Cat Agility — SRSLY?
Training your cat to do agility is a rewarding experience that can enhance the human-animal bond and provide a rich new content stream for your social media channels.
This post is an accompaniment to a presentation I gave at BarkWorld on cat agility training. The link to the deck is above, and the following are resources that include plans for building your own course and links to additional info and instructional videos. Enjoy! — Karen
Click any diagram below to enlarge.
1) PVC Pipe Cutter
Here’s the one I use and you can buy it at Amazon.
2) PVC Pipe It’s cheapest to buy in 10-ft lengths, although shorter pre-cut lengths are usually available. You can take your cutters with you and cut them in half in the parking lot if the 10-ft lengths won’t fit in your car.
3) PVC Fittings – the joints that connect all the parts.
4) PVC End Caps – if you’re the type who likes things nice and neat – they go on the open ends of pipe. They will keep the obstacle from any slight wobbles it might have.
What size PVC pipe to use?
Cats can get by with 3/4″ pipe. 1″ is a little more heavy duty, and appropriate for larger cats. For kittens, you can use 1/2″ pipe. Just remember to buy fittings the same size as your pipe. The pipe size is printed on the side of the pipe.
Basic Agility Jump
2 lengths of 3/4″ or 1″ PVC pipe. (3 feet wide is great, but can be as short as 18 inches. Should be wide enough that your cat won’t be tempted to go around rather than over the jump.)
6 PVC “T” joint fittings
4 six-inch-lengths of PVC pipe (or longer, for greater stability)
4 four-inch-lengths of PVC pipe. (As your cat progresses, you can increase the length of the top two 4″ pieces to increase the degree of difficulty. The bottom 4″ pieces may need to be shortened if your cat crawls under the bar.
If you are working to make your cat a high jumping champion, it’s better to add bars than simply lengthening the top 4″ lifters beyond much more than 6″ or so. Too wide between the bars, and kitty will be tempted to dive between rather than over them.
These measurements are a starting point, and you will change out the various lengths to increase or decrease the level of difficulty as you learn what your cat is capable of.
For example, you may want to have a series of lower hurdles for your cat to jump rather than a couple of higher jumps, especially if your cat is older, arthritic, hefty, or not yet a lean mean agility machine. If your cat is a natural jumper, you may want to see how high she’ll go!
- 4 “T” joint PVC fittings
- 2 “5-way cross” PVC fittings
- 6 24-inch-long lengths of 3/4″ PVC pipe
- 9 18-inch-long lengths of 3/4″ PVC pipe
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Greater distance between poles decreases difficulty, so you may want to start with longer lengths between the poles, and as your cat progresses, reconfigure to move the poles closer together. Smaller cats need less space between poles.
I built a seesaw for Trip. I’m just training him to get used to walking the plank on the ground right now with a single pipe beneath it, so we haven’t advanced to the full fulcrum setup.
I’m following plans that are available at The Canine Crib. The construction is slightly simpler than the next one below, and I’m revising mine to be a lot lower to the ground.
(Plans are also available from This Old House here. As with the other equipment, let your cat’s size and abilities dictate your measurements. For example, I’ve scaled the height on mine to be even lower to the ground than this one:
- 8 1″ 90° elbows
- 6 1″ T’s
- 4 2 ¼” PVC
- 4 5 1/2″ PVC
- 9 12″ PVC
- 1 10″ 1¼”pipe
- 1 board 2’x10′ (You can get by with shorter for cats)
- 2 plumbers straps 6” long
- Assorted screws
- Screw driver
- 1 piece Astroturf or indoor/outdoor carpeting to cover the board
The Canine Crib‘s instruction are clear and it’s a much simpler project than you might think. The only complicated part is the fulcrum, so here’s a more detailed description:
Essentially, you’re just securing a larger diameter pipe to the board with plumber’s straps, then inserting a small-diameter pipe inside it, attaching the smaller pipe to your base at the t-joints.
Remember, cover the board with carpet, astroturf or agility traction paint. You don’t want Fluffy sliding off.
There’s a source with clear instructions on how to build a tire jump (you can use an innertube. I used a length of old hose wrapped around into a circle and bound with duct tape. Because I love my duct tape.)
They also have instx on building a pause box which may be more sophisticated than you need. Get a small table at a garage sale and cut down the legs. Easy Peasy.
Tunnel and Chutes
The important thing to remember with the tunnel is that it has to be tall enough so that your cat can walk through it freely without having to crawl.
Tripper’s a big boy and I use the ABO Gear Fun Run tunnel. I originally got it as a mini outdoor catio for Skeezix. It ended up being a perfect agility tunnel because it’s so much easier to coax the cat through the tunnel when he can see you.
If you’re interested in training your cat to go through a chute (and good luck with that!), check out this page which discusses a DIY approach that is easy and sturdy. And there are some interesting agility topics discussed on their site.
If you prefer to build a pause box rather than just get a yard sale table and cut off the legs, there are instructions at Formufit (which is a great source for PVC info).
For my pause table surface, I found square plastic shelving at Home Depot that worked perfectly.
Agility Course Building: Instructional Videos
Here are a few videos that demonstrate how to build cat agility obstacles. I used them to build my own course.