Barry the cat enjoys beach walks with doggie friends
Like most dogs walking along the beach, Barry enjoys digging holes in the sand, finding sticks and sniffing odours on the gentle sea breeze.
Except Barry is not a dog. He is a cat and a half.
Every time Barry leaves the house with his owner, Aurora Christensen, he wears a harness and a lead.
Christensen runs Pet Care Services in Sumner. Each day she walks large packs of dogs. Eventually 18-month-old Barry grew accustomed to being surrounded by dogs. They lick him and sniff him but he doesn’t seem to mind.
Yesterday The Press watched Barry disappear behind a dachshund, pomeranian, labrador, pug, Swedish vallhund and plenty of bitzers.
As the pack cleared, Barry could be seen sitting on the sand, calmly contemplating the air.
Christensen lost two cats to cars on busy roads.
‘‘I was just devastated,’’ she said.
‘‘I vowed I would only have indoor cats after that.’’
Barry and his sister Shirley (who stayed at home for the afternoon) are a breed called Maine coon, they are the largest domestic cat and bred to enjoy hunting and water.
‘‘We knew Barry was different when he arrived,’’ Christensen said.
‘‘He was ridiculous. You’d be lying in the bath and he’d just get in. Or you’d be doing the dishes and the next minute he’d be in the sink or the shower with you. Everything he does is inappropriate.’’
Christensen realises the concept of indoor-only cats is ‘‘outrageous’’ to most Kiwis but it is common in other countries and high-density cities such as New York or London.
She said it extended their lives by years and stopped them coming home after being attacked. However, they need to learn to wear a harness and walk for ‘‘mental stimulation’’.
‘‘I’m sure most cats can be walked. You have to be strict with them to start off and force them into the harness but they get used to it. Shirley had to be trained so she just sticks to the back yard but Barry took to it immediately. He thinks he’s a dog.’’
After eight years walking many of Sumner’s dogs Christensen is winding up her business but Barry and Shirley will continue to be walked. And no doubt Barry will be out to play with his doggie friends again.
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