Sabrina is a kitty who loves exploring her urban environment.
We asked her mum, Kathleen, to tell us all about her.
Tell us the story about how Sabrina came into your family.
Well, that's kind of a long story but in short - I didn't really want a cat... I know, shocking.
The long of it is that Patrik and I had discussions about it almost every year. He grew up rescuing strays from his neighbourhood. Hiding them from his mum in his room, as pets were not permitted in the house. Eventually, he wore her out and got to keep a few growing up. They quickly became part of the family and enjoyed their huge backyard and ravine behind it.
I did not, however, grow up with pets and was actually quite scared of animals - until a friend of mine introduced me to his well trained Rottweilers. Personally, I didn't think we had the space for pets and was worried about finding an apartment if we ever needed to move. Housing is very difficult to find in Vancouver, even more so if looking for something pet friendly.
In any case, one day I got a call from Patrick. He was on his way to pick up a cat!!! Yeah... He had found an advertisement online for a brown kitten. When he showed up a little black one came up to him to play. He said "nice cat, where's the brown one?".
Turns out they had photoshopped her to look more brown since no one wanted a black cat!Say what?! She was the runt of the litter and the last needing a home. They had a chat and during that short time she won her new Papa over with her great personality. He didn't want to leave her there, he knew he found the jackpot.
Tell us the story behind Sabrina's name?
So Patrick comes home, and introduces the new cat. Her original name was Selena, but I heard it as Sabrina. I laughed because I thought that made so much sense for a black cat. I remember watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch afterschool growing up. Plus, I liked Sabrina the movie with Julia Armond and Harrison Ford. It didn't hurt that Audrey Hepburn did the original.
What is Sabrina's favourite thing to do?
She loves watching and pouncing on birds through the window. We have bird feeders on every window. With the forest fires in our province many birds have migrated to our city the past couple years so they are always busy. Especially in the winter.
For outside adventures she loves the gardens of a heritage building near out home. She knows every crevice that that garden. One day we were walking by and she had a shocked look on her face when she saw the security guard enter the grounds. It's as if she thought only she went there. It was so cute! They like her because she keeps the dogs out. She doesn't however, like the gardeners machines - so we avoid it on that day of the week.
What kind of adventures does Sabrina like to go on?
We don't go very far from our home for everyday adventures. Just around where we live.
She plays in the greenery around our building everyday.
Plus, we try to take her with us everywhere we go. So she's got a pet stroller for longer walks. We often take her on errands in the stroller and we'll let her out on the way back. That definitely is more of a two person process though.
We've taken her to picnics with our friends. She's the topic of conversation when we arrive for those.
Also, Papa takes her on shoulder adventures. She often prefers to be on the ground but when a doggie comes she feels safer up there.
We take her on the bus sometimes. If she meows, he'll tell people his daughter thinks she's a cat. That always gets a laugh.
Tell us about your most memorable adventure.
It involved a plane ride.
I went to visit and help out family for a month. Papa was very busy with work so he wouldn't have much time for her. So off she went with Mumma on her first airplane ride.
She loved their back yard but after a few weeks wanted to explore beyond that. I didn't know that and got too comfortable with her staying in the backyard. One day she walked a couple houses down and encountered a couple of dogs and ran up a tree. A couple of kids let me know where she was. They were visiting grandma and left shortly thereafter with their dogs but Sabrina would not budge. She spent the night up in that tree. I tried to coax her down for a couple hours. Missed my plans to go out with one of my sisters. Then just sat with her, under the tree. Eventually it got too cold and I had to get some sleep. We left her a place to sleep outside the door in case she came down in the middle of the night. But she didn't come down. I checked on her every few hours and she was still up there. At dawn I thought for sure she'd come down and I waited. Nope. That morning we just left the front door open, hoping she'd just walk back in. I was in my room when I heard the tiniest little meow. She had wandered back in early in the afternoon. My family reminds me of the night Sabrina spent in a neighbours tree. It's now a classic family story.
Why did you decide to train Sabrina?
Sabrina has had a lot of energy since day one. Always curious, always exploring, always friendly.
