You’re probably familiar with dog agility competitions at dog shows like Westminster (USA) or Crufts (UK), but did you know that cats compete in agility too?
The origins of cat agility seem to date back to 2003, with the first Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) agility competition held in 2005 featuring both pedigreed cats and household pets. Since then, cat agility has continued to grow in popularity around the world as people flock to see cat’s show-off their skills in the ring.
How Cat Agility Works
Like dog agility; cat agility is designed to demonstrate a cats speed, coordination, physical movement and condition, intelligence and training whilst navigating a challenging course.
At cat show agility competitions, cats enter the ring and are given time to familiarise themselves with their surroundings before they begin the circuit.
Once the cat is ready, the trainer leads them through the obstacle course using a laser or teaser toy (stick with feather on the end).
Similar to dog agility the obstacle course includes hurdles, hoops, tunnels, stairs, A-frames and weave poles.
Trainers are not allowed to touch the cat but can give voice commands and use clickers and the teaser toy to encourage their cat around the course, which is timed by a ringmaster with a stopwatch.
Timing starts when the cat touches their first obstacle and ends when they exit the last obstacle in the course. In CFA competitions, cats are given a maximum time of 4 minutes 30 seconds to complete the course and can repeat it three times to achieve their best score.
Final score calculations vary between cat organisations but are usually based on the number of obstacles completed successfully (or the number of faults) and how quickly they complete the course.
Check out this athletic Bengal running a cat agility course:
Benefits of Cat Agility
- Cat agility encourages and reinforces the human-animal bond; it’s a great way to spend quality time with your cat.
- There are obvious health benefits of running a challenging obstacle course – so cat agility also helps to keep you and your cat fit, active and healthy. If your cat is overweight or inactive, cat agility may be a great way to encourage him off the couch.
- Lastly, cat agility creates a positive public impression of cats as highly intelligent and trainable companion animals (just like dogs!)
DIY Cat Agility
Do you have a long unobstructed hallway, or a large lounge room with spare space? You don’t have to enter official cat competitions to run agility with your cat, why not set up your own cat agility course in the comfort of your own home.
We’ve just started cat agility in our home as way to get our indoor kitties moving more, and so far they are enjoying navigating the course down the hallway.
You can buy or make hoops and jumps using supplies from your local building supplies store, but we found the easiest way to begin was by using what we already had in the house – a cat tunnel, a few rolled up towels to create low-level jumps, and a fishing pole toy wand with some new feathers attached to the end.
Using the teaser toy, we’ve been working on getting the cats to follow a very simple course that involves running through the tunnel and over the jumps. The key to success is repetition (until they get bored) and reward (we use praise and attention rather than food treats). You Tube has some great cat agility training videos to get you started.
Check out this adorable Tonkinese kitten learning agility:
Have you tried cat agility with your cat, either in your own home or the show ring? Please share your experiences below.
Image: Alexander via Flickr