Saturday, February 4, 2012

It's Like Herding Cats (Patagonia, AZ)

 We have had a few inquires about our cats being outdoors without their leashes.  I thought it might be easier to answer your questions here.

I'm coming!
I know a lot of people believe you can't herd cats, but that isn't true.  If they are trained, they can be herded.  We started training our cats while we were still living in our house.  They were allowed supervised visits in our fenced backyard.  We did not like the idea of our cats running around the neighborhood.  Plus, I would never sleep if one of our cats happened to spend the night outside.
I heard you!
So, how did we train our cats to stay in the backyard?  It wasn't easy and it took a lot of persistence on our part.  During their outdoor time, we tried to keep the cats away from the fence area.  Less temptation if they are not near it.  
Wait!  I need to sniff this tree first.

As soon as one went over the fence, we would bring them back.  We never had a problem with picking them up or getting them to jump back over the fence.  After fetching a cat back from a neighbor's yard, they had to wear their leash with a small object tied on the other end if they kept insisting on jumping the fence.  Dragging the leash and object did not bother them until they tried to jump over the fence.

Oh....Did you call?
Like training a dog, repeating the same words and using the same signals taught the cats what we wanted them to do.  When it is time to go indoors, we say loudly "House!" and clap our hands.  
Come on Dusty, time to go in.
Sometimes, we had to resort to using water from the hose.  We did not get them wet.  We would start the water streaming behind them.  Slowly moving them towards the door while calling out "House!".  Their only escape from the water was to run indoors.
He says he doesn't want to go in!
We can call each cat by their name and tell that one cat "Come Here!" and they usually do.  If they don't and they see us walking towards them, they usually come running.

That's why 3 of our 4 cats are not on leashes right now.  Since we are the only people on the Preserve in the evenings and the space around us is open fields, we feel it is safe enough to let our cats wander off-the-leash.
Oh look! Birds!
We keep an eye out for hawks although we are pretty sure our cats are too big for them.  We don't want to give a hawk the opportunity to find out.  We also have an excellent alarm system - the wild birds become silent or suddenly fly away.  The birds stay close by our motorhome for the seed even with us walking around with cats.  And no, our cats do not catch birds...they do watch them.

I thought I saw a puddy tat!  You did! You did!
Once we are back in the campgrounds, they will be wearing a harness and on a leash.  I'm sure they will argue at first, but they will realize it is the only way they are going outdoors.

I Feel Good ~ James Brown

Then there's Hitch, our youngest, full of energy, loves to climb trees, and thinks he is a great hunter.  He is still wearing a harness and a leash.  He is getting better about going into the motorhome, but he has his moments.  I'm still arguing with him about going under the motorhome and trying to catch birds.  For most of the time, I just follow him around to keep him out of trouble.

Every time one of the cats rolls in the dirt, I hear James Brown singing "I Feel Good"...  You know the song, right?  So, put your hands together and "sing-along-with-Hitch"!  (did I just date myself?)
I sho’nuff feel good
I feel good like I knew that I wouldn't
I feel nice, like sugar and spice
So good!
Yep, I end up with a dirty place to clean, but it is worth it to see them enjoying themselves.


  1. Wonderful, wonderful! My Jeremy is 16 but I still keep him on the harness like you when in campgrounds. At home, I walk around with him in the yard, or he does tend to try to go off exploring in the forest. Next kitty I will try some of your ideas! Jeremy is king for the time being.

  2. What a clever idea with the water. Lovely cats!

  3. I can't remember our cats even wanting to go out. The neighbourhood was full of scary feral cats looking for a fight. Even Scouty who was camping out on our doorstep until we took him in was happy to become an inside cat. I love the dirt bath!

  4. Oh.My.Goodness. What adorable cats and photos! I especially LOVE the play-by-play of rolling in the dirt!
    Thanks for the smile today, I sure needed it! :)


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