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A new approach to gentle exercise: walking a cat!

Discussion in 'Lifestyle Management' started by Calathea, Mar 9, 2014.

  1. Calathea

    Calathea Darkness therapy

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    Hello everyone, long time no see! For those who've been here for years and not seen me in a while, I'm doing a lot better these days. I got out of a bad relationship a year and a half ago, when I was really ill, and also started getting treatment for mast cell problems. I'm doing better with supplements too, I think. Anyway, I've gradually been improving, so that while I still classify myself as severely affected, it's starting to creep towards the moderate/severe category.


    Eight months ago I met my partner, R. He is absolutely lovely, and unlike my ex, is raring to go where wheelchair trips are concerned, not to mention a keen cook, so I'm getting out far more and also having great meals. He comes with a small black cat called Ninja, who now has me wrapped around her little toenail. She's an indoor cat due to circumstances, so a few weeks ago we decided to get her a harness and lead. We read up carefully on how to walk cats, made sure we got a good quality harness (the custom-made ones are surprisingly cheap), and found that she took to it really fast. She's a bright, inquisitive cat, affectionate and happy to be handled, so it wasn't surprising that she learned so fast. She now has a hi-vis yellow extending lead, the Flexi Neon, which is absolutely perfect. Also she has a big reflective strip on her harness, which I do recommend.

    R lives near a lovely but little-known public garden, just next door to a kirkyard, and I've got something similar near me. Both are quiet, liberally sprinkled with benches, and have interesting planting that changes through the year. And cats move at an ideal pace for someone with ME! They trot along, pause, sniff around, stare at a wall, attempt to creep through a hedge (we're getting better at cutting that short, although she did get a bit snarled up in some holly today) , cheek-mark a random leaf, and generally amble at a very manageable speed. I have my walking stick on one side (now equipped with a Flexyfoot ferrule, though I'm not sure yet how much it's worth it), and if I need more to hold onto while walking, I can hold R's hand. We all absolutely love it.

    We're now wondering about the possibility of walking a cat alongside a wheelchair! Probably when she's a bit more confident, though she's really improved noticeably in the ten days that we've been walking her. We just need to figure out a suitable place to take her, as the local park is a bit too full of people and dogs, not to mention wide open spaces, for her taste.

    I spent years almost never getting out of the flat, looking a bit of wall through my bedroom window. It is absolutely bloody fantastic to be getting out so much. Partly this has been enabled by being on a nice high rate of benefits and being able to afford taxis to friends and such, but a lot of it is due to being in this lovely new relationship.
  2. peggy-sue

    peggy-sue

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    Ninja sounds like a very therapeutic sort of cat. :angel::cat::angel:

    Some cats will take to this sort of thing very happily indeed. I had a cat who didn't need a lead to be attached to my ankle - but he would have enjoyed being walked on a lead. It would have made him feel important!

    He did spend a weekend camping in Glencoe with us when he was tiny. I tied him to my ankle with a long velvet ribbon, and we put his box in the front bit of the tent.

    I'm delighted to hear that your liife has improved so dramatically in so many ways, Calathea!:thumbsup::love::thumbsup:
  3. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    Glad to hear everything's going so well, including a co-operative cat!

    I have had no luck with cats on leads/harnesses, despite personalities that appear to match your cat's.

    I tried to walk a male cat to the vet as he was heavy and a struggle to carry. But it was along a busy road (although on a pavement) and he panicked, repeatedly trying to jump into gardens. I picked him up and staggered the rest of the way with him sticking his claws in my neck!

    Then I tried to take a poorly cat on a harness into the garden so that she could do her 'necessaries' as she seemed reluctant to use her tray. Despite a normally placid character, she promptly ran down the bank towards the overgrown disused railway cutting, and proceeded to get the lead seriously tangled in the hedge. I think I had to take the lead off to disentangle her!

    But cats happily come for long walks with me on the cutting and in the wood and fields, which we are lucky enough to have accessible direct from the garden. They don't need leads for that.

    I am guessing that your cat doesn't climb trees...
    maryb and peggy-sue like this.
  4. Calathea

    Calathea Darkness therapy

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    Oh yes, she lured R up a tree last week. I stood by and laughed.

    She seems to be particularly good with being walked, but there's still a protocol to follow when lead-training a cat. Some people take a month slowly getting them used to the harness before they even take them outside. Maybe you just rushed things? We've been taking her out for a fortnight, and still aren't close to trying to walk her on a road, let alone a busy one. She is carried, firmly held, on the short stretch of road (2 min walk) between R's flat and the public gardens. In a few weeks we might try walking her on a quieter road, with a wide pavement, but we won't walk her on his road, it's just too busy (traffic, tourists) and the pavement is too narrow for safety.
  5. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    Did R climb the tree too?!

