What is cat agility? You’ve probably heard of dog agility and even joined a few classes if you have a dog. However, the idea of cats jumping obstacles and competing in events may sound crazy. After all, felines have a reputation for making up their own rules!
Believe it or not, you couldn’t be more wrong. Although cat agility is very new, it’s starting to become quite popular among cat fanciers. In this post you’ll discover all about cat agility and how it can benefit your kitty. Plus why cats can give dogs a run for their money in agility competitions, and how you can set up your own DIY agility course at home.
Cats vs dogs!
Most dog owners who aren’t familiar with the ways of a typical moggy would laugh at the idea of cat agility. It’s always been believed, dogs are easily trained to obey commands, whereas cats will just do what pleases them! Though in many ways this is true, cats will follow a command if it’s enjoyable and has a reward.
Training may take longer, but both cats and owners can have tremendous fun. Once a cat is familiar with an obstacle course it can retain the memory for quite some time. This is because cats have long short term memories.
In addition, cats are natural sprinters with an ability to run up to 30 miles per hour during a chase. If you’ve watched a cat hunt and chase prey you’d be surprised at the speed they can run.
In addition, cats can jump six times their own height! This is phenomenal compared to a dog. If you’ve ever seen your kitty jump from the floor onto a high shelf, or counter top you’ll know what I mean.
Cats are fast learners and once they know completing a course has its rewards, they’ll happily jump hurdles and weave through poles. The main difference between dogs and cats is while dogs are social animals and will do anything to please their master, cats have evolved differently.
Your cat is the result of thousands of years of evolution, just like dogs, however, unlike dogs, your cat’s ancestors hunted alone not in a pack. Felines developed into colony animals which is a kind of loose living arrangement. This means your cat sees you as a friend, not master. You’re a grooming companion and someone your kitty chooses to spend time with.
Benefits of cat agility
Cat agility has benefits both for you and your kitty. It strengthens the bond as well as builds trust. In addition, the training becomes a unique way of communicating with your feline friend. Your cat gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation from mastering the course, and you enjoy the satisfaction it brings.
It’s also great for strengthening joints and helps to protect against problems such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. Cat agility not only builds physical strength, but develops problem solving skills which cats love
How do you train your cat agility?
As mentioned previously, cats are fast learners and highly intelligent. However, they need to be shown before they can make sense of something. With a bit of patience and plenty of treats you can train your cat to do many things including fetch, as well as agility.
Training is done using clickers and target sticks which are readily available online or local pet stores. Using a clicker with treats encourages your cat to navigate obstacles, climb ladders, or jump low hurdles.
As soon as your cat completes a task, make a noise with the clicker at the same time you offer a tasty treat. Your cat will soon associate clicks and treats with following a task.
Don’t expect your kitty to be completing complex courses in a few days! As previously mentioned, it can take a lot of patience and plenty of favourite treats. You’ll need to keep tasks extremely simple in the beginning as you introduce her to the art of agility.
Start with very simple finger pointing and reward as shown in the video below. As you can see, you don’t need any special equipment to get started!
Creating your own agility course at home couldn’t be easier. You can buy pet agility sets, but they’re mostly aimed at dogs. This is probably because cat agility is still very new, and certainly not a mainstream sport! An agility set comprises of weave poles, hurdles, hoops, and crossbars.
What agility equipment do you need?
If you want a ready made agility course Outward Hound ZipZoom could be an ideal solution. Though designed for dogs, you can easily use this for your cat. The equipment is meant for indoor use and very easy to set up.
You have the option of four weave poles, or six with an adjustable hurdle. The hurdle is a great addition as your cat will easily jump and it’s good for strengthening muscles.
A square tunnel is also included, but in my opinion a longer tunnel is better for cats. You could buy a separate one to complete your agility course if so desired. A tail teaser wand makes the perfect target stick and is included in the kit.
Outward hound agility set is very portable as it’s lightweight. This makes it great for easy storage or taking outside in the garden. A storage bag and training tips booklet are included.
Making your agility equipment isn’t hard. In fact, when you’re starting the training process using items you already have in the house is a good idea. Make your own tunnel out of an empty cardboard box. As long as the box is tall and wide enough for your kitty, simply remove the back so she can walk through it.
Place a tasty treat at one end of the cardboard tunnel and encourage her to walk through and retrieve it by pointing with your finger. Once your kitty gets used to this game you could consider buying a tunnel. Most are very inexpensive and some come with toys as well.
LUCKITTY Large Cat Toy Collapsible Tunnel Tube with Plush Balls, for Small Pets
This rainbow coloured collapsible tunnel makes the ideal addition to your agility course. It’s made of soft high quality flannel and is big enough for large breed cats. You can even join two together to make a longer tunnel. Dangly pompoms are perfect for encouraging play, and the tunnel itself is a sturdy, strong, structure.
You can easily make a few weave poles from pvc pipes by attaching them to plywood bases. Paint them as well if you like. You could even use plastic water bottles, or a few cones. Watch the video below to see how an expert cat agility trainer trains her kitty! As you’ll see she uses a feather teaser stick as a pointer. It looks easy, but takes a lot of practice to achieve such a high standard.:)
Entering agility competitions
Once you and your cat have mastered an agility course you’ll probably want to show off your cat’s skills. You can enter competitions run by cat fanciers, but you’ll need to be of a high level. You and your cat must have a strong working relationship, and in addition your kitty must have good physical strength.
There are two levels of cat agility, basic and advanced. For your kitty to achieve even the basic level she must have a high intelligence and willingness to follow a course. Any cat whether pedigree or moggy can achieve incredible results with good training.
The basic level of agility allows your cat to get used to running courses and build a strong working bond. Speed isn’t so important at this level as it’s only about getting your kitty to actually finish a course successfully.
There are two advanced levels of agility with the second being very hard and designed for the fittest and most intelligent cats. Hurdles are set at maximum height and all obstacles made as challenging as possible.
For any cat owner to achieve the highest level of agility, excellent communication, and trust between owner and cat is needed. If you’re interested in competing at events you need to decide if your kitty has the right personality.
Just like people, some are show offs and love attention, whereas others prefer a quiet environment. If your cat likes people and can handle noise, she may be be a good candidate.
The International cat association may be a good place to find more information, or even ask at local cat shows. Remember, your cat must enjoy agility training and always praise and reward.
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Wishing you a purrfect day:)