Someone asked how did Yogi become such a great adventure cat? It all started when I was choosing between three different kittens, two silver male Bengals and another snow female Bengal. I wanted a male cat because they are usually bigger than females, and he had to be lively and outgoing. In a video from the breeder, Yogi was more vocal and animated than the others; it was apparent he had more personality; the rest is history.
Before Yogi arrived, I read and watched as much as I could online about bringing a kitten home, Bengals general behavioral patterns, cat training, and items I consider essential to being a good pet guardian. The most significant person I found was Jackson Galaxy, The Cat Daddy from the TV show My Cat from Hell. Jackson is a cat behaviorist with a deep understanding of felines and what makes them tick. After reading many of his books, I was confident I would provide a safe and healthy environment for Yogi. I highly recommend reading his Total Cat Mojo; it’s always better to be proactive than reactive to situations. Jason Galaxy will enlighten the life of a cat for you and help you avoid many of the pitfalls of cat ownership.
I support behavior modification, especially when it’s applied at a young age. When Yogi arrived home for the first time, his basecamp was the master bedroom with an ensuite bath. I blocked off under the bed and the bottom of the furniture with the cardboard from Chewy’s boxes and Gorilla tape; it did not look pretty, but I was more interested in function than style; This limited the areas Yogi could hide. He had three choices; he could hide in the bathroom, a yoga mat box, or he could socialize with me.
Yogi arrived at his forever home on July 23rd, and two short days later, he took his first adventure to The Fish and Bone pet store on Newbury Street in Boston. He cried in his carrier as we walked down the street, so many new people, sounds, and scents, it must have been scary to him. Lucky for Yogi, The Fish and Bone staff was terrific and welcoming; Angelica helped Yogi find his first harness by UpCountry and made sure he was secure but not too tightly held. She invested time in us and helped Yogi in his first stroll with a harness and leash through the store.
Yogi’s harness training started that day. Training an adventure cat comes in gradual steps; you move their comfort zone, little by little. You can not force training if you want it to be successful; it’s on their terms and for their benefit.
At first, Yogi would only wear the harness; I had to bribe him with freeze-dried treats to walk in it; eventually, he was comfortable moving around. Next, I attached the leash to the harness but did not hold it, allowing him time to get used to the feeling of having a lead attached. I always use high-value treats to encourage Yogi to move outside his comfort zone. Soon, I held on to the leash, walked him around our apartment, then outside in the hall, between the fire doors, next out in the yard. You probably see where this is going; little by little, I encouraged Yogi to move outside of his comfort zone, allowing him time to acclimate to the new environment with its different scents and sounds and ultimately rewarding the behavior I wanted.
Yogi began by exploring a Greenway trail in our area. At first, the new people, sounds, scents, and most importantly, dogs were a little stressful for Yogi, but I always remained by his side and encouraged the behavior, petting him and calling him a good boy.
We usually walk the same trail during the weekdays, which has allowed Yogi to become familiar with the surroundings. I have trained Yogi not to retreat if he is outside his comfort zone; instead, I have taught him to sit and not run like prey. Those we have met outside may have noticed this behavior in him.
Yogi signals me when he’s ready to step outside his zone. For instance, at the end of a Charles River Healthy Heart trail, Yogi is usually placed in his cat backpack to feel secure as we walked with all of the hustle and bustle over the Watertown bridge. Over time, Yogi became determined to walk on the sidewalk and would not stay inside his carrier, right there, in the middle of the city. At first, it was nerve-racking for me, so I shortened the length of his lead in my hand while watching his body language as I paid attention to the environment and let my adventure cat lead the way down the street in Watertown Square.
Learning is a constant process with an adventure cat; Yogi does not like new loud sounds such as motorcycles, loud mufflers, or the sound of waterfalls. During the summer went visited a lighthouse, and I thought it would be a great idea to bring him by the water; and when the wave crashed on the shore, Yogi was startled, and he tried to climb out of his carrier over my shoulder, clawing me up in the process.
I have learned not everyone cares or loves Yogi as I do, and the world is full of sorts of people. Yogi has had his paw slammed in a door on purpose by an uncaring individual. While walking on a trail, one kind old lady on a bicycle said, “better be careful, I don’t run over his tail.” While some stores may be pet friendly, it does not imply everyone in the store is friendly towards pets, and a carriage will hurt a cat. As the saying goes, there are no bad dogs, there are bad dog owners, and not everyone respects leash laws and has a well-trained dog. I am not trying to be negative; instead, I am sharing our experiences so others can be aware of them; and, hopefully, mitigate the risk.