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We Took Our First Walk Yesterday!

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
jugen - we're harness stupid too! :tounge2:

We had an accident with a bad clasp two months ago, and after the HOURS it took to recapture Lazlo (a feral we'd only rescued two days earlier) we were really scared. O.K. so we were dumb about it the first time, but we all survived.

So we finally found harnesses we can work, that fit the cats, that don't have clasps that can break, etc. We probably spent more on gas getting them than we finally spent on the harnesses!!

We decide we don't want the cats to think "outside" is right out the front door, so we put the harnesses on, put them in the crate before they have a chance to freak out about the harnesses, and then we drive to a nearby park that has a really long drive so we're nowhere near a road.

We attach the leashes to the harnesses in the car with the doors closed, then take the crate out, walk to the middle of the field and open up the crate. (This is hubby's first adventure out after a second back surgery last Friday).

Shelly pokes his head out. I lean down and take him out of the crate. He plops on the ground, as low as he can go. I take Lazlo out of the crate and set him down. His ears are wild, his eyes are bugging, and he BOLTS back into the crate! LOL!! (There's no other people, no cars, no groundhogs, no birds, NOTHING going on!). We ended up picking them up and carrying them around!!! Laz wasn't happy until he was INSIDE Gary's shirt with just his head peeking out! Too funny!!

After 10 minutes, it was clear they were not enjoying this. We put Shel back down on the ground. He crawled towards the crate like an army recruit in basic learning to crawl under a floor or something - he looked more like he was swimming, his legs were so splayed out.

Laz started "smiling" again as soon as he was back in the crate with Shelly and the door was closed.

I guess our little feral friends have decided they like "the good life" indoors! LOL!!!!

post #2 of 12
Thread Starter 
Oops! Somehow I posted a new thread instead of replying to this one: http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/sho...threadid=11138

Dummy me.
post #3 of 12
hey don't worry, I'm just glad to see that there are other people in the world that are as intelligent as me!` LOL! Twig loved the outdoors when he was young. We would take him and Zen out and they'd prowl around the yard eating grass, chasing bugs and snakes. When Zen went to Rainbow Bridge, We stopped taking Twig outside for fear the same thing would happen to him(Zen contracted Fip from somewhere).
Slowly we started taking Twig outside again once in a while and he seemed to love it so, but I was still a worried mom who didn't want to loose two babies so it was only for short times. Since then he's packed on a healthy 15 pounds and I have been trying to find a harness for him but that in itself has been a tremendous excrusion.
I've tried dog collars that didnt' work well enough for me, I've tried different cat collars with the same results, I almost gave up until Katl8e suggested her fav cat harness. So we tried that and I couldn't work it(harness stupid showing thru again) and off we go to take it back. Honey spots some harnesses for both cats and dogs so we take that to try. The guy at Petco(eep I hate shopping there) said for sure it'd fit him, he was positive about it. Well he was wrong.
SOOOOOO yesterday we go BACK to Petco and get the next size up. To make a loonnnnggggg story longer, it works! Now I have the Frontline too so I'm sure soon Twig will be a happy kitty again.
Thanks for sharing your story with me! It made me giggle and right now,I need it...
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
Oh - I'm so glad your kids like being outside and you'll be able to give them that! Somehow I feel a bit like maybe we've been bad parents or something, that our FERAL rescues don't enjoy being outside. It was quite funny, but really strange, I thought.

...and sounds like you spent more on gas than on the harnesses in the end!!! LOL!
post #5 of 12
My little man (former feral) took a while to get used to going outside but now he loves it. The trick was to start walking him at night. He felt like he was safe when he could duck in a shadow. He only ever regressed when he wasn't taken out for a while and I had to start taking him out at night again.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice! But it seems so counter-intuitive to me. I guess hand-raised kittens are fearless, and our little feral cats are still programmed to be scaredy-cats. ??

post #7 of 12
Hi, LDG:

It's probably not the outdoors... it's likely the harness and the fact that you took them outside of their territory for their first run. Cats, especially ferals, can be very conservative and shy when introduced to a new area, so that added to the unfamilar restraint likely caused Lazlo to have his panic reaction. When we lived downtown, we did a similar thing to you because walking them in the back alley wasn't really safe. It took them about a month to get accustomed to and feel safe in the new "territory."

