When it comes to agility training, you likely think of dogs. After all, dogs love to please their owners, like to have a job, and are clever as all get-out. Cats, though? There’s no getting around it… they’re stubborn and do exactly what they like to do. But cats are brilliant creatures with a significant amount of energy and athleticism, and believe it or not, they like to please their people, too. Agility training your cat may be a little tricky, but if you’re willing to learn, so are they. Today we will touch on some key points.
There are several theories on how to go about training your cat for agility. According to The Cat Fanciers Association, Inc. there are three particularly useful methods: luring, back-chaining, and a personal theory of the original author that states a cat can be trained with the same methods you would use to train a dog. In the latter method, you would teach them voice and hand commands, show them the obstacles, lead them through, and reward them accordingly. Back-chaining is leading the cat piece by piece in reverse. Luring is simply leading your cat through the obstacles with a favorite toy.
Tools and Courses
In addition to the numerous methods, there are also a plethora of tools, courses and stand-alone obstacles you can use to agility train a cat. Be them professionals or hobbyists, many trainers stand by the use of clickers. Unsurprisingly, clicker training is fairly common with dogs, but those who work with cats find that it works in a similar fashion, helping to guide and mold a cat’s behavior, reinforcing and solidifying certain actions in the cat’s mind. Target sticks are also very popular, as they give your cat something to aim for, and also help cultivate independence.
Standalone obstacles are an excellent way to get started. These may consist of hoops to be jumped through, either one at a time or within a series; weaving poles; tunnels of various lengths; and hurdles of different heights. Teeter-totters are also quite popular, but might be a bit difficult if your cat is fearful or timid.
Space permitting, you can quite easily set up an obstacle course in your home. Professional-grade materials are available, but for the home agility trainer, inexpensive items are always an option. For example, bike tires or hula hoops can be hung from self-assembled PVC frames. Weave poles may consist of scratching posts, traffic cones, or yard sticks glued into notched wood planks. Tunnels are available in just about any pet or toy store, while hurdles can easily be assembled at home with wooden boards and low-pile carpet.
Adult Cat Agility Training
At this point, you may be wondering if your adult cat can be trained. While it’s true that the brain of a kitten is a malleable thing, if you can break through their long-held habits and barriers, mature felines are just as trainable. In order to educate an older cat in agility, it is essential to utilize the things that they like most. When luring, use their absolute favorite toys, and be sure to rotate frequently. Keep their favorite treats on hand. Most of all, never push. Though lively, cats aren’t as tireless as dogs, so respect their limits, keep the training fun, and stop when they want to stop!
Agility training a cat isn’t just for professionals. Engaging in this physical, thought-provoking activity with your furry friend is a great way to help him maintain a healthy weight, blow off some of that excess energy, and keep him mentally stimulated.
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