Thursday, June 10, 2010

Traveling with Pets, Part Five

Traveling with Cats

Speaking generally, dogs travel more easily than cats. However, there are plenty of dogs who get carsick, or whine for 800 miles, or become aggressive toward strange people or animals. Those dogs have to stay home. But on the other hand there are also plenty of cats who love to ride in the car, walk on a leash, and be friendly with strange people and other animals. They can travel very well.

One thing, though--while dogs can go on camping or hunting trips, or even sightseeing vacations if you can find pet-friendly hotels, motels, and attractions along the way, cats do not take well to that kind of trip. Only take your cat if you have an indoor destination where the cat is welcome and comfortable.

A cat should really walk on a leash as well as be comfortable in a carrier before it's ready to travel. As long as a cat has not been traumatized by being dragged around on a leash, it's actually pretty easy to leash-train him or her. If your cat has been traumatized, though, it may be impossible to get him to accept a leash and harness, in which case just love him as your at-home pet.

Start with a cat harness. A dog harness won't work--your cat will be able to wriggle out of it. Cats also find the easy-to-find X harnesses easy to get out of. I have never understood why X harnesses are in every pet department, while only some dedicated pet stores carry the H harness you really need for security. It's probably because the X harness is self-adjusting, while you have to make a little effort to adjust both the neckband and the belly band of an H harness to fit your cat. It's worth it, though--a well-fitted H harness is the most secure means of walking your cat.

My cats wear their harnesses all the time--hence no wrestling them into harnesses before taking them somewhere. You never want to start out anywhere, across town or across country, with an upset cat.

To teach a cat to walk on a leash, start with a harness. Adjust the neck and belly straps to approximate your cat's measurements before trying to put it on him.

Play gently with your cat, petting and rubbing--no racing or wrestling games before you try to fit her with a harness. When she's relaxed and happy, put the harness on her and keep stroking her. You should be able to slide four fingers under both loops of the harness, but no more or there will be too much wriggle room.

Continue to play with and pet your cat. Once the harness is on and fitted, you can go on to more active games to both distract the cat and show him that the harness will not restrict his movements. Give him his favorite treat, or toss him his favorite toy.

That's it for the first step. Leave the harness on your cat, and let her go about her usual activities. At first she may try to get the harness off, or may chew on it. If you got a sturdy one, she won't be able to bite through it.

Just leave the harness on your cat from now on. When you see your cat cleaning his harness along with his fur, he has accepted it as part of himself. Even if that happens within a day or two, wait a minimum of a week before attaching a leash. Two weeks is even better.

Don't use a dog leash--it's too heavy. Get a strong but lightweight leash designed for cats. Again when your cat is in a relaxed mood, attach the leash to the harness--there should be a loop for it on the back of the belly band. Let your cat drag the leash around for an hour or so, and then take it off. Do the same thing the next day. Don't leave the leash on when you are not watching, as you never know what a dragging leash can catch on.

After a week or so, when your cat is perfectly comfortable with the leash attached to her harness, pick up the end of the leash and try walking your cat around the house. Favorite treats are likely to help.

Do not expect your cat to walk like a dog. Cats do not heel. Tug gently in the direction you want your cat to go. If he starts out ahead of you, follow him. You cannot become your cat's pack leader, so don't try. Practice until you and your cat develop a walking relationship--you'll be surprised at how well your cat will walk with you once he grasps that things he likes (I assume you know the things and people your cat likes) are available when he is walking with you.

Don't be afraid of the floor mop! Every cat does it from time to time--just lies there and defies you to make him get up and walk. Most often it means he doesn't want to leave where he is. For example, I used to take my cat Dudley to school with  me. He loved being in my office, where people would come to worship him, and going to class with me, where he could investigate all the students. He always knew when we were going to class, and would trot happily along beside me via either the stairs or the elevator. But at the end of the day, when we left the office to go home--floor mop!

There are two ways to handle the floor mop. What generally works with Dudley is to simply drag him a few feet. He doesn't like being dragged, so, being a reasonable cat, once he knows he's not going to get to stay where he is he gets up and walks along, pretending it's his idea (always let your cat think it's his idea). The other method, used when you're in a hurry or the terrain is such that you don't want to drag your cat through it, is just to pick him up and carry him. Some cats, like my Splotch, don't like being carried at all, and quickly learn to get up and walk rather than being picked up. Dudley doesn't mind being carried, though, especially if he can put his paws around my neck and look over my shoulder.

Once your cat is comfortable on a leash and in a carrier, you are ready to try her on the road.

Next week: Cats in Cars


Choosing the Best Dog for Your Kids

Homemade Dogfood Recipes

How to Care for Your Pet Bird

Worldwide Pet Sitting Directory

Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.

My posts on Travel and Cancer Survival begin here.

The series of posts on my trip to Japan begins here.

The journal of my trip to India and Nepal begins here.

The series of posts on my trip to Italy begins here.

Geezer-Chick's guest blog on York, England is here.

Geezer-Chick's guest blog about a fabulous carousel is here.

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