[Vision2020] It's Caturday, Again

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Sat Jan 30 11:17:50 PST 2010

Courtesy of ABC News at:



Agility Competitions for Cats Gain Popularity
Cats compete in agility competitions _ when they want to; new sport of cat
agility takes off

The Associated Press

Dog agility competitions make great TV, with pooches racing around an
obstacle course, jumping through hoops and dashing through tunnels. If
you've seen it, though, your reaction probably wasn't, "What about cats?"

But that's exactly the thought that Kim Everett-Hirsch of Portland, Ore.,
had before launching her first cat agility competition in 2005. "I thought
there was no reason cats can't do it."

At that first competition, there were 30 cats, none of whom had ever seen
the obstacle course before. And in the building next to the cat show,
there was a motorcycle show.

"These people came on over," Everett-Hirsch said. "They said, you gotta be
kidding. So they paid admission." And as the cats came out and got the
hang of it, she says, "They were standing up cheering them, 'go girl go!'"

The jumps, tunnels, stairs and weave poles used for cat agility will look
familiar to anyone who's seen the dog version of the sport, but the
smaller size of the obstacles isn't the only difference. Dogs are expected
to perform each obstacle on command, in an order that isn't obvious from
the course layout. For cats, the obstacles are arranged in a circle, and
the handler leads them around the course, making a game of it with a toy
on a stick or a laser pointer.

"A cat's a little different," says Everett-Hirsch. "They're running the
show. You have to make them want to do it."

Although the sport hasn't been going very long, there's already
conventional wisdom about what breeds are best-suited.

That didn't stop Donna Hinton of Richmond, Texas, a serious competitor who
has big Maine Coons instead of a lithe, short-haired Abyssinian. For her
it's not about the breed, it's about the individual.

"You need a cat that has a good attention span, that's toy-driven," she
says. "I've had some that decided 'I tried it, it's not my cup of tea.'
You can't make them do it."

Success is also very much about the handler's skill and relationship with
their animal. "You have to be in tune to your cat," says Hinton. "You have
to be three feet ahead and anticipate their moves."

Since that first show in 2005, the sport has been gradually growing, with
10 competitions in the past year. It's also spreading to other countries:
this year for the first time there will be a competition in Hong Kong and
in mainland China. This season will also be the first in which the Cat
Fanciers' Association (CFA) will start granting titles to the highest
scoring competitors.

Anyone can enter a show and try out agility with their cat, says Jill
Archibald, CFA's agility coordinator. It doesn't need to be a purebred,
and it doesn't need to have trained in advance.

While experienced cats and handlers may finish a course in under 10
seconds, everyone gets three chances, for 4 1/2 minutes each try.

"Each time they come back, usually the cat has more of a clue what they're
doing and the handler figures how to place the toy to get the cat to
respond," she says.

The only preparation you need is that your cat has to be comfortable in
strange places. Get it used to going out, for example to pet stores that
allow animals. You can also prepare it by taking it to cat shows, even
those that aren't offering agility. Any cat can participate in the
"household pet" class.

One benefit of agility, like any kind of training, is how it affects your
relationship with your animal.

"What ends up happening is that you and your cat start understanding each
other," says Archibald. She says of her Japanese Bobtails, "They like
interacting with me that much more now. If I walk out of the room and call
their names, they come. They're very responsive to me now."

And it's a great way to see your cat being a cat, demonstrating its
natural speed, intelligence, and — what else — agility.

"When you get a cat that enjoys it, nothing's more beautiful than putting
a cat down and it hits the stairs and knows what it's doing," says Hinton.


This photo taken Dec. 27, 2009 and released by New York Tails magazine
shows Rosey, a Japanese Bobtail who can run a professional cat agility
course in under 20 seconds, preparing to vault over a hurdle at a New York
cat charity fundraiser. (Photo/New York Tails,Jeanine Boubli)



Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"Dogs have owners.  Cats have staff."

- Unknown

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