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Posts Tagged ‘Animal Ambassadors

Cat agility got its start in 2001 because of a dinner conversation about cat tricks. Two couples on the cat show circuit decided to modify some dog agility obstacles and show them to their cats. From there, a group called International Cat Agility Tournaments (ICAT) was born.

Three years later, the Cat Fanciers Association took an interest in the new sport for cats. One year after that, the organization’s first agility competition was held in Oregon as part a cat show, and boasted forty-five contestants. Since then, scores have been kept sporadically, with prizes consisting infrequently of money and more often a ribbon or small trophy.

Feline agility competitions, in which cats run through a miniature obstacle course full of hurdles and tunnels, have become fixtures on the cat show scene.

–Jennifer Kingston of New York Times, Next Best Thing to Herding Cats

Agility is a sport that people and pets can do together. Your pet will race through tunnels, leap over jumps, climb A-frames and pet walks, balance on teeter totters, and weave between poles. Although agility can involve large pieces of equipment, you can also create your own course at home.

For any pet owner, there are three reasons to take up agility. First, it’s fun. Second, all this activity will be good for the health of both you and your pet. Third, because agility is a team sport, the two of you will develop a unique bond.

I think we let cats’ brains rot, and I think it’s sad.

–Cynthia Otto of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Next Best Thing to Herding Cats

CinderJump

Agility benefits cats in that it makes use of their senses and skills. Foremost, agility provides them with the opportunity to make use of and hone their unique abilities to sprint and jump. Second, cats have excellent visual focus and accuracy, which agility will exercise to the fullest as cats race through a complicated obstacle course. International Cat Agility also points out that cats excel in learning a skill, remembering it, and adapting it to new situations. This knack to problem-solve enables them to quickly learn an entire agility course. Finally, although their independent nature can work against cats, it can also work for them. Our goal as trainers is to tap into that independence by giving our cats a reason to do agility. As with dogs, we can use treats, toys, and the obstacles themselves as motivation.

Not only is putting your cat through hoops fun, it’s also great for your cat. That’s because agility training fights obesity and boredom, two very common cat problems.

–Animal American Hospital Assocation, Get Your Cat Off the Couch

Lucy_TrainMy interest in cat agility developed in a roundabout way. Even as a puppy, our family’s toy poodle could climb like a goat. This interest prompted my husband to make obstacles courses for him at home, and later enroll him in agility classes at the local Greater Lincoln Obedience Club. The two have gone on to compete in local and even national agility trials. Inspired by them, I started teaching our first cat to do tricks. With our three current cats, I’m even more serious about training, which has expanded to include agility skills.

Training for agility can be done inside the house, takes little space, and is inexpensive.

–International Cat Agility Tournaments, Benefits of Cat Agility

Over the past three years, I’ve tried to replicate each agility obstacle at home. A jumping obstacle was the easiest and most economical to create. Because cats like to be up high, I have mine jump from chair to chair. Cost: free!” For a few dollars, I also added a child’s hula hoop into the mix.

rainy_tunnelAfter my cats mastered jumps, I added a tunnel to their repertoire. The tunnel is one of the most popular obstacles in dog agility and, like jumps, one of the simplest to teach. With a small tunnel, I simply throw a treat into it to get my cats running in the right direction. They then take turns diving into the tunnel’s mouth and bounding out the other end. You can find a small affordable one at the Baby, Toddler & Preschool Learning Toys | Playroom Furniture | Play Tents & Tunnels section at Toys R Us. Larger tunnels are more expensive and more difficult to store. In addition, to train our cats to go through a larger tunnel, I initially had to crawl through the it with them. Only over time could I lead them through the tunnel with a trail of treats.

catweavesThe remaining obstacles are more difficult to replicate and to teach—but not impossible! For weaves, I’ve turned to pop bottles or other tall, thin objects. I then lure my cat through with treats or wand toys. Another relatively low-cost option is small traffic cones. I recently found a set of weave poles for cats at – of all places – Bed, Bath, & Beyond’s website. (The set also includes a hoop. But notice that it only comes with three weave poles. That wasn’t enough for me, so I bought two sets.) I have yet to create an A-frame, but Cat Fanciers Association recommends pushing together two Alpine scratchers (with the corrugated cardboard scratching material) that tilt up at an angle. Another idea I gleaned from the CFA agility site is laying across two sets of pet stairs to create a pet walk; with the bonus that the stairs could be pushed together without the plank to create a stepped A-frame This leaves the teeter, for which I’ve yet to find an economical solution.

Everybody wanted to try running their cats through a course.

