People often stop me to comment “I’ve never seen a cat on a lead before”. It might not be common but it’s not unheard of. I’ve been owned by Trixie since she was about 6 months old and she’s only ever known life in a harness with me. Some people think it’s odd to take a cat away but what’s the point of having one and putting it in a cattery or getting someone else to feed it so you can go away without it? Cats deserve holidays too and it’s far more interesting for you and the cat to go away together, though it can restrict what you do a bit.
If she wants to go out in her garden she sits by the back door to ask. If I ignore her she aeiou’s at me to make her request clear. She hasn’t learnt that sometimes I might tell her she won’t really want to because the weather is too rough, she likes to check for herself just in case it’s different than what she’s seen through the window. When I go to put her harness on she can get it in to her head to walk away so I say “come here if you want to go out” and she does. She mostly goes on a fixed length lead which lets her sit under a tree and walk over the patio area. If she wants to walk all the way round her garden she’ll persistently tell me so with a ‘follow me’ communication and sit as far away from the door as she can til I go out with her retractable lead. When I want her to come in I call and usually she comes running. If she doesn’t pawse on the door mat for me to take her harness off I say “bring me your harness Trixie” and she comes back to have it removed.
In a vehicle
When we’re going on holiday her harness goes on before we leave the house and stays on til we pull in to the garage when we get back. She’s so well trained I don’t need to clip her in to her cage in the car. Her cage sits on top of a box on the front passenger seat so that she has a good view out of the windows and can communicate with me. When we’re away it’s often better to start driving wherever she is in the car than try to get her in the cage first – when the car starts moving she’ll put herself in it. She often curls up and looks out, but if she’s really tired and she can tell we’re settled in for a while she’ll catnap. When the car stops she knows there’s somewhere new to investigate and will walk on to my knee ready to have her lead put on and get out. She knows which is her car and will be keen to get back in it after we’ve done an activity. If there’s someone else in the car with me she’ll sit on their lap instead of her cage.
Overnight she’ll sleep in her cage (by choice) or walk all over me if she wants to snuggle in my sleeping bag.
Her litter tray lives behind a seat so she can use it whenever she’s in the car. I take old yogurt pots to put her poos in so the car doesn’t smell before we can put them in a toilet.
What type of harness?
We use a kitten H harness. If you purchase one from this link I will get a small amount of commission 🙂
Even though she’s no longer a kitten this is still more than big enough for her at a bit less than 4kg. The advantage of this one is that it fastens with buckle clips, doesn’t cover lots of her fur, and the lead clips on at the back instead of the neck. It’s really quick to put on and off – I recommend putting the neck on first and taking it off last. You can also get H harnesses which you have to fasten every time you put them on – I value my fingers too much to want to faff with these. You can also get webbing ones which cover more of the fur but this would be annoying for a cat if it was on for a long time and even a cat which is used to wearing a harness will not like something being pulled on and off over its head (trust me, I tried one).
Cats are individual. With training some people have developed amazing relationships with their cats – e.g. one cat does some fairly serious rock climbing. My experience is that a cat walk is very different from a dog walk. A cat will want to explore and sniff things – that nose tells her everything – and chase things that move. She will trot along a path or beach pretty well – ahead of me, following me, or with someone else to follow but sometimes needs the direction correcting. She doesn’t like humans or canines too much so be prepared to sit and wait while she ‘hides’ or pick her up. A cat can’t walk as far as most humans and won’t like windy or wet weather or biting insects very much. Be prepared to carry her in all these situations. If insects bite her it’ll make her quite grumpy so learn to pick her up with one hand underneath to put her in her bag so she has less chance of putting teeth and claws in your limbs. Long-sleeved clothing and gloves are sometimes helpful. She has a padded bag which has a strap round my neck and waist so she travels in comfort on my front and I can have a rucksack on too. If she wants to jump out of this to walk again it’s open for her to do so. If the weather’s bad she can tuck her nose in and keep warm and dry – amusingly she’ll often leave her tail hanging out.
Never work with children or animals? When I was taking a nicely framed photo at Glencoe Lochan a passing couple said “How do you get a to pose?”. My response was “With difficulty”. Then they said “It’s very impressive”. Sometimes she does pawse and poses very nicely, sometimes she will do so briefly and I’m lucky to get a good photo, sometimes she will co-operate with a little persuasion, and other times just forget even trying. She has her own mind.