Scamp the cat stood in front of the first obstacle, waiting for the signal that would send him speeding around the agility course.
Typically, the 4-year-old ocicat, the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s 2017 national agility champion, would polish off the course in 30 seconds to a minute, flying up stairs, racing through tunnels, slinking around weave poles and clearing hurdles with air to spare. And that’s just how it went this time—until the very last jump.
Scamp (whose full name is Rock n Spots Hot Tamales) sat down and refused to move. No amount of coaxing, toy wiggling or promising of future treats by Peter Deal, Scamp’s “dad,” could change his mind. He was done. Scamp earned points for the obstacles he completed but not for finishing within the 4 ½-minute time limit.
That’s how it goes in the dog-eat-dog world of feline agility competition. The cats run the show.
And sometimes they steal it. When International Cat Agility Tournaments held an event at the 2016 Westminster dog show (a history-making moment in canine-feline relations), the cats garnered as much attention as the dogs, including a mention in The New York Times.
Why are cats treading on territory long held by border collies and sheepdogs? Don’t they prefer to snooze away eight of their nine lives on a cozy couch? Yes, and that’s the whole point of agility: Get them off the couch to stretch their legs, burn calories and stimulate their brain cells.
It turns out that cats are well-suited for agility. ICAT notes that they can jump six times their height, run up to 30 miles an hour and have excellent short-distance visual acuity and 16-hour short-term memory capacity. Combine these with natural prey drive and flexibility, and every cat has the potential for stardom.
Here are some tips for unleashing your cat’s inner athlete.