Susa in the Leaves
pets and travel

Susa the leash trained cat

Aside from the rainy days, Susa likes to spend at least half her day tied outside the trailer. We started leash training her as soon almost as we adopted her. The thought of some poor cat locked up in the trailer all day every day without even a chance of eating fresh grass or chasing a butterfly was unbearable. She was already about 6 months old when we got her, but it was surprisingly easy. Maybe she’s a tolerant cat but I’m still pretty sure anyone can leash train a cat if they start them young.
We started by buying a harness. We spent about $30 on a nice padded harness from one of those fancier pet stores, this one on Magazine Street in New Orleans. It was intended for small dogs but after just one return we had the right size and she was on her way to being an indoor outdoor cat while we travel.
We started by putting the harness on her while inside the house for a few minutes a day, with treat reinforcement. Her first real test was when we took her to the vet for an ear infection and didn’t have a carrier yet. We still had the brougham as our main transportation and she wasn’t accustom to the traveling part yet, so she stayed in the bathroom for the drive. When we got to the vet, there was a man with a weed whacker outside making a ton of noise and I knew the only way to get her inside the building was if he stopped. He was willing to wait for our mad dash to the door (where she still scratched the crap out of me) but we made it inside alive.
She was immediately cooperative. Aside from trying to crawl all over and behind the bags of dog food (not out of fear, out of curiosity), she sat in the chair next to me or on the floor patiently, and because she was so used to Chena, when dogs came in or left she just watched them curiously, and luckily none of them cared about her.
She didn’t walk to the vet room when it was time but the fact that a cat can wear a harness and leash and not freak out and do wacky back flips to get out, is a feat in itself.
Ever since, she’s been a regular outdoor adventurer, as you may have noticed from previous blogs and videos. We spent most of the summer with her tied out while we work outside, keeping an eye on her at all times in case she harassed some dangerous bug, lays in a fire ant pile or gets scared by a passing car, but she’s now at a point where she is tied outside alone with the door open about a foot. I still check on her every 5-10 minutes or whenever I hear a noise, in case she gets tangled and can’t come inside or to comfort her when a car drives by. After all she is basically a country cat with no socialization with other people, I’m sure one day she’ll live in an apartment or house in a city somewhere but as it in, strangers and cars make her nervous. She is not at all nervous around the house which assures me she’ll adapt just fine to any busier life she suddenly may have.

I don’t think theres a good chance of most cats being lead-able, even if they can accept the harness without incident. Cats are stubborn and paranoid animals and Susa still doesn’t like to be pulled on. She won’t freak out or anything but she’ll only move if she wants to. We go for regular walks when we stay in state parks and you can entice her to go a direction by giving her a slight tug. Unless she’s really set on going somewhere specific, she’ll do a little jog in that direction. When it’s time to come back, there’s a half ‘carry her’, half ‘tug in the direction of home’ game that usually works, although in her own time. She won’t be walking down any city sidewalks or anything and I hope no one expects their cat to either.

Today I let her go a little further to the river side where she found a pile of dried leaves. She rolled around and dug her face in them for a good half hour.
This is why I won’t have a strictly indoor cat. Safety aside, its their happiness that matters, even if it means they die 5 years before their time. People might live longer too if we were kept inside a bubble and fed nutritional gruel, but we would be much happier if we could smell the breeze and feel the sun (through a window doesn’t count).

Susa in the Leaves

Susa in the leaves

Susa in the leaves


Discover more from Nerds on the Road

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Leave a Reply