All kittens are playful but she was next level energetic. Probably since she is a singleton, and depends on us for entertainment. We'd spend hours playing with her but still wanted more. She'd go off and play with our tenants but they would eventually get tired out by her. If we didn't play with her enough she'd wake us in the middle of the night. If I left her alone for too long during the day she would sleep and wake us at night.
So out of desperation really - I decided to carrier train her and took her everywhere I went.
Letting her explore is fun and exciting play for her - that doesn't wear me out!
How did you train Sabrina?
I saw online that some people leash trained their cats and thought I'd give it a shot.
I read everything I could get my hands on about training your cat.
I started with carrier training. Letting her play and sleep in the carrier, then taking her on tiny trips to the stores a block away. Once she got comfortable with that I took her on longer trips.
When I decided to leash train her I planned out a route for us that we could do on a regular basis. It was basically going around the block. But I walked it with her every day in her carrier. Letting her get familiar with the route.
I bought a harness and leash for her that I let her sleep with them to get her scent on. After a couple weeks of that we started on our route. At first we only did little sections with me picking her up and walking her on my shoulder the rest of the way. Little by little she started to do more of the route.
It took about 4 months for her to do the entire route on her own four feet.
Now we go just about anywhere within walking distance. Which for where we live is a treasure trove.
What has been the most rewarding part of having a catexplorer?
Seeing her so healthy and active.
Knowing that she is a happy content smart kitty.
Getting to know her preferences and personality which to me seems very unique.
Also, meeting so many of our neighbours through her adventuring. We've gotten closer to the neighbours we knew and met some really amazing people in our community along the way.
What has been the hardest?
Getting her harness trained was the most challenging part but in hindsight it was it happened relatively quickly.
It just felt like it was taking forever.
She's not food motivated so that wasn't an option. I know a lot of people try to get their cat used to wearing a harness at home first but that wasn't working for us.
I used her curiosity as a training tool. Anytime, she wanted to step out of the apartment I had her harness ready. At first we only got her to trust the front clip so we'd explore the hallways with only her front clip on.
She quickly learned that if she wanted to explore the harness was part of the deal.
She hated the part of the harness around her tummy but if we we redirected her to explore something she'd forget/tolerate that. Sometimes on walks if we stopped too long, she'd roll around trying to get it off her. We had to deal with fleas around that time. Probably caught them from rolling around outside. It only took a few weeks of daily attempts for her to stop struggling against the harness.
Another things is that she still wants more playtime. She would have been a great outdoor cat if she was allowed. But we live in the city and we're too attached to her to let her do that.
In hindsight, what would you do differently?
I'd carry her through the door threshold. One lady shared with me that she does that since her front door leads directly outside. I thought that was brilliant. Her cat knows that she can't bolt out and being carried out the door is how they go for walks. Sabrina knows that if she doesn't have her harness on she's sneaking out. She still tries.
We used to take her out whenever we had a free moment in our day. But Sabrina tries to get multiple walks by sitting on the mail table and tapping at the door. If she hasn't had a walk she'll remind us that way. We're trying to correct that spoiled behaviour by having a consistent time for walks but that's proving a bit challenging for us. It's helping though. We're working on it.
What advice would you give other humans training their catexplorers?
Listen to your cat.
Pay attention and be super patient. Not all catexplorers are the same.
Be patient. Don't pull the lead hoping to get them to move your way.
They are not dogs, you can't treat them the same. It's a mutual agreement not commands.
Let them lead, but also teach them that their leash rules. What I mean is if you want your cat to go a certain direction don't pull - give them the looseness to roam that direction. If they are going somewhere you don't want them to go limit the slack. Let THEM pull away, but stay firm and keep that radius. They will learn that when they feel that tension it means that they can't go any further that way. This takes time and, you guessed it - patience!
What are your favourite products for your catexplorer?
We've used break-away harnesses because Sabrina used to like climbing trees. It came in handy one time when she got attacked by crows and was dangling off a tree. That was a scary day.
Is there another catexplorer that inspires you?
Absolutely! I had no idea how many catexplorers there were out there until we started on Instagram. It's a great reminder that catexplorers are all different in their own special way. Also that not all catexplorers are bengals.
Follow Sabrina on Instagram (@vancityfurbaby)