So Ron settled in so quickly at home and soon was making great friends with the Maine Coon’s Tutti, Foxy, Rocky and Graeme and Monty the Nebelung. It really has been one of the easiest kitten introductions I have ever had and that is down to just what a laid back breed the American Curl is and…
Walking the cat – Harness a Curious Cat for a Lively Stroll
Cats live longer these days, due to improved food, regular veterinary care and indoor living, but there’s another aspect of health to consider. To thrive, cats need mental and physical stimulation, which outdoor adventures naturally deliver.
Leash walking’s a great way for cats to get fresh air, exercise and explore, says Utica, New York, Veterinarian Debra M. Eldredge, author of Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook. Kitty’s senses are activated in such expanded horizons. For trips outside the yard, Eldredge advises, “Choose your places and times; you don’t want to mingle with joggers and skateboarders.”
Cats have definite preferences. “Jagger walks around the block with my husband, Rob,” says Anna Easteden, an actress in Los Angeles. Jagger has no problems with dogs he meets, but not all cats are so tolerant. “Star walks only in the yard, companioned by Fuzzy and Boots.” All four are microchipped in case of an escape. Carrie Aulenbacher, of Erie, Pennsylvania, author of The Early Bird Café, first got her cat Daisy used to a harness indoors before venturing outside. “Now he runs to the door and meows to go out,” she says. Daisy’s been hiking for 10 years.
Good to Know Tips
The Best Friends Animal Society, in Kanab, Utah, averages 625 cats in residence and Society Manager Michelle Warfle supports an enriched environment. “We teach as many cats as possible to leash walk,” she says. Her tips include: Don’t progress too quickly, keep walks fun and use a harness, not the collar. Warfle’s own cat, Earl, hikes about two miles before tiring. A backpack-like pet carrier lets a feline take a break.
Adapt the walk’s length or location to a pet’s age and physical limitations, such as arthritis. “Jabez always loved to walk on Ventura’s wet sandy beaches,” says Californian Kac Young, a naturopath with a Ph.D. in natural health. “His second choice was a trip to Home Depot to ride in the cart.” Now 18, Jabez doesn’t travel as often. Routinely check kitty’s neck, tail, stomach and inner thighs to pick off fleas and ticks after an outing before they become a bigger problem. (For an infestation of fleas, comb the cat with natural dishwashing detergent and water to drown them and rinse kitty afterward.) Pet-grade diatomaceous earth is safe to rub into her fur and bedding.
Consider yard plants like mint, lemongrass, sage and lavender to repel bugs. Multiple studies suggest catnip, which kitty can roll in, may be an even more effective mosquito repellant than the toxic DEET (mosquitoes spread heartworm). Cat companions agree that when kitty explores a blade of grass or pounces on a blowing leaf, it presents a delightful opportunity to be in the moment. A change of pace benefits those on both ends of the leash.
Cat Walk Savvy
• Cats need to get used to an idea before embracing it. Proceed slowly.
• A collar is for ID tags, not walking—a cat can wiggle out of a collar. A harness, properly fitted at the pet supply store, is best. Designate a comfortable, padded, wider harness solely for walking, not to restrain the cat in the car (a crate is safer).
• Let a cat see and smell the harness before putting it on. Small treats help. Don’t let the cat bat it like a toy. Put the harness on for short spans each day until he’s used to it—cats tend to fall over, “paralyzed”, when it’s first introduced.
• After the harness has been worn comfortably, add the leash and let him drag it around in an enclosed outdoor space. Never use a flexi-lead/retractable leash. A six-foot bungee (stretchy) or woven leash allows space to explore without getting tangled in a bush or beyond reach.
• Leash walk around the house without pulling, yanking or dragging—just do some pet-paced walking.
• Don’t force the next step, because the outdoors can be a big, scary place; most cats need to observe first before exploring.
• Use lots of praise and treats.
1. Talk to your cat as much as you can. Encourage her to come to you, and regularly pet her and brush her. Bonding is very important, cat massage, baths and generally being on good terms is important.
2. Pick a special dry snack that she likes. It must be different to her regular dry food and only used for this (don’t give it to her at any other time until she’s mastered this). Make certain it is nutritious. I suggest a dry, crunchy snack that is also good for the teeth.
3. Pick a special word, such as “snack” or “treat.” It must be a word she will associate only with the special snack. This is creating an “anchor” (a trigger).
4. Use your special word during her next snack time. In her presence, place one piece of the food in her empty dish and say the special word.
5. Say the word again (and be sure to say it in the same way as before) after she eats the first piece. Place another piece of the food in her dish and say the special word again.
6. Walk away. If she is giving you “I am really starving” cries, say your word again and give her one more piece. Then walk out of the room.
7. Repeat the procedure after about 4 minutes. Cats learn very quickly when they are motivated and have a strong bond with you.
8. Follow this procedure for the next several days.
9. Once your cat is coming every time you say the special word, start only giving the food treat every so often and instead give lots of attention (whatever she likes such as a pet) for a few minutes. Then let her go and repeat the process a few minutes later.
10. If you’ve done the above right, and you’ve done the bonding exercises in the training manual, your cat should now be associating affection from you with the special word. Now you can use the word and she should come AND each time she sees or hears you nearby she will be more affectionate because she’s reminded of all the affection you’ve given her in the past.
Don’t forget, it is to be a small snack, not a small bowl of dry food. Otherwise, your kitty might gain unwanted weight. Be patient and follow the above exactly otherwise you will confuse your cat. Use the special word daily, not only when you want to find the cat for a trip to the vet or when it is bath time. On those occasions, give her the snack and try to allow a few minutes before following through on your hidden motive. Another little secret is that if you can whistle, most cats will respond. Usually, a very loud high-pitched whistle (as if to say, “Here, boy”), repeated over and over until the cat comes to you is very effective. Eventually, your cat will come after only 1 or 2 whistles. However, again this is based on a strong bond being in place.
It’s important to note that the bond is most important because then your cat will WANT to come to you whenever you give it the chance. This is why some people find that if I want her to come to them, or sit on their lap, all they have to is pat their leg with their hand, and tell her to come, and she hops up on their lap or come to them. A way to do this is to show her the brush. (Assuming your cat loves to be brushed) because when you show it to her, she’ll run over to you. If your cats are outside and you can’t find them, if you shake their “dry food” jar and they may well come running right away. To make this more powerful, every time you feed your cat make the same “shake” noise in front of them or when they can hear, just before you feed them.
How does the above work?
Well basically what you are doing is conditioning your cat to associate two things. (The special word with the treat for example). When this happens a few times, your cat learns that when the trigger happens, the other thing should happen. (For example, “when I hear the special word and I come, I get a treat”). This means from then on you can say the special word and the cat will come running because it thinks it will get a treat. Once your cat ALWAYS does the desired behavior, (in this case comes when you say the special word), you can change the special word for their name, if you know how. I’ll tell you more about that in a future newsletter.