    Yes, I guess I did rush the lead use, but the cats (a) needed to get to the vet/was heavy, and taxis are pricy, and (b) seemed to want to go outside despite being groggy, so I had to keep her safe.
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  6. Calathea

    Calathea Darkness therapy

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    Oh yes. It was a lovely tree for man or cat, and I'd have given it a shot myself had I not been impeded by my long coat and, oh yes, the ME. Of course, he'd just got up there when she jumped down, and it took a moment to sort out the lead. Things are generally easier now we have a high-vis extending lead, though we're waiting for when she decides to tie us up with it.

    Lead use just isn't something rushable, it seems. You can get soft cat carriers with shoulder straps, would that work for things like vet trips? If you want to lead-train your cats, read up on it, get a good quality harness (mine is from Mynwood, although she made it too big so she's making us a new one - I think she looked at the measurements, forgot to look at the age, assumed Ninja was a kitten, and left her space to grow into it), and just take it slowly. Walking a cat is an absolute delight for all concerned, so it's well worth doing.
    peggy-sue likes this.
  7. peggy-sue

    peggy-sue

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    It certainly sounds as if it beats trying to chase a cat around the garden in order to try to brush her a bit!

    Which ends up with me shattered and the cat with only a pinch of loose hairs removed...

    I don't think Muzz would take to a lead. She was about 9 months old when we got her - I have had to build a friendship with her, rather than having the trust of a tiny kitten from the start. She tolerates being picked up, but prefers everything on her terms.
  8. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    Thanks, but I'm no longer within walking distance of a vet - have to get taxis and lifts. :(

    I love it when my cats come for country walks with me. The farmer saw me one day and when I spoke to him (the cats had disappeared on seeing him and his dog) he said he thought he had seen a little dog with me! People just don't expect to see cats accompanying humans on walks. They are actually very useful lookouts, as they will always warn me if there is a person or dog nearby, by looking alarmed and running away to hide, or running up trees. If they are still with me, I know I am safe.
    peggy-sue and Calathea like this.
  9. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    I take it she doesn't like being brushed - even by a cat whisperer? I turn it into a petting session, and the cats purr happily while I do it, but they are shorthaired, so no ouchy tangles. BTW my best friend has been given a copy of The Cat Whisperer and loves it.
  10. peggy-sue

    peggy-sue

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    Muzz is semi-long haired, so unfortunately, there are the odd potential ouchy bits. But I'm very gentle and don't pull them. If there is a knot, I cut it out using nail scissors which have a curve in them to minimise any risk of nicks.


    I cut through the knot - it falls apart after that, no need to get anywhere near her skin.
    Muzz is the one who insigates any petting sessions, and these are now all inextricably linked to our paw pats on my hand to get her treats games, I rarely have her brush handy and she wouldn't take to changing the game from treats to brushings.
    I do have a very different relationship with her to cats that I've had from little kittens, not only that, but she'd had a horrible experience before we got her - she was found very badly injured and at death's door from starvation. I do have to respect her autonomy.

    I have only just remembered our neighbour's cat tries to come to the High Street with me sometimes!
    I feed him when they're on holiday, so he knows me. He follows me for ages - I have to chase him away and back home again.
    He's a greedy cat, I have to wait when feeding him and Millie, to make sure Mille gets her share, so they both have to be there when I feed them.
    One time I went over, Lucy was there (he is called Lucy), but Mille wasn't, so I went outside to call her.

    Lucy was not happy that I appeared to be leaving without having fed him. He lauched himself at my leg, and clung on with all four paws. He's done that twice now.
    He hasn't tried to get to the High Street that way, yet.

    Delighted to hear your friend is enjoying the book, MeSci!
    Valentijn and MeSci like this.
  11. Calathea

    Calathea Darkness therapy

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    Ninja was a rescue kitten, found in a skip. The shelter called her Hissy. She's mellowed with time and love.

    Does anyone have a tip about brushes? I bought a slicker brush, but most of the loose hair remains on the cat, and then gets into my nose! She's just a shorthair. The hair-up-the-nose incidents occur when we're all curled up to watch TV together and she's being petted for a while.
    Valentijn and peggy-sue like this.
  12. peggy-sue

    peggy-sue

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    The best kind is the type with a soft bristle brush on one side, and a rubber cushioned pad on the other side, with metal prongs with big blobby tips on them.

    The metal prongs should get to the undercoat, to get shot of that stuff, and the bristle side is enjoyed on their cheeks and other places where the fur is shorter.

    I cat-sat my brother's ginger boys for 5 weeks. Short haired, they both adored being brushed.

    It's not easy brushing two cats at the same time - especially when they refuse to lie close enough to each other to make it easier for me.
    I have a strong wide-toothed metal comb, a bit like a rake, that gets right to the tangles, and gets tons of stuff out.
    Muzz likes it for a little bit, but then runs away.:(
  13. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    I have had two feline 'followers', one of whom is my current young male. I have to shut him in when I go shopping, otherwise he would be following me up the hill and at risk from traffic. The other 'follower' was male too, and I had to shut him in after once going out to post a letter and finding that he had followed me!

    I have a greedy male and a delicately-eating female. Oh dear - gender stereotypes, but it's true!