I've trained many an "untrainable" cat to harness, from kittens to teens to much older cats. Harnesses sort of work against a cat's natural instincts outdoors... when cats are outside, one of their primary instincts is to flee from strangers or other potential threats, which means that they have to have physical control of their bodies. Harnesses deprive them of that control and can be quite scary at first to cats.

The best way to train gently to harness in my experience goes something like this: put the harness on inside and let the cat wear it for a short while. His/her initial response will problably involve lying down and complaining to trying to back out of it... and in extreme cases, there may be panic. If you put it on and the cat seems panicky, remove the harness immediately and try again the next day. If the cat protests or lies down, let them wear it for ten minutes or so, then remove it. The next day, let them wear it a little longer and so on until you put it on and they don't show much reaction... most cats do struggle a bit when being harnessed, but that's just natural.

Once they've gotten used to the harness, it's time to add a leash. This requires close supervision. Cats are very touchy about being followed outside... sort of the fear of being attacked from the rear. Hence, they have to acquire the understanding that you aren't threatening them by walking behind and being attached by a leash. Walking the cat inside, and even letting the leash free behind them (so if you do drop the leash outside, they won't be freaked by this thing dragging behind) really helps prepare them for going outside.

Once you're outside, don't be surprised if they don't walk initially, walk "snake" style or if they lay down and don't move. Everything looks and sounds different outside (even you), so they often need time to adjust to the different circumstances. If they display this behavior, talk gently to them and let them alone on this and subsequent trips until they gain confidence.

It's really important to let them get comfortable with the area in which they are going to walk. So if you want to walk them in a distant park for example, they'll need to suss out the environment on their own terms... the first couple of outings will be fairly unsuccessful, but if you are persistent, they'll get the hang of it eventually. Some cats will have a distinct preference for certain times of the day: for example, Tum, my confident cat, will go out happily day or night. For Bugs, who is much more timid, it's night walking only... he just feels way too exposed during the day.

Once you start walking them (and it's more like they walk you, LOL!), there are a few things to keep in mind. Keep a sharp eye on things that could potentially spook or endanger your cat... like strangers or dogs off-leash. Be ready to deal with a panicked cat... which is why I don't recommend wearing shorts, LOL, from personal experience when Bugs climbed the nearest "tree" after a loud car backfire... me!
If it doesn't involve immediate danger (like a charging dog), don't pick up a panicked cat... try shortening the leash to gain control, kneeling to her/his level and calming them down by voice first.

Now this sounds all very complicated and dire, but it only takes a little patience and most cats catch on really quickly. It's a real joy to walk our boys, who love eating grass, chasing bugs and climbing tree trunks (although we don't let them get up high).
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
No No! Not complicated! Thank you so much for describing your experiences with suggestions for how to handle it. I REALLY appreciate the time you took.

This park is ALWAYS empty, which is why we chose it. Should be "spook free". Pretty soon, I'm bettin' it'll be THEIR park. LOL!!!
post #9 of 12
Laurie, I too tried the harness thing but because there was something around his body, Honey Boy thought he'd gone all paralyzed and would just topple over! I'd stand him up again and over he'd go. It was a sight to see and I eventually gave up because I was giggling so much.

Do anyone elses cats think they're paralysed if you tie something around their waist, or was it a HB speciality? LOL
post #10 of 12

ROTFLLLL! Both my guys did the cat paralysis routine... It lasted for about a week or so, and even now (years later) Tum will sometimes fall over on his side, just to let me know that he disapproves of "cat bondage." 'Course, he miraculously recovers when the door opens.
post #11 of 12
post #12 of 12
Sam loves to go for walks with his harness and leash. When we started, he did the "help! I'm paralysed" floor drop indoors, and the snake walk outdoors, but after about a week he was pretty well used to the set up.

I've learned a few things from him.

First, his comfort with outdoors was cumulative - first he learned his way around the front step, then the flower bed, then the walkway and so on. He "snaked" to new territory, but would walk quite nicely in places he had been before.

He will be quite comfortable for a while, then something will spook him and he'll run for home. I usually let him set the route, so he knows his way back again, and I bought a retractable leash, so that if he takes off running, there is enough lead to let him get to a safe spot.

When he is learning a new area, he spends a lot of time just lying down in one spot - and its best not to fuss with him - the only time he snarled at me was when he was feeling really vulnerable. If I pick him up quickly and firmly, he feels comfortable enough, but he won't like being patted or fussed with in those new spots.

And he does like the same route every day.
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