Shadow had been the cat in our house for over seven years when we moved from the country into town. His usual lifestyle including roaming our five acres whenever he wished. Moving to town required him to be a "house" cat, and he managed for two months. Then one Friday morning as I left for work, he streaked out the door. I called him, but he was gone.
Oh, well, I thought, he'll be back, probably waiting for me when I get home.
When I arrived home, I asked my husband if he had seen Shadow, and he hadn't. I wasn't really worried, though, until Saturday came but Shadow didn't. By Monday, I began to worried in earnest. I couldn't call the animal control office until they opened at nine, and my planning period began at 8:55. Needless to say I was calling when the clock showed nine o'clock.
"Hello, have you found a large black cat with yellow eyes?" I asked.
"Ma'am, we have four black cats. Can you give any distinguishing marks?"
"He's a male, weighs nearly twenty pounds, but he isn't fat at all. His undercoat is a dark brown, but he looks solid black."
"I think we may have him. Come by, pay the fine, get his shots, and he's yours." The man sounded disgusted. "All he does is sit in the corner of his cage and glare. He was one of the cats brought in that had been trapped by one of the landlords in that neighborhood. Doesn't like cats."
On the way home, I stopped by the animal shelter. Shadow still hunkered in a corner of the cage, glaring. When I called his name, he stood and sauntered to the front of the enclosure, tilted his head and squinted his eyes. He allowed me to pick him up, oomph, heavy cat. When we got into the car, he sat in the passenger seat ignoring me until we were nearly to the house. Then with one bound, he pressed up against the side of my leg, his head on my arm. I held him the rest of the way home, driving with one hand.
I knew we had to find a way that the cat could go outside but wouldn't leave the yard. Shadow was smart, almost human, but he didn't get the concept of staying in the yard. The job became leashing a cat. A collar wouldn't work because if he climbed and became caught, he could strangle. I bought the largest cat harness the store had and two long leashes that could be hooked together. Bringing them home, I put the harness on the cat. Let's revise that last statement; I tried to put the harness on the cat. It was too small. I kept the leashes and returned the harness.
The next day, I gathered Shadow in my arms, and we drove to a local pet store. I carried him into the shop, where we looked at harnesses in the dog department. I took the cat and one harness over to a counter. I sat Shadow on the top while I readied the harness.
"You're just going to leave the cat there without any restraint?" one of the clerks asked.
"Sure. He won't move until I tell him he can," I answered as I slipped the harness on the calm, miniature panther.
The cat sniffed the harness before yowling softly. He then lay down to clean his paws as I paid for the harness, one for a medium sized dog.
I gave Shadow a few days to become used to his harness before attaching the leash, first just one as I held the other end. He didn't like coming to the end of the leash confused him at first, but after a few "lessons," he learned that the leash limited his activity space. We would have a time on the leash three times a day for thirty minutes.
After a week of times on the one leash in the house, I snapped both leashes together and one end on Shadow's harness. We went to the front yard for fifteen minutes to start the next step in preparing the cat for "leash life." Each day we lengthened the time outside until we stayed for an hour. The next day, I connected one end of the connected leashes to a post and left Shadow by himself. He did well for the two hours I left him on his own. The next outing was in the back yard. On a Saturday morning, when I could be home, I placed him on the leash in the backyard, and I left him while I did housework. I checked him periodically through the window, but everything appeared fine. Then one time I looked out and couldn't see Shadow. I hurried to the back yard to find him hanging from the top of the fence. He never tried to go over a fence while hooked to the leash again. I was glad I hadn't tried a collar around his neck.
Leashing a cat is possible, rewarding, and successful for both cat and owner if certain steps are taken:
1. Use a harness that fits the cat snugly but not too tightly.
2. Allow the cat to become familiar and comfortable wearing the harness.
3. Start lessons with a single leash hooked to the harness and the other end in your hand while you and the cat are in the house. Begin with fifteen minutes and lengthen time up to thirty minutes.
4. When the cat appears comfortable with the leash being used in the house, add the other leash to the end of the first and move outside. Stay with the cat each trip to the yard until he is comfortable.
5. Once the cat is left outside alone on the leash, check periodically to be sure he hasn't gotten into trouble.
6. Never leave a cat on a leash outside if no one will be home to check on him.
After Shadow was leash-broken, we could take him anywhere with us, including trips, and not worry about him. Travel became much easier for him and us.
Shadow also never spent any more time in a cage.
Vivian Gilbert Zabel taught composition for twenty-five years. Her portfolo is http://www.Writing.Com/authors/vzabel. Her books, Hidden Lies and Other Stories and Walking the Earth, can be found through Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com. This article has been submitted in affiliation with http://www.PetLovers.Com/ which is a site for Pet Forums.