ICAT Leaps to Life
Jaen Treesinger, Rainforest Bengals
Nancy Prince, PrinceRoyal Bengals
It's time for ICAT---where dreams of leaping cats become reality!
What is ICAT?
International Cat Agility Tournaments (ICAT) is a new TICA-chartered club. It is devoted to creating a new category of cat competition in which cats negotiate an agility course (think “obstacle course”) designed to display their speed, coordination, beauty of movement, physical condition, intelligence, training, and the quality and depth of their relationship with their owner (who trains with them and guides them through the course).
ICAT is spearheaded by TICA Judges Vickie Shields and Adriana Kajon and Bengal breeders Shirley Piper and Kathy Krysta. ICAT's cat agility plans for "fun rings" were introduced to the TICA judges and trainees-to-be at the recent CEU Fiesta in Albuquerque, where ICAT was very enthusiastically received. Every attendee got a copy of Karen Pryor's "Cat Clicker Training Kit," and the cat part of the "Clicker Magic" video was shown (the video and the kit are available from the ICAT website at http://www.catagility.com.
Beginning at the Albuquerque show, October 25-26, 2003, and continuing through the last weekend in April 2004, the ICAT club will be demonstrating, setting up practice areas, and explaining the idea to people. Starting May 1, 2004, the first ICAT championship competition season will begin!
Six shows have requested an ICAT demonstration before the ICAT championship season starts in May 2004. They are:
Albuquerque, NM, October 25-26 --- the historic first show!
Tucson, AZ, December 6-7
San Diego, CA, March 6-7
Houston, TX, March 13-14, in conjunction with the World Cat Congress meeting (representatives of all the world's major cat associations will be there and get to see ICAT)
Roseburg, OR, April 17-18
Tucson, AZ, April 24-25
In addition, ICAT will be doing a demonstration for the TICA Board members at the Semi-Annual in February 2004.
All Bengal people are especially invited to help launch ICAT at the kick-off show this October in Albuquerque. As Shields says, "we think cat agility will showcase Bengals in magazines and on TV the way Border Collies are showcased in dog agility." Everyone who participates will receive a commemorative exhibitor's rosette, and the first ICAT Leaders will be certified there. Also, photographer Jim Brown will be taking action photos during the weekend, which will be used on the website and the first magazine articles. So there are plenty of reasons for Bengal exhibitors to be there!
ICAT will have an advertisement and article in the TICA Trend soon, explaining how clubs can request an ICAT fun ring at their show. At these demonstration shows people can learn about ICAT, practice, and on Sundays there will be some timed events.
Subjects Under Discussion
Agility contests are new ground for cats, although dog versions have been around for 25 years. Thus, just about every aspect of the cat agility tournament has to be discussed and developed from scratch. A few of the many issues now being addressed are:
Titles and Awards
Course layout and equipment. At first, the agility courses will be kept simple and short. Activities will be cat-specific or cat-challenging (for instance, structures like the high walking ramp used in dog competitions are just too easy for cats, as are the hurdles---they max out for dogs at around 24 or 26 inches, but cats can do that in their sleep). Two general themes for cat equipment are vertical challenges and paw movement challenges. Mini-golf as a paw-movement challenge is maybe going too far (although it has been suggested); more practical challenges may include climbing a ladder and then knocking a ball off a paint tray at the top of the ladder. Agility challenges will be tested out at the demonstration shows and at future competition shows, maybe in a side ring. As in ice skating and gymnastics, maneuvers will be named after the person who invented them. Cassie Hale, for instance, is designing a ladder and platform arrangement that will (if it passes the muster in live testing at a demonstration show) be called the “Hale Hurdle”! Other maneuvers inspired by Bengal people may include the "Klinger Roll" and the "Prince Hoops…" At this point all ideas are welcome for discussion and demonstration.
Rules . So far, only one rule has been established: when a cat is running the agility course the owner can't touch the cat, who must do the course itself (for instance, no boosting your cat over a hurdle).
Will Bengals Rule?
Any cat more than 8 months old is eligible to compete in an ICAT tournament, including pedigreed cats, domestic household pets, and foundation cats, whether registered in TICA or not. ICAT may have its own web-based registration and scoring, with photos of each cat and owner/handler for the catalogs. If an ICAT ring is held in the same show hall as the TICA show, TICA's rules about getting show management permission for hybrids (F1, F2, F2 cats) to be in the hall need to be followed. But can you imagine watching our Bengals---especially F-generation cats---spring over a series of jumps and leap to the top of a cat tree, all at high speed?
Obviously, as Bengals are so intelligent and athletic, they should largely dominate the competition. There are, of course, differing opinions… For instance, according to (non-Bengal-owning) TICA member David Birnbaum, Singapuras will be faster through the agility course than Bengals because Bengals will have to stop every few feet and spray (!).
Be that as it may, Bengal people are playing a pivotal role in developing ICAT. Many of the founding members of ICAT are Bengal breeders/owners. Jay Bangle, in particular, has been talking about the cat agility concept for about eight years. Piper and Krysta are showing the “Clicker Magic” video at shows where they are exhibiting, using their portable TV/VCR. Krysta designed the terrific ICAT logo. Nancy Prince is developing the ICAT website and fundraising store. Hale is donating the ribbons and rosettes for the ICAT debut demonstration ring in Albuquerque this October.
The Wider Vision
ICAT has three “tag” lines which codify the overall goals of the club. One is “Focusing on the Beauty from Within,” which expresses the differentiation between agility competition and the conformation shows that are more superficially focused. The second ICAT tag line is “Cat Agility Contests Are Fun for You AND Your Cat!" The third ICAT tag line is “Play Every Day With Your Cat.”
As indicated by the last two tag lines, ICAT is interested in more than simply focusing attention on the speed and intelligence of cats: the club also hopes to focus attention on enhancing the quality of the companionship between people and their cats, because close cooperation between cat and person is necessary to train for and compete in agility tournaments.
Shields has an even broader dream… She has visions of families across the country setting up agility courses in their garages, having neighborhood competitions, and, through agility training, coming to have a more full appreciation of what cats are and can do…kids growing up knowing that cats are truly friendly, trainable, and great life companions.
As for the biggest dream of all---Shields hopes that gradually the increased appreciation of cats fostered by the cat agility movement will help to change the more negative aspects of the way that cats are perceived in Western culture.
“I just get so sick of movies and cartoons in which the cat is the bad guy,” Shields says. “I think one of the fundamental causes of people saying they don’t like cats and that cats are aloof and untrainable is because they expect to approach them like dogs, in the role of packmaster, which cats don’t even understand since it’s not part of their colony-based social structure.
I hope that actually seeing how closely cats bond with their people and how trainable they are if cooperative training methods are used will eventually penetrate peoples’ thick heads, even the people who are mean to cats because they haven’t taken a moment to understand them.
I don’t know if cats can ever be mythologized into something positive, such as heroes and buddies, the way dogs have been, but at least ICAT can do its part to reinforce that message and perhaps eventually change a bit of the prevailing attitudes.”
How Can You Participate?
Join the ICAT mailing list or Facebook.,, and become a Ringmaster.
Visit the ICAT website at http://www.catagility.com/
Email to ICAT, click here
Participate in developing the club and tournaments! Share your ideas. ICAT will become what we all make it. This is a rare opportunity for cat lovers to create something wonderful and unique, and every one in the cat fancy can contribute to it.
If you are having a cat show, request an ICAT ring at your show starting in the next calendar year
Play with your cat every day, and train it for agility!