Thursday, April 28, 2005

Leash Training a Bengal - pt. 3

For the other installments of this article, look here:
Last time, I promised the tale of how we finally took Leela outside, and what we did wrong in the process.

Sure enough, after a good couple weeks of letting her get used to the mere existence of her cat harness, or walking jacket, and then letting her get used to actually wearing the thing, we finally clipped a leash on her and took her out into the back yard.

She had a splendid time after a few minutes adjustment. This has remained pretty constant with her. She loves going outside, but it takes her a couple minutes to relax and get into exploring. She didn't really get the "walking with the human" part of it, and still doesn't. Let's put it this way: if you "walk" her in the direction she wants to go, everything's just dandy. But once she got used to the strange new world, and figured out where we were going to let her go and where we just weren't, Leela had a ball.

The problem was that she enjoyed it all a little too much. After those first expeditions, she was really excited whenever either of us got anywhere near her leash and cat harness. She also started to charge open doors to see if she could slip out. This was something she'd never done before, and something that worried us a great deal. Remember we live in an urban neighborhood with pretty heavy traffic. We had to find a solution.

Let's put it this way: if you "walk" her in the direction she wants to go, everything's just dandy.

The answer we found was to make the process much more abstract. Instead of simply taking her out the back door, we shifted to the new model. When we want to take her for a walk, we put on her jacket and leash as before. Then she goes in her carrier, down the stairs into the garage and into the car. Then we drive her someplace - one of the nearby parks, the beach, wherever - and she gets to explore.

This worked like a charm. She still has a ball exploring, but she no longer seems to connect that fun experience with whatever's right on the other side of any door, if she can just get past us. There's no more trying to sneak out the doors whenever they're open. There's no more just sitting at the door and meowing piteously (unless Elisa's outside of course).

And there's even an added bonus - she doesn't mind riding in the car anymore, because that's what takes her to her fun outdoor adventures. When we first got her, she complained from the moment you put her in the car until she got out. The last time I took her to the vet, she literally didn't make a sound the whole way.

Overall, we're pretty happy with how things turned out. We had a false start along the way, but we solved the problem, and came up with something that's working for all of us.

In the next (and probably last) installment, I'll talk a little about what to expect when you get your Bengal out into an outside world full of amused and confused onlookers.


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