This weekend we were away and one of our wonderful Chico Hospital for Cats staff members, Katie, stayed at the house to care for Luigi, our big goofy dog and BoDaishin (“One who seeks enlightenment”) and Andy, our also goofy Burmese cats. We met up on our return where she showed us the visitor that came up to the back door on her camera phone. It was the biggest rattlesnake I have seen since we moved into our home 14 years ago. Because my two cats are indoors only, my concern was mainly for the dog.
BUT since Andy has escaped on more than one occasion and tries for the door every time he hears someone approaching it, I became a bit concerned for my cats. When he gets out he sticks his nose in every pile of wood, gets really excited by the alligator lizards that are everywhere and generally gets covered in the dust of the outdoors.
Cats that are allowed to roam put themselves at risk for road accidents, getting lost, attacks by other cats and various viral infections. In my neck of the woods, there are not only rattlesnakes but bobcats, coyotes and mountain lion. Since we have coyotes, a major reservoir for heartworm disease, they are at risk inside or out because of mosquitoes, though 70% of affected cats have an outdoor lifestyle.
One way we are working to keep him happy and safe is by leash training him. He has a fitted harness that is both sturdy and lightweight. Collars are not as safe as harnesses. If he gets in trouble I can just pick him up by the long strap that runs from front to back, quickly and safely moving him out of harm’s way. Once he got comfortable with the harness, we attached a leash to it and off we went.
I can’t say that I walk him yet, rather he walks me. We head off into the neighborhood making our way through grasses, rocks and tall trees. My impression is that he is in heaven. He rolls in the dirt, chews grass, picks little bits of stuff up with his semi-prehensile feet. I am constantly on the lookout for peril while he, not mindful at all, just goes exploring.
Though he is a purebred Burmese cat, he reverts to the cats of history. The “stalk run” crouching posture, the “watching posture” pressed fully to the ground, ears erect and forward, then the back legs raised and lowered as he prepares to pounce on a lizard look exactly like his ancestors’ moves.
He is safe with me on the end of his leash. He gets to act out his “catness” without being exposed to the perils of free roaming, a bargain we are making and remaking regularly. The veterinarians at Chico Hospital for Cats are here to help you provide a rich and varied life for your cat. This is one way. Just ask, we’ll be happy to share our experiences.