Cat Agility
PHOTOS by Faye Heath

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Cat Agility is a different type of feline competition.

The Concept

In cat agility, a cat and its handler negotiate an obstacle course designed to demonstrate the cat's athletic ability, speed, coordination and the quality of the animal's training relationship with its owner.

The event is timed with points off for obstacles missed or uncompleted.

The sport of dog agility was inspired by and modified from horse jumping to suit the canine. Similarly, the sport of cat agility has been adapted to better fit a cat's natural abilities - yet the basic concept remains the same.

ICAT - A Great Idea

The International Cat Agility Tournaments, or ICAT, was founded in 2003 by TICA judge Vickie Shields, Shirley Piper, Kathy Krysta and Adriana Kajon.

The purpose of the organization is to sanction cat agility contests held by local cat clubs.

ICAT competitions are open to all cats, purebred or mixed breed, pedigreed or not, who are at least 8 months old on the day of the show. Instead of being a "cat show" in the sense of what the cat looks like or whether it is a particularly good specimen of a particular breed standard, ICAT showcases the relationship between the the cat and its owner.

The ICAT slogan is
"Play Every Day with Your Cat"

But Will My Cat Do It?

Any cat that has a strong bond with its owner can learn and participate in agility.

If your cat will chase a feather lure on the end of a stick, it should be able to compete in cat agility.

Once a cat gets the hang of following the teaser and negotiating obstacles, it generally considers it just one big game.

All you need to get started is a cat, a teaser toy and a few make-shift obstacles set up in your living room.

For most kitties, the challenge on the day of competition is relaxing enough to start playing in the first place. Once comfortable on course, most cats are generally ready to go full throttle.

Security on Course

Naturally, no one wants to have their cat get loose in a strange environment. The cat agility course is set up in a 30-by-30-foot enclosure, surrounded with a seven and a half foot high cat fence to prevent escape. Only the cat and its handler are in the course area at any time.

The First Trial - October 2003

ICAT held its first "practice trial" in October 2003 in Albuquerque, N.M. The trial was a big hit with cats, owners and spectators.

Participating kitties included both mixed breed and pedigreed cats. Breeds participating included Egyptian Mau, Maine Coon, Abyssinian, Munchkin, Himalayan, Tonkinese, Bengal and Japanese Bobtails to mention just a few.

Each cat took its turn over the seven-obstacle course. Some kitties enthusiastically followed their owners and performed a "clean run". Other kitties were a bit more "individualistic", making up their own sequence of obstacles, but not one of the feline competitors even thought about trying to climb the fencing that enclosed the ring. They were having too good of a time :-).

The Agility Course Obstacles

The course is feline friendly. Typically the obstacles are lightweight, portable, inexpensive agility equipment made out of PVC piping. You can make your own obstacles or order agility equipment from Affordable Agility. Typical obstacles include:
  • Ramps
  • Platforms
  • Open Tunnels
  • Bar Jumps
  • Hoop or Tire Jumps
  • Weave Poles
  • Tables for Distance Leaps

How and Where To Begin

Has your cat ever chased a string or a teaser across the room? Of course it has :-). Well, that's all the ability you need to get started in cat agility.

The handler uses a long teaser or wand to direct and encourage the cat to go over, through or around the obstacles.

Pictured on the left at a show in Sacramento, CA, Denise McInerney is shown introducing the obstacles to her Japanese Bobtail.


"Get That Teaser! "


The Ramp

The ramp is perhaps the easiest obstacle. Carpeted to create a surface with secure footing, the cat simply walks up the ramp, across the top and down the ramp on the other side.


The Double Bar Jump

The next most difficult obstacle is a double bar jump.

In the early stages of learning, all jumps should be small and enticing.

The double bar jump pictured on the right is only a few inches high. There is even a ramp leading up to it to help the cat get the idea of jumping over it.


"Over! "

Most cats catch on very quickly. Jumping over obstacles is a natural thing for them to do when chasing their "prey", whether that might be a mouse in the barnyard or a crinkle ball in the living room.


The Tire Jump

A different version of a jump is the leap through a tire. Training your cat to jump through the tire is approached in exactly the same way as training for the bar jump.

As the sport of cat agility evolves and more cats become involved, some of the jumps will probably be modified, changed and heightened to highlight the impressive jumping talent of the feline species.


"Come To Momma ! "


The Tunnel

The tunnel is a long fabric tube laid flat on the ground.

The tunnel may prove to be the most challenging obstacle for your cat to negotiate - if only because some cats may figure the tunnel is a nice place to stop for a rest.

The more independent cat may even decide on a game of hide-and-seek! :-)


"Peek-a-boo! "


The Weave Poles

Weave poles are a series of upright poles positioned in a straight line that a cat must run through alternating from side to side.

In the photo on the right, a Bengal kitten demonstrates how he negotiates his way though the weave poles.

This is often the most exciting action to watch in dog agility competitions and cats seem to love it too.


"I almost got it! "


The Natural-Born Athlete

Which breeds of cats will be the "stars" of agility? Will it be the svelte Siamese? The energetic Abyssinian? Perhaps you think your Persian doesn't have the athletic ability or mind set to compete in agility? Well, think again!

At the inaugural practice tournament, most spectators thought a Persian or Himalayan wouldn't do particularly well in cat agility because of their heavy-bodied, less than Olympic athlete-type physiques.

Proving them wrong, the eventual winner of the first ICAT tournament was a blue-point Himalayan kitten named Paparazzi. After only a few minutes introduction to the obstacles, Paparazzi completed the course without a hitch!

The Future

Cat agility exhibitions occur all over the United States and Europe.

Cat Agility has opened the floodgates of possibility for cat competition and promises a fresh look at how cats can be trained for show events.

It bodes well for the future of cat agility that every size, age, breed or mixture of cat can participate and be competitive. From Persian to Bengal, from Maine Coon to Singapura, cats and their owners can look forward to conquering new horizons and showing off the special relationship that felines and their "people" treasure.

For a complete ICAT trial schedule and to learn how you and your cat can become involved visit CatAgility.com

Cat registries including CFA and TICA hold their own sponsored agility competitions as well.

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