It's new! It's exciting! And, OK, we'll admit it can also be pretty funny to watch, too! Some cats take to the course like a duck to water, and have it down pat when it comes to running through tunnels and jumping through hoops. Others, though, seem to be more curious about the course, and will thoroughly inspect each obstacle before even thinking about tackling it. And then there are those competing cats who think the idea is to put their owners through the course paces, and give the humans a really good work-out while trying to coax them out of a tunnel or over a jump. Course completion times can vary between a few seconds to 15 minutes, depending upon the curiosity level of the cat participant.
The first CFA agility competition was held in Portland, OR as part of the Oregon Cats February 2005 cat show. "Let the Cats Entertain You" had forty-five cats, both pedigreed and non-pedigreed, kittens, adults, neuters, and spays entered in the agility contest. Organizers, exhibitors, participants, and spectators all thoroughly enjoyed this new idea.
Show organizer, Kim Everett-Hirsch, says, "We had a huge gate which included guys in their leather outfits from the truck and motorcycle show in the next building who came to check out this event. Spectators were at the front door waiting to get in at 10:00 am sharp and crowded around the agility ring." She relates that, "One leather clad motorcycle gentleman got really caught up in the action and, as his favorite cat was rounding the course, he shouted 'Go, girl, go!' His wife was by his side, cheering on her own favorite."
"Another spectator," says Mrs. Everett-Hirsch, "wrote to the club and said she had attended the show for many years and felt this was the best show yet because of the added agility contest where the bluebloods compete evenly against the household pets."
"Every cat and owner pair were entertaining and the crowds cheered them on. Children attending the show were delighted to see the cats running the course and their parents weren't far behind in their enthusiasm. Vendors were selling out of toys which the public bought, as did the exhibitors."
Can I Participate With My Cat?
Agility is a pre-entered competition, open to any cat, so a household pet could be the overall winner as easily as could a top winning grand champion or perhaps a litter mate of a grand champion who does not do well in the conformation classes but is a star in the agility class.
The cats can be a household pet ( HHP) or a registered breed, but must not be of wild ancestry. All HHP over 8 months must be spayed or neutered. Their ability to run the course and eagerness to try are all that counts. We encourage the running of cats from all walks of life: the favorite pet, the kitty living in a shelter (temporarily, we hope) or the top conformation show cat -- all are equal in agility competition.
How Does the Agility Ring Work?
Each cat enters the agility ring area through the gate and is given a little time to get comfortable with the surroundings. Some cats may enter ready to run the course, but they will be the veterans, most likely.
When a cat is comfortable, it is led through the course of obstacles by the handler who uses a toy as a lure. The handler should not touch the cat with their hands, but may encourage and entice it around the course using the toy.
The course run is timed by the ringmaster, using a stopwatch. Timing starts when the cat touches the first obstacle, and ends when the last obstacle is completed. The score is based on the number of obstacles completed. If the cat completes all obstacles, bonus points are given for seconds under the maximum allowed time of 4 minutes 30 seconds.
Where Can I Find Shows With Agility Competition?
Upcoming shows where cat agility can be entered or visited can be found listed here.