Sunday, 24 July 2011

Leash Training - to do or not to do?

When we first got Darcy, an indoor Ragdoll cat, I felt very bad for him cooped up in the house all day every day. After all, humans benefit from fresh air, why should cats be any different?

We had an outdoor cat enclosure built and connected this to the house via a cat flap and tunnel (I'll blog about this in more detail at some point). This way he was able to get some fresh air and I could tell he loved the outdoors! We decided to get him a harness and lead so that he could trot around the garden if it was good weather. Darcy took to it almost immediately, but we were soon fed up of him getting tangled in the garden furniture or around plant pots and eventually trusted him enough to take him off the leash.
Darcy at about 6 months old, on the lead
Fast forward a year and we now have two cats, both of whom love to go out into the garden. I haven't been on holiday since we got the cats as I'm rather wary of leaving them in a cattery. It would be nice to go somewhere in the UK, maybe to a pet friendly cottage and take the cats with us, but I don't feel it's an option if they're stuck inside all day long. I have this idyllic idea in my head of taking the cats with us to explore the countryside, so they get a holiday too!

I'd also like both myself and the cats to get a bit more excercise, so with all this in mind I decided it was time to restart leash training.

Hubby and I measured the cats and decided that Darcy's old harness would now fit Sookie - Darcy had outgrown it and would need a new harness. The local pet shop harnesses for cats came in one size so we've ended up with a 'small dog' harness for Darcy - he is bear sized after all!

The first problem was that we couldn't work out how to get the harness on him. My hubby had terrible trouble and Darcy had a complete fit - whining, growling and finally hissing, something he never normally does. Turns out that my poor hubby was trying to put it on the wrong way round. With ample treats I managed to persuade Darcy that there was nothing to be scared of, popped on the harness and he was soon sitting at the door waiting to go... he remembered his previous training!

Sookie on the other hand... different story entirely. I got the harness on her no bother and let go. She then looked at me like I'd threatened to swop her for a dog, lay down with her back arched and refused to move. Treats did not work, soothing tones did not work, nothing. I decided it was best to leave her alone for a bit and let her get used to it. After a while she started to run around and seemed to have almost forgotten it, so I clipped on the lead. This is where the trouble REALLY started! 

Sookie's back arched and she lay down again, refusing to move. In hindsight I should have stopped there for the day, but I thought maybe opening the door and showing her that she could run around the garden on the lead would help. To cut a long story short, she made it into the garden, then made a sudden dash into the flower bed, thrashing wildly like I'd never seen before in a blind panic, trying to shake off the lead and harness. She ended up curled in a corner, covered from head to paw in soil, wailing. I had to climb into the shrubs, unclip the lead which had got all tangled and pick her up and cradle her for a good 10 minutes. Poor little thing.

Lessons learned: 
  • Some cats will take well to leash training, others will need a lot of time.
  • BE PATIENT. 
  • Don't push them to do something they aren't ready for. This will only lead to them associating the activity with negativity, whereas the whole point is to create something fun for them.
I've now found a really good video on the subject which tells me all the right things I should do. I am going to follow it properly even if it does take several months.


This video is taken from http://www.wikihow.com/Leash-Train-a-Cat and there is a really good article that goes with it:



After all this though I'm still worried about a few things:
  1. Will my cats get used to the scents outside, traffic etc and decide that it's safe to climb the garden fence and go for a wander on their own? At present they don't seem to have much interest in escaping the garden, cars and other noises scare them enought to keep these thoughts at bay.
  2. Will anyone see me walking the cats and decide they are worth stealing? Should I therefore only walk my cats away from my home so people don't know where I live... or am I being paranoid?
  3. I can't train them to not be scared of dogs ...how will they react if we (inevitably) bump into dogs whilst out walking?
So many pros and cons... I suppose I'll have to continue to weigh it all up, see how the training with Sookie goes and then make a decision.

2 comments:

Liama Jhons said...

Training dog for a leash is one of the amazing skill you have made.

Dana said...

I use a leash on my ragdoll so he can explore our very large back yard. HE has no fear of dogs so he can't be an indoor/outdoor cat. We have a large catio built for our cats but Yoda loves being in the yard, he has never rushed a door but will go where his leash is hung if he wants out.

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