Diary of a Cat Walker #18
There are days where your cat just won't want to cooperate. You might be in the neighborhood, out in a park, or in a new place your cat has never visited.
Rule #1: Don't fight it. Some days you're better off going home and writing this particular day off. Just like humans, some days are just off days. If it's a beautiful day, and you really want to spend some quality time outdoors with your cat, you might try to figure out what's going on with your cat and see if you can turn things around for your cats. Here are some things to consider.
Weather: Windy days makes it hard for your cat to identify the location and source of odors. This can be really disconcerting for many cats and result in erratic or nervous behavior. If you can move behind a wind block, cool, otherwise you might want to pick another time for your walk or a different location.
Potty Time: Probably one of the most difficult parts of the training process is getting your cat to go when out on a walk. Crouching to defecate or urinate puts your cat in a very vulnerable position. In the early days of training, your cat is likely to hold it until it can no longer hold it. Keep your walks to an hour or less until your cat decides it's safe to go outside. When Gloria Vanderbilt has to go, she gets agitated and refuses to cooperate. I now know the signs. To help her out, I try to find an area with soft soil or sand. In one of the parks we visit, we begin our walks in a sandy part of the park. She almost immediately poops and pees. Oh, and she rolls in the sand, too.
Something Has Changed: Okay, it's been a couple weeks since you visited your cat's favorite walking spot. You open the car door and your cat, who's always up to exploring this spot, doesn't want to come out. Or maybe, once your cat exits the car, it stops, confused, and doesn't respond to your gentle prodding. Something has changed, and it's probably not your cat. You may not notice any changes, but your cat experiences the environment completely differently than you do. Maybe a week of rain caused an explosion of growth and new odors. Or maybe an animal recently passed by, marking its path in the process. Or maybe the trees were sprayed or the grass fertilized. The possibilities are endless. Trust your cat; it's letting you know that something definitely changed in the environment. See Sitting it Out below for a potential solution.
Sitting it Out: Teaching your cat to sit calmly beside you is just as important as teaching it to walk on leash. The training is relatively easy. Find a place, sit, and shorten your cat's leash so it must stay close to you. Offer it one of it's favorite treats as you pet it and talk softly to it. This serves two purposes. It teaches the cat that when you sit down, you cat will have very limited range and should probably sit beside you. Second, it allows your cat to observe and grok the changes in its environment or asses a new environment, allowing it to judge the potential dangers and decide whether or not it's safe to explore. This is recommended whenever you go to a new place for the first time and during your walks . This can often change your cat's attitude and lead to a pleasant walk.
Carry Me: Pick up your cat and carry it for a while. Some cats will respond favorably to this, others will immediately want to jump down. Let your cat jump down when it wants to, but if it doesn't walk, pick it up again. Keep doing this until the cat begins to walk or until you tire of the game.