Monday, 30 December 2013

Thunder ~ and the cat harness comes in handy again ~

Cat harnesses are excellent things and I highly recommend them: here is my cat Bonnie, modelling hers.  She doesn't mind wearing it at all, although it's a case of her leading and me following.

My other cat, Louisa, is a different character altogether: I don't think she understands being on a leash, and with her tendency to run and then leap our (short) experimental sessions with the harness and leash could not be described as successful!  She is for the most part a confident and well-adjusted animal although terrritorial, readily commencing battle with any cat perceived to intrude on her world; but there is one thing that frightens her badly and that is sudden loud noise. 

Over the years I have helped her learn to stare down the terror of the rubbish trucks on their weekly missions past the gate, but fireworks and thunder still make her race for cover - usually under the bed - a sensible and safe hiding place.  

Today an unexpected downpour of rain brought with it a clap of thunder.  Wondering about lightening I glanced out the window, and with dismay and puzzlement saw Louisa shoot away across the road and into the grounds of the cottage opposite.  

Dear me, that was a dangerous direction, but must have felt like the safest one to her at that moment.  Wondering whether in moments of peril animals instinctively run downhill rather that up I pulled on my raincoat and set out after her.  Another and far more ferocious clap of thunder crashed through air.  As the rain pelted down I called and called but to no avail, and went home defeated.  What to do?  

The road is only moderately busy but I didn't want her taking the risk of crossing it after a fright like that.  I decided to go over again, this time with the cat harness.  I have two, one for each cat, and although I hardly ever use them I keep both hanging up where I put my handbag so that I can easily put my hand on them at any time.  Today I was glad of it.  I wasn't intending to let her walk back across the road even with it on, but I did want to be able to hold her safely and know that if she wriggled free I wouldn't lose her under the wheels of a car.    

Walking along the side of the cottage and calling her again I heard a faint meow, and after a pause she emerged from a hiding place.  I talked to her quietly as I clipped the harness on and picked her up, firmly entwining my hand in the straps.  So far, so good and both of us were calm, but as we got back to the road where the noise of traffic moving fast, tyres hissing on the wet road, was loudest, she struggled furiously.  I was able to hold her firmly clasped with the confidence of knowing that she couldn't fall.  I am sure one's confidence is very important to an animal in distress.  I didn't put her down until we got to the back door, let the two of us in, and shut the door and cat flap.  Then I unclipped the leash.  She was home and safe - phewf!  

I left the harness itself on in the hope that she would associate the feel of it with being home safely.  She didn't complain, and responded with pleasure to the treats I put out for her and all the special attention.  Then I took it off, leaving it on the floor where she could look at it later.  She didn't care, just went to her favourite spot on the divan, curled up and went to sleep.  I must have another go at teaching her to walk in it, but in the meantime it has once more served it's turn, and all's well that ends well!

The previous article I wrote about the value of cat harnesses can be found via the link below:
  • The manufacturers of cat harnesses instruct that a cat wearing a harness should not be left unattended - in case they get it hooked on something and so come to harm.
  • For the same reason a cat's collar should be sufficiently loose so that the cat can slip free of it.  Vets say that the fit of a cat's collar is right when it allows two fingers to be easily slipped between it and the cat's neck.  
I wish I had known about the correct fit of cat collars when we started caring for Bonnie, who came with the house we were renting at the time.  Her collar was a horrid hard plastic and too tight causing considerable discomfort, which unfortunately I didn't realise until later.  She had always hung her head, which I thought must be a reflection of low mood as she seemed a depressed animal.  But after the collar broke of its own accord and was discarded she started to improve.  She stretched her neck out a great deal and when I massaged it kept it stretched out seeming to want me to continue on and on.  Poor thing.  Her general demeanour continued to improve over time and she became the confident animal we have today.  The uncomfortable collar hadn't been her only difficulty, but it was a big one.

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