Cat Agility Competitions – Purr for the Course

When we think of agility competitions, our first thought is of dog agility. But did you know that cats can learn and enjoy agility too?

Photo courtesy International Cat Agility Tournaments (ICAT)

When we think of agility competitions, our first thought is of dog agility. After all, dog agility debuted as a spectator sport in 1979. Since that time, it has become the fastest-growing canine sport in North America, as well as in Western Europe.

But did you know that cats can learn and enjoy agility too?

Cat Agility Competitions

The International Cat Agility Tournaments (ICAT) has come up with a competition for felines, where their skills of speed, coordination and graceful movements can be displayed via an agility course. Roughly 40 cat agility events are scheduled each year.

Vickie Shields, along with three friends, put together the first known cat agility contest in Alburqueque in 2003, and founded ICAT. She believes that the whole idea of cats being untrainable is a myth. According to Shields, agility is all about the bond between cat and owner. Events show just how trainable, coordinated athletic cats can be.

According to a 2011 article in the New York Times, feline agility competitions have become permanent features of the cat show scene. Many pet owners begin training from kittenhood.

270 Seconds to Make It Happen

Under competition rules, cats must complete an obstacle course in less than 270 seconds. Laser points and toys are allowed to coax your pet along. However, food treats are not allowed.

The average course has between six and 14 obstacles. While some cats finish the course in record time, others don’t even finish; they may decide suddenly to take another route and go on their own adventure.

Top Cat Agility Breeds

Five fierce felines that seem best suited for competition:

  1. Cornish Rex
  2. Siamese
  3. Bengal
  4. Abyssinian
  5. Tonkinese

OK, So How Do You Train a Cat in Agility?

Jill Archibald, agility coordinator for the Cat Fanciers’ Association, has a series of online videos that may offer you some ideas on how to train your cat.

No fancy agility equipment is needed at home. If you have chairs, you’re set. Just turn the chairs on their sides or flip them across counters or tables. Then guide your kitty over them using treats. You can buy a cat tunnel at many pet stores.

Cats do have their own personalities, and the training will no doubt bring some surprises. With a mind of her own, a cat is gonna do what a cat wants to do.

More Training Tips

The International Cat Association (TICA) reminds us that cats are intelligent and trainable pets, and offers the following training tips:

  • Play with your cat every day (over the bed, around the table, with flipped over chairs).
  • Domestic cats are not pack animals like dogs, so train with affection, respect and patience.
  • Decipher your cat’s communication and connect with her.

Want to see just how patient you’ll need to be? Watch this video of a kitten-in-training:

The odds are in your favor that at-home training will benefit you and your cat — if not in competitive winnings, in terms of endearment.

Additional Resources

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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