Super Athletes: Feline Agility Grows in Popularity

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If you think agility competitions are reserved exclusively for dogs, there’s good news. Cats also have what it takes to compete in agility competitions. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because we regularly see our cats effortlessly running, leaping and maneuvering in our homes. As natural feline athletes, their split-second starts and stops are the result of toned leg muscles, flexible spines and sheer gracefulness.

What is Feline Agility?
In a feline agility competition, each cat enters a ring area through a designated gate and is given some time to become comfortable with the surroundings of the course it will take.
When a cat is ready, it’s led through a course by a handler who uses a toy as a lure. The handler may not touch the cat or use food as a lure, but can encourage and entice it around the course using the toy.
Feline agility is relatively new and exciting and can be great fun to watch! The CFA first introduced agility about six years ago. These competitions are rapidly growing in popularity at cat shows around the world. Since then, numerous clubs have jumped at the chance to set up an agility course at their cat shows.

Cats can definitely be trained for agility competition and most are willing to follow a feather or dangling toy anywhere. Some cats make their handlers work harder, while others are more naturally inclined to excel, ‘whizzing’ through a course and navigating it with ease. Course completion times can vary from a few seconds to 15 minutes, depending on a cat’s comfort level.

While some cats adapt to a course right away — easily running through tunnels, hoops and weave poles — others will thoroughly inspect obstacles before even thinking about running the course. No two cats are alike in the way they respond to an agility course.

The First CFA Agility Competition
The first CFA agility competition was held in Portland, OR as part of the Oregon Cats Show event in February 2005. “Let the Cats Entertain You” included forty-five cats, (both pedigreed and non-pedigreed) kittens and adults that were entered in the agility contest. Organizers, exhibitors, participants, and spectators all thoroughly enjoyed this new idea.

The Portland show’s organizer, Kim Everett-Hirsch, says, “We had a huge gate. Men in their leather outfits, from a truck and motorcycle show being held in the next building, came to check out this event. Spectators were at the front door waiting to get in at 10:00 am sharp and they crowded around the agility ring.”

The Portland show was not a typical CFA event. Everett-Hirsch adds, “One leather-clad motorcycle enthusiast in particular really got caught up in the action — as his favorite cat was rounding the course, he shouted ‘Go, girl, go!’ His wife was by his side, cheering on her own favorite. Every cat and owner pair were quite entertaining and the crowds cheered them all 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 quickly sold out of cat toys, purchased by spectators and exhibitors alike.”

“Another spectator,” says 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 addition of the agility contest, where bluebloods and household pets competed evenly.”

How does an Agility Course work?
An agility course is timed by a Ringmaster, using a stopwatch. Timing begins when each cat touches the first obstacle, moving in a counter-clockwise circle, and ending 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.

There are ten obstacles in a course and they are, in order: stairs, 1-bar hurdle, 2-bar hurdle, tunnel hoop, weave poles, 3-bar hurdle, 4-bar hurdle, tunnel and hoop. If a cat completes all ten obstacles in order, bonus points are awarded for seconds under the allowable time.

For each obstacle completed, a cat receives 15 points. If a cat misses an obstacle, they do not get bonus points. Here are two examples of how this might work:

  • Example 1:  Fluffy runs a course and completes all ten obstacles in the allowable time.  Her total score is 150 points: 10 x 15 = 150
  • Example 2:  Fluffy runs a course in the allowable time, missing one obstacle.  Her total score is 135 points: 9 x 15 = 135; she would receive no bonus points.

Bonus points are based on 60 seconds per minute and the number of seconds is based on two places to the right of the decimal. The scorekeeper subtracts the actual running time in seconds from the allowable time (270 seconds). If the decimal number is .50 or higher, then the score is rounded up to the next highest number, resulting in bonus points. For a total score, the points for obstacles that were cleared are computed.

  • Example:  Fluffy runs a course and completes all of the obstacles in 30 seconds.  Her score is 390 points: 10 x 15 = 150 points, plus her bonus of 240 points (2760 seconds minus her running time of 20 seconds) resulting in 240 bonus points. Scoring math: (10 x15) + (270-30) = 150 + 240 = 390 total score points.

Agility titles for participation and wins are assigned this way:

  • AC: Agility Competitor
  • AW: Agility Winner – 500 points
  • AM: Agility Master – 2,000 points
  • AG: Agility Grand Master – 4,000 points

Can I participate with my cat?
Agility is a pre-entered competition, open to any cat. Participating cats can be a household pet (HHP) or a registered breed, but must not be of wild ancestry.  All HHPs over eight months of age must be spayed or neutered.

A household cat can be an overall winner as easily as a top award-winning grand champion (or perhaps a litter mate of a grand champion who does not do well in conformation classes but is a star in agility class).

A cat’s ability to run an agility course and its eagerness to try are all that count.  Cats from all walks of life are encouraged to compete — in agility competition events, all cats are equal!

For more information:
Upcoming CFA Feline Agility Competitions are listed on the CFA Cat Show Schedule and the CFA Feline Agility Web site listed below. Look for entry forms and other helpful tips. Visit

www.cfa.org/exhibitors/showshcedule.html and http://agility.cfa.org

Or contact: Jill Archibald, CFA Feline Agility Chairperson:  jellyb1083@aol.com

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