want to go is the more pleasant alternative to whatever he was doing. Give Shira a hard tug on her leash and she’ll plop right down on the sidewalk and refuse to move.  Continue to try to coerce her to do something she doesn’t want to do and she’ll kick and wiggle until she’s free from the leash. Then she’s in charge of the walk. Or the run, as that is what you’ll be doing as you pursue her down the street and across the neighbors’ yards.

So how did I convince my stubborn, independent cat to strut down the sidewalk on a leash looking for all the world as if she is having the time of her life? It started with persistence – hers and mine. She kept trying to escape out the door. I’d capture her and bring her back exclaiming, “You can’t go out alone! Get back in here! We’ll put on your harness and leash and go for a walk.”

I’d get the harness out and, despite Shira’s twisting and turning, put it on her. Then I’d pick up the leash and walk to the front door. Shira, seeing another opportunity to escape, would forget about the hated contraption she was wearing and race to the door. I’d clip on the leash, open the door, and she’d race out. To the end of her leash and an abrupt halt. A couple times she wiggled out of the harness and promptly ended up back inside the house, learning that the harness was a necessary part of outdoor adventures. After a couple times, Shira figured out that staying reasonably close to me kept the harness from pulling on her.

And so she mostly behaved. Still, there were things that were just too intriguing. She was terribly tempted to explore underneath the cars parked along the curb. The storm drain at the end of the block was just begging to be checked out. Fireplugs, shrubs, flower beds, fences, the next door neighbor’s garage… wonderful sights and smells all calling to her. Some of these things were acceptable. Some were not. And when my intrepid explorer decided to examine something like the underneath side of a parked car, her leash would get very short and very tight. Being an intelligent cat, she quickly learned that she couldn’t do that.

The other challenge of walking a cat is when her attention is caught by something that is not especially threatening. It’s okay if Shira plays with a leaf that just flew onto the sidewalk. However, I get a little bored with watching her play with the leaf for 5 minutes. Same with nibbling on grass (Shira – not me!) And so I encourage her to move along by calling her. If that doesn’t work, I pick her up. Immediately she thinks, “Uh oh, I’m going back in the house if I don’t do what mom wants.” I put her back on the ground and off we go. These days we sometimes make it an entire block without me interfering with her fun.

I let Shira chose our path most days. Want to go south to the end of the block and around the corner? Okay, we’ll go there today. North and across the street to the next block? That’s fine. Down to taunt the dogs in the yard at the corner? Well, maybe that’s not a good idea, but if you insist… Yes, she walks me as much as I walk her.   

Now that we’ve been taking walks often, Shira is much better about holding still to have the harness put on. I can almost always get the part around her neck buckled before the wiggles set in. As soon as I’m done hooking the harness and put her down, she runs to the front door and waits for me. Even if I walk into the back hall to get my jacket or to the kitchen to get a bottle of water, she’ll wait right by the door.

She knows. The leash and harness mean an adventure.

(--> Cat Tails, Pg7)

2002 lisa s vasa

 

(Please note that you will see a number of photos of our cats and kittens that I've taken outside in a natural setting. The LostWoods cats do NOT go outside unsupervised! When we do go outside for pictures and occasional adventures, there is always one person and usually two watching them closely. We do have an outside, fully enclosed run to which the older cats are allowed access, but even then we check on them often.)

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