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Cat Agility as Play Therapy

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Cat Agility as Play Therapy

In my latest book, The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care, An Illustrated Guide, which I co-wrote with my dear friend and fellow MOXXOR Advisory Board member, holistic veterinarian, Jean Hofve, DVM, I share from my personal experience the importance of playing with your cat to deepen your bond with your human animal bond. I call it Play Therapy.

What is Play Therapy?

Play therapy is a specific type of structured play done with an interactive fishing pole-type toy (or something you and cat can enjoy interactively) on a schedule. Through play therapy, we can harness the catís natural hunting instinct and use it in a beneficial way. For instance, in multi-cat homes, bullies can be praised for chasing the toy, which is acceptable prey. Shy cats get their confidence boosted by “successful” hunts. Cats that wake their people at all hours can be retrained to sleep when we do by having a play therapy session before bedtime that gets them all “pooped out.”

Play therapy also creates an immense increase in the guardian-cat bond over time. Your cat will appreciate the difference between nightly sessions of playing with a wand toy and getting praised by you over the furry mice that he or she bats at for two minutes and then loses under the fridge.

If you sense, during your play sessions, that you have a very special kitty athlete, and if you have the inclination, you may wish to explore the wonderful world of cat agility.

What is Cat Agility?

When we think of agility competitions, we usually think of dogs. Dog agility was loosely modeled on equestrian jumping competitions; it debuted as spectator entertainment at the 1979 Crufts Dog Show in London. Since then, it has become the most rapidly growing dog sport in Western Europe and North America. The International Cat Agility Tournaments (ICAT) has created a similar cat competition where cats display their coordination, speed, and grace of movement in negotiating an agility course.

Abyssinians, Tonkinese, Siamese, and Cornish Rexes are especially suited for cat agility, but any cat can take part. You can most often find cat agility at cat shows, but it can take place anywhere. The course is completely enclosed by high portable fencing. Cat agility is a wonderful way to deepen the bond with our cats. Both pedigreed show cats and household pets can perform, so it is very democratic and certainly not a beauty contest! As the handler trains and guides the cat throughout the course, you see a great relationship between handler and cat. Everyone involved with cat agility hopes to see it become as popular for cats as it is with dogs. Itís great to see everyone watching the cats and sharing the handlersí enthusiasm as they race around the course. The cats seem to love it, too.

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Read more: Adoptable pets, Behavior & Communication, Cats, Celestial Musings, Cute Pet Photos, Everyday Pet Care, Humor & Inspiration, Pet Health, Pets, , , , , , ,

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Celeste Yarnall

Celeste†Yarnall, PhD shares musings on myriad of topics at her†Celestial Musings Blog. She is the author of The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care with Jean Hofve, DVM and Paleo Dog.†Celeste†is an actress/producer/activist/writer and keynote speaker. She and her husband Nazim Artist created the Art of Wellness Collection and are the producers of Femme: Women Healing the World. They live in Los Angeles, California with their beloved Tonkinese cats. Join†Celeste†at†her website or on†Facebook.


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12:48PM PDT on May 9, 2012

I didn't know there was a such thing as cat agility. I'm not a cat owner myself, so I don't really know, but isn't it hard to train a cat to do something (at least compared to how quickly dogs learn)? Cats in general seem so independent, and the ones I've met tend to have a very short attention span.

10:25AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

Thanks for posting the information Celeste.

3:44AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

2:39PM PDT on Apr 1, 2012


8:03PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Exercise is essential for both cats and dogs as for humans.

5:47PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

The cat I live with has never seemed to understand or care for play, even when he was a kitten. He'll chase bugs if he sees one, but he will rarely go after a toy. But he will sometimes randomly run around the house for no apparent reason at all.

5:03PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Very enjoyable video! (Needs a little work in the speed department.)

1:19PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

great article thx! My siamese mix loves to play tag, fetch and hide and seek!

12:35PM PDT on Mar 29, 2012

Yes Sarkku you are doing all the right things. I started doing this back in the early 90’s with my Tonkinese cats. They are amazing at learning a number of behaviors. I think you might really enjoy my Holistic Cat Care book availavle at and hope you get a chance to read it to see all the different things covered. It is unique as it is the first anti-aging book for cats ever written and keeping cats mentally stimulated is part of the anti-aging protocol! Thank you for your very thoughtful comment.

12:09PM PDT on Mar 29, 2012

THANKS! My cat Vilkka started off with tricker training about a week after she moved in with me. I taught her to "sit". That was easy. I just waited until she sat and right then gave a click and immediately rewarded her with a bit of wet food. Soon I added the word "sit" (="istu" in ´Finnish) to the moment her bottom started to go down and in just a few days she learned to sit by "command". And guess what, she soon started making initiatives to sit and "ask" for the click and treat or more likely interaction with me. I taught her some more "tricks" on my own since but then I found real cat trainers and got more guidance for how to train a cat and what kind of things to train. Vilkka does some "agility things" but we don't take part in competitions, these things are just fun for the two of us - or like "high five" is also a nice way to introduce new people to Vilkka and make them seem interesting and nice. :-) I recommend regular play sessions with one's cat for every cat owner and if you have any interest to get to know your cat any better then also a bit of "training", so called tricks or other things the cat can easily perform and have a good reason to expect you will react in a nice way.

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people are talking

...and that was supposed to say "never" rather than "bever"...

yay!! almost all of my favorites!! may i pee freely!!

Some great ideas, thank you.

It wouldn't bother me, as I only drink it once in a blue moon...


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