By Mandie Sweetnam
This is the time of the year when my cat, Fig, becomes more and more intrigued by the activity of the wildlife outside of our Florida room. All the birds and squirrels are moving and collecting food and he just can’t take his eyes off of the spectacular performance going on just on the other side of the glass. It reminds me of my husband watching rugby. You can call them and bring them food, but they don’t take their eyes off of the show.
This is how Fig sees himself
The root of his interest is always what disturbs me the most, even though I fully accept that my sweet Fig would be (in an outdoor setting) a fierce hunter. The cuddly tuxedo cat that sleeps right next to me at night is a predator by nature and his fixation on the small animals in our yard only proves this.
Fig is strictly an indoor cat for many reasons. One of the main reasons, aside from being a menace to every small animal in a one mile radius, is because I find it to be far too dangerous for him to be outdoors by himself. While he does have all of his claws, I do not want to risk the chance of him brawling with the neighborhood ferals, or worse, getting hit by a car.
The mere thought of this terrifies me into a fit of paranoia. Again, this is just one of the many reasons why I do not allow my cat to go outside…without his harness and leash, that is!
A harness and leash is the only option for me, aside from bringing him out in a crate. So why don’t we see more cats on leashes?
Maybe because walking a cat on a leash isn’t as mainstream as walking a dog? Dogs get walked all the time. One of the primary reasons for dog walking is that dogs need to use the bathroom outside, which cats do indoors in a litter box. This greatly reduces an indoor cat’s chances of getting fresh air, which is not seen as a necessity to many.
Luckily for Fig, I think it’s very necessary that he get fresh air, roll in the grass and chase bugs. The Come With Me Kitty Harness allowed him to enjoy these simple pleasures in life.
At first, I must admit, he wasn’t a huge fan of putting on this new contraption. Fig was about 5 when I introduced him to the Come With Me Kitty harness and up until then, the only thing I put on him was a collar, which he was also not a fan of. I will say that I regret not conditioning him to wear a harness earlier in his life, but I’ve always believed that it’s never too late to learn something new.
His reaction to wearing the harness at first was to make like a statue. He would act natural as I fit the harness, but when I clipped the quick snap buckles shut, he would freeze.
I knew I needed to condition him slowly to the harness, so I began to put it on for a few minutes, and then give him a treat. Next, I would put it on him and get the chasing wand for him to play with. Then, to really convince him that the harness was good, I would open the door and take him outside to the front porch with me.
I knew he wouldn’t be bounding all over the yard on the first day, so each day we would go a little further. One day we would sit on the porch, the next day we would sit on the stairs, then the grass. Soon, we would be walking through the yard.
Now, when I put the harness on Fig, he purrs. We walk through the yard and he gets to enjoy the fresh air. He never goes farther than 5 feet away from me, but he gets to sniff and roll and stalk things. Luckily for Fig, the harness comes with a bungee leash because the first time he stalked something, he went to pounce (while I wasn’t paying attention) and would have had whiplash without the forgiving pull of the bungee material.
Luckily for his prey, Fig is out of practice and came up empty handed. Another grasshopper lives to tell his tale. It was worth the couple of weeks it took to get Fig used to the new harness. He's still aware that he's wearing it, but he now feels free to move around and explore while outside.
An added benefit is, while he’s playing, I don’t have to worry about him slipping out of the harness. The cinch on the top keeps the harness pressed to his body when pressure from the leash is put on it. It's gentle so it keeps him safe without hurting him. I trust it so much, I've put my rabbit in the harness and taken him outside.
Have you used a cat harness? How about a rabbit or ferret harness? How important is it to you that your indoor cat gets fresh air?