    Ouch. I had a Millie too. She was a lovely tortie-and-white. I also had a Lucy but she was a girl. I did call her Lucifer to start with, having been told that she was a boy, then had to shorten it! Is your neighbour-cat actually called Lucifer?
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  14. peggy-sue

    peggy-sue

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    No, their first long-haired black cat was a girl called lucy, but she got killed and they got another. They couldn't stop themselves calling the new cat Lucy, because they looked so alike. He is officially Lucy-II.
    I don't think they're proper cat people. They seem to be of the opinion that cats should fend for themselves, they certainly don't feed them enough. I do keep an eye on Lucy and Millie.

    Lucy does not use his claws when he attaches himself to my leg - he is very gentle with his insistence.;)

    I had a black cat called Lucifer once - the only cat I did not get on with. (He liked the vile-ex, a cat with no taste.)
    He ran out the house one time a priest came to visit to indoctrinate me, so after he priest left, I was running around the street shouting for Lucifer.
    The priest didn't come back. I don't know if the two incidents are related. I hope so.:D

    Calathea - do you have any piccies of Ninja?:love:
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  15. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    :rofl:

    A friend of mine had a cat called Mephistopheles. She would have to go out calling "Mephs!" which unfortunately could be mistaken for "meths"!
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  16. peggy-sue

    peggy-sue

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    Pippin only answers to a high-pitched call of; "TunaTunaTunaTuna"...
    She's a bit mixed up, but too dense to care, bless.
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  17. Calathea

    Calathea Darkness therapy

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    MeSci and peggy-sue like this.
  18. peggy-sue

    peggy-sue

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    oooh, I'm itching to cuddle him and tickle his tummy!
    He is so smart looking, and neat and has such a sweet (but clever) expression on his little face:love::love::love:

    (and I'd be itching after I did. :rolleyes: Short haired black cats are a no-no for allergies and me.)

    I know about the diet upgrading thing.
    Muzz currently is of the opinion that her treats should be dinner.
    Have any of you cat folk tried the treat things called "Dreamies"?
    Found in all supermarkets.
    That's what Muzz is in love with.

    Best keep them away from Ninja, unless you use them as a reward in the lead training?

    It has to be said, Muzz only expects her treats when I'm lying on the sofa. She does not demand or ask for them anywhere else.

    Cats are better at place conditioning than operant conditioning.:)


    I have to disguise the taste of nasty medicine in something for Pip. She needs a daily dose of painkillers for arthritis, so she does get tinned (spring water, pole fished) tuna for that. I do dilute it quite a bit with filtered water.

    Thanks for the pics - and I'd LOVE to see any more.
    I can talk cats 'til the cows come home.:redface:

    It would be a lovely idea to take your camera on walks - you could look at the pictures on days you're not well enough to get out, or when the weather is ghastly.:thumbsup:
    I don't know about good places to keep pics though. Mine are on my pc, and I can never find the one I'm looking for.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2014
  19. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    I know exactly what you mean about the hunger-striking after special food. It becomes a battle of wills to see who cracks first! :cat:

    Lovely glossy cat!
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  20. Calathea

    Calathea Darkness therapy

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    Photos of everyone else's, please! Here we have the various stages of exploring some cardboard boxes:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/kgrh8wuksjmxowi/DSCF4097.JPG
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/9blzgztntw2bfdr/DSCF4098.JPG
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/73uxb7yrrxjku4h/DSCF4100.JPG
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/00udhchyrxaygai/DSCF4101.JPG
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/3lc6dirf5poebpd/DSCF4102.JPG

    and her sitting proudly on the scratching pad we made from those boxes, by which time we felt guilty about cutting up the cardboard boxes she'd been having such fun with.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/b3ts7ngiwsql1dj/DSCF4105.JPG

    It's hard to photograph her with her jacket on at dusk due to the fluorescent strip, but here's the best of the bunch:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/pt17jaslqxma7j7/DSCF4108 - Copy.JPG

    So far we're on Tesco treats, which she likes first try. (As opposed to being dead picky about catfood. Thankfully you can get good deals on her preferred flavours of Gourmet Gold on Amazon Subscribe & Save.) Today we took them on our walk to the kirkyard next door, and found them useful for coaxing her out from under shrubs. That big fluorescent strip on her harness and the hi-vis lead are so useful for when she goes diving into shrubbery. She has a particular fondness for dragging us into holly thickets.

    We were going to get the new harness, which is reversible, made up with a lovely dark green batik which I sent to the woman who makes them, only I didn't put enough postage on it and it's never been seen again. By now we realise that even in the daytime, a light-coloured harness would be best, for good visibility as well as looking good next to the fluorescent strip, and a dark side would probably never get used. He likes the denim she's got, it's a relatively light one. Should I just get that for both sides? Then perhaps on sunny days we can just put the plain side outwards, so that it photographs better?

    I'm still musing on the blog idea. I'm trying to work out a way to upload photos of the humans to it in a way that's only visible to friends.

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