The Cat Agility Series: Introducing Rainy to the Great Outdoors

Training rule number one: Start simple.

Training rule number two: Provide high incentives.

As I noted in my first post about Rainy, my cat Rainy and I visited Hearts United for Animals this past week to train on real agility equipment. The experience was educational! You see, it is one thing train your cat in your own home where she feels safe; it’s an entirely different thing to train your cat in an alien environment. At Hearts United for Animals, Rainy also had to deal with pounding rain, barking dogs, and strangers. She was more than a little scared, which helped me realize that I need to expose her to a greater variety of new situations.

We’re starting simple. Day 1, Rainy and I sat on our front porch. Rainy huddled in my lap and quivered. In the distance were the sounds of rumbling lawn mowers. In addition, strangers strolled past on the opposite side of the street. Not a happy time! Rainy was more than willing to go inside when I got up.

I’m using high incentives. Day 2, Rainy left the living room as soon as I took out her leash. She hesitated when I rustled a cheese wrapper. Cheese is one of her favorite foods. I buckled her into her harness, snapped on the leash, and took her onto the porch. Again, there were those lawnmowers. And passing strangers. Even worse, some strangers had dogs. Rainy looked pleadingly at the door. I gave her a piece of cheese. She pawed to get into my lap. I lifted her up and there she lay, happy just as long as I fed her. In fact, when I got up to go inside, she didn’t act overly excited.

Day 3: We ventured onto our porch on this rainy day. I immediately handed her cheese. After gobbling it down, Rainy decided it was time to explore. Even with the patter of rain and the whirring of traffic. Only after she’d taken in the sights and sounds did she jump onto my lap. I gave her another piece of cheese and then settled into a book. She jumped back down and sniffed the air. For this, she got her third piece of cheese! When I got ready to head inside, Rainy didn’t instantly follow but instead tried to convince me to stay outside. Progress!

Day 4: I switch to commercial cat treats for two reasons. One is that I discovered that Rainy has been the cat with an upset tummy, and so I suspect she might be lactose-intolerant. None of my other cats have ever gotten sick from dairy, but many cats do. Two is I wanted to see if she’d stay outdoors with me with just regular treats. Aside from this one change, everything proceeds like the past two days. The sunny day brings on the people and the noises. Rainy explores the porch, snuggles in my lap, and headbutts me for treats. That’s my brave girl!

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