An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tied Down. (Indoors or Out Series 2)

You want to go outside. You dart for the door anytime it opens. In exasperation, your purrson decides that letting you out is better than being meowed to death. But out of concern for your safety (that roaming look in you eye does not bode well), s/he tethers you in the yard rather than getting calls from the neighbours when you decide to poop in their tulip beds. If I look at the situation with human eyes, I see the advantages of this tethering option right off the bat: It is easy, it is inexpensive, and it requires little effort on their part. Besides, getting you outdoors means you won't have the interactive play needs of your indoor-only colleagues; and if your folks are too busy to play with you, outdoor experience is worth considering.

BUT not everything about this option is catnip and sardines: It is not my idea of a good time to be left defenseless should a growler prowl by, to be at the whim of the elements, or to get tangled in my lead and cut the circulation from my hind leg. So you MUST have the right equipment, MUST be in a safe place, and MUST be checked on periodically by a responsible purrson.

What is tethering? Tethering involves two pieces of equipment: a collar or harness, and a lead which is attached to said collar or harness AND to something that cannot move - like a stair rail or a metal stake in the ground.

If a collar is used, one end of the lead is attached by clipping on to your collar's a metal ring; the other end is fastened something solid and immovable. The typical lead starts with a solid (rather than flexible) leash and then light chain or rope is added to the desired length; I call the whole length of stuff a lead. You can wander up to the length of the lead but no further. Make sure your folks do NOT use a retractable leash which should only be used if you are being walked by a purrson (because it can snap back and seriously injure you, if you are left with it on your own).

I hope if you are attached by the collar, that you have a breakaway version of same; this is the kind of collar that will break apart should you get caught on something - to prevent you from choking or strangling. You can recognize such collars because they usually have a small piece of elastic or a plastic fastener which, if tugged, will pull apart. A leather dog collar with a buckle is NOT a breakaway and is definitely NOT recommended; get it caught on something and you can choke! (Now this is a matter of opinion. Some prefurr a non-breakaway collar on the grounds that you cannot then slip out of it that easily. Well I'm not so sure about that because I've slipped out  - but that's another story. I'm just concerned about your safety.)

Alternatively, you can wear a harness (which I believe to be the safer option) because the lead is then clipped to a ring located on a piece of material between your neck and your chest - far less tugging on your neck. I would prefurr that said harness is also breakaway, again for safety concerns. And I will write more about harnesses in my next entry in this series.

Regardless of which method is chosen for you (and it IS likely that you won't do the choosing), make sure the following items are in place:

Access. You want to have enough lead that you can actually go somewhere but not enough to get into trouble. If tethered at the front of your home, it is probably a good idea that you are a distance from the main sidewalk or road (to avoid cars, growlers, and rude people). If tethered at the back of your home, it is a good idea that your property is fenced to discourage growlers from invading and that you cannot reach the perimeter of your yard (in case of said growlers, back alleys with traffic, and the like); being kept well within the property line also discourages any attempts you might make to get over the fence (and then strangle yourself when you run out of lead in mid-air).

Security. An overly friendly off-leash dog or an aggressive, roaming cat can spell trouble. So regardless of where you are tethered, you should have a safe place to which to retreat: stairs or deck railing are examples.  Besides if your retreat is off the ground, you can pretend that you are in a cat tree!

Supervision. You are outdoors. You are on your own. You ARE vulnerable. You could catch your collar on something and be struggling to get free, you could get tangled up in your lead and put a paw out of commission, you could break free and start to wander, another animal could intimidate you, kids could tease you - the list goes on and on. Bottom line: Someone in your home must take responsibility for keeping a close eye on you, just to make sure you are not in distress. The best option is, of course, for the purrson to be outside with you. But many purrsons think they have better things to do (like checking their e-mail or doing laundry); such purrsons MUST either be able to keep you in view at all times (for example, by watching you through a window) or setting a timer and actually checking on you every 5 to  10 minutes. Besides it will make them feel important when they untangle you from your lead.

Shelter. Hot sun, sudden showers and winds can make you miserable outdoors. Make sure you have access to some shade and to an area that is sheltered.

Water. Being outside is thirsty work and we felines aren't that great about keeping hydrated. A FRESH bowl of water should be available at all times.

Okay, you are ready to go. Right equipment. Great access. Security. Proper supervision. Shelter. Water. And if this works for you, I say go for it. But before you do, let me share my own experience.

When my folks were having renovations done on the house, I needed to get away from the noise; they were busy with the contractors and didn't want to have to supervise me all the time. Herself tried tethering with me and got the surprise of her life.  Being remarkable agile, I escaped from the harness itself. I left it all in one piece (didn't have to break away) and started to wander about. She retaliated by tightening my harness.

Put back out to pasture, I got so mad I pulled out the stake in the ground and dragged it along behind me. Clearly this was NOT going to work! And that was but the beginning of their exploration of other options for me.

Stay tuned . . .for a discussion of harnesses in the next entry of this series.