Cats have excellent depth perception, as do foxes and other animals who are low to the ground and pounce on their prey food. Their pupils become vertically narrowed for enhanced depth perception and accuracy. Click here for a free downloadable presentation about cats' visual field.
Cats are naturally agile, with excellent lateral body movement (changing directions) and jumping ability.
Cats are intelligent and think for themselves. They are excellent problem-solvers because of their Insight learning method. So, instead of requiring the cats to do every hurdle the same way each time, ICAT allows cats use their Insight learning to figure out better-smarter-fasters ways to negotiate hurdles, such as clearing two hurdles in one long jump. Inventiveness is encouraged, as long as they navigate the obstacle the correct way.
Recent research measured cats’ short-term memory at 16 hours, dogs at 10 minutes. This environmental memory difference makes sense because dogs are essentially travelers so they leave places behind, whereas cats are colony animals with a home base about a square mile and they know everything within it. With the long memory, cats can remember a skill learned before, and adapt it to new situations, which is Insight ability (see below). This explains why we can teach cats an entire, big agility course at cat shows, full of different obstacles, in under a half hour.
Cats use all of these methods of learning, which people also use, such as when learning to play a sport, which takes experience and practice. In the animal world, cats rank near the top in the variety of learning techniques:
1. HABITUATION is learning to get used to something after being exposed to it for a while, like getting used to being in a new agility ring which is unfamiliar at first, and then the cat feels safe.
2. OBSERVATIONAL learning is learning by watching and copying. It is helpful if your cat can watch another cat in the agility ring, to get the idea about interacting with obstacles. Or watch you open a door at home, then try to use the door handle themselves.
3. CONDITIONING is a way of learning that involves a reward, like clicker training. A click is a reward, which says, “Good Job!” to the cat. It can also be used with double-tap of the directional stick and then praise.
4. PLAY is a way to learn and practice skills.
5. INSIGHT is learning from past experiences and reasoning, and usually involves coming up with new ways to solve problems. Cats are especially good at this.
Cats are fast. They are natural sprinters, so it is exciting to watch cats do agility. House cats can run at top speeds of around 30 miles (48 km) per hour. This is a comparable maximum running speed to those of white tail deer, warthogs and grizzly bears. It is also the top speed achieved by track star Usain Bolt, like in this video.
Cats are excellent jumpers. The average housecat can jump 6-times its height. Dogs 1-times. Humans only 1/4-times.
Demonstrate with the cats, then they know what we want them to do.