Feline Agility Competitions: Could YOUR Cat Compete?
By Bri Luginbill More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the The Scratchpad Blog Series
We’ve all heard of cat shows. Their owners prance them around while holding onto their leash tightly. Everything is taken very seriously. The cats are groomed to perfection and analyzed closely by the judges.
Well, there’s a new kind of cat show in town and the environment is a bit more playful. It’s called a Cat Agility Competition, where cats run through miniature obstacle courses full of tunnels and hurdles. A total of 10 obstacles must be completed with no mistakes. This weekend, there will be an agility competition in New York and Indianapolis.
What’s even better? They don't have to be purebred to compete. Any cat can participate!
Could Cat Agility Be For You?
You may be wondering how would you train a cat to do this? Well, most train their cats using treats or toys. Anthony Hucheson, a cat owner whose cat has run the course nine times, unveils his secret,“You have to get the cat to focus on the toy. Cats will pretty much chase a feather on a string anywhere.”
Unfortunately, some owners do not train as thoroughly as others and it usually ends up badly. Socialization is an important aspect of preparation as well. The cats can get easily spooked by the large crowd and unfamiliar area. A cat's suitability for training also depends on their personality. Burmese breeder, Russell Reimer says, “I think it’s more the personality of the cat. There are some Maine Coons that won’t do anything in there, and there are others that’ll tear the course to shreds. The same with the Abyssinians.”
Reimer, also a ringmaster, believes cats only get caught up on one part of the course,“Most of them have a hard time with the weave poles. The tunnels, the steps, the hurdles are no problem.”
How It All Started
These competitions started 10 years ago when two couples met at a cat show circuit. They went out to dinner and started talking about what tricks their cats did. They decided something should be done to get cats to play like this outside of home. A group called the International Cat Agility Tournaments (ICAT) was formed.
Shirley Piper, one of the four founders reminisces about when they first started, “When we first started it, everybody said, ‘Train a cat? Impossible!’”
So, how many cats actually succeed and run through the whole course? About 30% of cats finish within four and a half minutes, the time allotted to complete the course.
Still, veterinarians think this type of play is beneficial to cats. Cynthia Otto, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine believes it is great for the cat’s overall health, “I think we let cats’ brains rot, and I think it’s really sad.”
Cat Agility Competitions still haven’t taken off as well as the founders would have liked. They are trying to devise new obstacles to grab spectators' attention. Ideas such as the use of ball bits and small inflatable swimming pools are being thrown around.