Train Your Tabby for a Tri-CAT-thalon

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Teaching cats to run an obstacle course sounds as difficult as, well, herding cats.

But that's exactly what cat owners do to prepare for a cat agility competition. To prove their feline finesse, the pets must leap up steps and over hurdles, go through tunnels, and weave around poles.

As you might expect, not all kitties care to compete in a tri-cat-thalon.

Only about 30 percent of the cats actually finish the course in the regulation 4.5 minutes, an agility course ringmaster said in a New York Times article. But other cats careen through the course in under 10 seconds.

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To motivate the feline athletes, trainers use a feather on a string or other toy as a guide.

“You have to get the cat to focus on the toy,” another cat trainer told the New York Times, “Cats will pretty much chase a feather on a string anywhere.”

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Besides developing infinite amounts of patience in their owners, training and participating in these events benefits the cats physically and mentally, according to the group International Cat Agility Tournaments.

"Cat agility contests are fun for you AND your cat,” states the ICAT website.

Some Tips for the Beginning Cat Trainer:

  • Start Young – You can teach an old cat new tricks, but it is more difficult.
  • Practice at Home – Over the bed, chair to chair, under the table, etc.
  • Play With Your Cat Every Day – Besides reinforcing training, this will increase the bond between you and your pet.
  • Cats Are Colony Animals – Cats form cooperative social structures, but not like dogs. Learn about cat behavior and use it to your advantage.
  • Train With Patience, Respect and Affection

Think your tabby is ready for serious training? You can build your own obstacle course using these plans: Agility Equipment

 

IMAGES:

A kitty competitor at a tournament in Altheim, Austria, October 2005 (Courtesy: International Cat Agility Tournaments website).

Florida Sun Cats, Jacksonville, Fla., 2005 (Courtesy: International Cat Agility Tournaments website).

Cat agility Course at the World of Pets, Pet Expo, in Baltimore, Maryland, 2005 (Courtesy: International Cat Agility Tournament web site)