The Kingdom of Laurentius Rex

Cats at Heel

I was once asked whilst walking out at a caravan site, with cat pluto trotting along aimiably beside me, how I had trained my cat to walk at heel. the answer is I hadn't it was the other way around.

The story starts when I took up caravanning, there being no other way to take my disabled mother and her two cats on holiday. To start with I was paranoid about the cats escaping and getting lost, so I even went to the length of constructing an inner door to the van so they would not run out when I wasn't looking.

At that stage the poor animals were only let out to walk on leads with a harness.

This was not of course to the cats liking, and Pluto the senior cat soon found a trick of getting out of his harness by dint of pulling backwards and with a deft flick he was free. Circe the second but older cat, who followed Pluto in everything he did, soon pick up this trick too.

The ultimate came when I was sitting in the caravan awning one day and I saw a black and white cat up on the edge of the site. "Look." I said, "theres a cat that looks just like Pluto". It was Pluto.

Naturally I chased after him and he succeeded in keeping just a few steps ahead of me, waiting for me to make my next move. I soon realised he was not going to run away, it is as if he were saying. "Look here silly, I know which side my breads buttered on, I don't want to get lost do I".

After that the cats were allowed complete freedom except when we were going out. They would go out for a wander, Pluto leading and Circe following at a discrete distance, and I would keep my eye out for them. More particularly they would wait and see where I was going and then follow.

That is not to say they didn't occasionally get carried away and go off missing, usually in the next field.

I am sure that when they did disapear it was deliberate, as they grew so fond of caravanning and the different sites that they knew when we were packing up to go home.

Pluto was the worst in this respect, and was very adept at ducking under caravans where I could not get at him. He was clever too, for he could see my legs from underneath and which ever way I was headed he would go the oppossite.

In the end in desperation I hooked up the car and made as if to go off. He soon bolted back to the caravan door which I had left open.

Sadly in later life Pluto became blind. It was something which came on so gradually that we did not notice at first until he was quite far gone. At this stage he was still allowed his freedom, but every so often he would let out a small miaow, as much to ask if there was anyone still there. At which point I would give him a signal by clapping my hands to guide him in.

Now I only have the one cat Circe, who I took on when mum died. I have not been caravanning since but I sometimes take her out in the car. She still has the trick of walking to heel, or more precisely she goes a little ahead and waits for me to catch up. I just keep a lead handy to clip round her collar if there is a danger of her wandering into a road or some other danger.

My advice to any one who is worried about taking their cats away in a caravan, is take them, they will enjoy it, so long as you give them time to acustom themselves to the caravan they will soon learn to regard it as their second home and an extended part of their territory.




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