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Walkies with Pearl

Have you ever thought about walking your indoor cat on a lead so they can enjoy their outside environment? Pearl is a deaf cat that has been trained to head out on adventures on a harness. Megan Jones, from Hamilton, talks to us about walking her cat.

Where did you get Pearl from and did you know Pearl was deaf when you got her?

I got Pearl 12 years ago from Animates. The SPCA were selling their kittens through Animates to help raise money. They told me she was deaf, but a simple clapping of hands behind her head also showed she didn't react.

How and why did you train her to walk on a lead? Was it hard and can you give us any tips of what worked and what didn't.

The vet told me that if I decide to walk Pearl she would forever want to go outside. She was so right. I didn't want Pearl to be stuck inside her whole life so I started walking her around the neighbourhood. After 12 years, the best tips for walking your cat are to take a backpack, have a friend on dog patrol and don't try to walk your cat from home as it is their territory and they often don't want to leave. In the beginning, we would take Pearl a couple of blocks away and let her walk home.

Where do you take Pearl for walks? Are there places where you can't take her?

We take her to Hamilton Gardens, Memorial Park and the Arboretum. We have a few parks here that are used by too many dogs and a lot off leash. Also, obviously, we don’t head into national parks which are closed to cats and dogs.

How often does she go out on lead? Is it only when on adventures or anytime she is outside?

We walk her every morning between 8.30 and 10.30am. When she was younger she used to also have an afternoon walk and a late night walk … around 13,000 steps a day. But we have cut that to one walk now she's 12.

How do you get Pearl's attention since she can’t hear you? Does this affect her when she is out and about?

I try to only get her attention when she's awake so I don't give her a fright. I often tap or hit the floor to get her to look at me. I actually think deafness is an advantage outside. She doesn't startle at noises like dog barks or road works. But it means we have to keep a close eye out for dogs!

Was it hard to find the right harness and how do you know you have it fitted correctly?

We had a lot of trouble finding a harness. We found New Zealand doesn't really cater to walking a cat. The dog harnesses didn't fit and she got out of them. We ordered one online but could not get the right size so we ended up going back to the original cat H harness, she seems to like these best. It's very easy to put on, even Uncle Ken can do it!

Is there anything else you would like to share with us about Pearl?

Pearl is terrified of ducks! Once she jumped in the air to catch a bird, missed and flew into the pond where a duck mistook her for bread and bit her tail.

We want everyone to know that any cat can go for a walk - Pearl is not a natural adventure cat - but you must be patient, they may not walk in a week or even a month. Once you establish a routine they will look forward to their walk every day!


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