–Diane McCartney of The Wichita Eagle Cats in Motion

Recently, I’ve been checking into cat agility classes. A few years ago, The Nebraska Humane Society invited national agility exhibitor Jill Archibald to demonstrate for them. Beyond that, I haven’t been able to find any options in the state or even in the Midwest. Instead cat agility sadly seems to be confined to the coasts. I’d like to end with a plea to dog sports clubs: please open your doors to cats!

Agility builds awareness among the public of how intelligent, beautiful, trainable and companionable cats are, which will benefit all cats everywhere.

–International Cat Agility Tournaments, Benefits of Cat Agility

Even if pet clubs keep their doors closed to cat agility, that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue it. As I said above, to date, I’ve replicated most standard obstacles in my home at minimal cost. Now almost every day I spend a few minutes playing with my cats, training my cats in obedience, and/or doing agility. You can too.

Interested in doing cat agility? Starting with the Spring Issue, please follow my articles on pet training at Lincoln Kids., which will cover all kinds of training for cats. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.

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SixWordSaturday

Becoming an advocate for cats everywhere

In the two years that I’ve been involved with Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, not only have I have been writing a few articles a week on a regular basis but my duties have increased. Switching jobs during that time made me realize that I can’t keep up that pace! This led to the decision to become more focused in my efforts. Namely, I decided to become an advocate for cats.

One way I do this is to mostly write about cats. I’ve tried to increase awareness of how amazing they are as pets, how we can enrich their lives, and how we can help homeless cats. Most weeks I feature a cat trio story at Allison’s Book Bag, and you can read my articles about enriching the lives of cats at An Enriched Cat is a Happy Cat and Can Cats Be Trained?

I’ve also tried to put into practice my own messages, by training my cats. Each of my cats being helped with their own specific needs: I’m teaching Cinder to become less guarded about food, Bootsie to be more accepting of crates and strollers, and Rainy to show more patience about most everything. I’m also introducing all three to fun activities such as agility and obedience. Rainy has been doing the agility for months now, and is ready to go public with her skills. That is, she will be once I help her get used to facing all kinds of new situations. I’ll write about our attempts in upcoming posts. In training my cats, I’ve also discovered that my bond with my own cats has been deepened.

Another way I’m trying to become an advocate is through building a network of cat contacts. I share posts from cat rescuers and tell their stories at Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. I’m starting to connect with local shelters to determine their needs and what support can be given them. And I’m helping part of a group that helps community cats to live better lives.

That’s what’s new with me! What about you?

SixWordSaturday

Volunteering is like a full-time job

Looking back over my Six-Word-Saturday posts, I realize that I haven’t talked much about my volunteer life other than two years ago when I wrote about helping community cats. Given that these days I spend the majority of my free time involved in volunteer activities, what follows is a post that’s long overdue.

Let’s start with Husker Cats. This is a group that traps-neuters-and-releases (TNR) cats on our local campus. Volunteers also provide food, water, and shelter. I started by shadowing a volunteer. When she had to cutback on hours, I took on one of her shifts and eventually became a coordinator. I also wrote an article to promote the group and adopted one of the feral cats. I’ve shared numerous stories here about Bootsie!

The other group I volunteer with is Animal Ambassadors. This is a group that helps address the root cause of homelessness by providing spay/neuter and vaccination services, a pet food bank, and education. I started out by writing a few articles for their blog. To better understand the group’s objectives, I decided to invite myself to a meeting. One thing led to another. Now I’m the group’s media chair, which involves duties such as writing press releases and running our blog. I also help with fundraisers and information events.

My involvement with Animal Ambassadors led to a couple of decisions. First, I only queried Lincoln Kids, because I felt that I needed a print forum to promote animal welfare. Now I’m writing two columns for them! Second, because my articles tend to be long and detailed, I wanted to a way to write shorter stuff and hit upon writing a cat advice column. So for, I’ve posted three! I’ll share them posts here over the next few weeks.

That’s what’s new with me! What about you?

calendar2017With almost 80 million households in the United States owning a pet as of 2015, it should come as no surprise that our calendar year is filled with holidays celebrating our animal companions. These holidays might be a little too obscure to grant anyone a day off from work, but they still might give ideas about how to have fun with or honor pets. Last year to help Lincoln Animal Ambassadors visitors keep track of those very special dates, I began posting information about them. Here are links to all of the events you might have missed in March.

Adopt A Guinea Pig Month: March is a time for spring, flowers, and guinea pigs! It’s also designated as “Adopt A Rescued Guinea Pig Celebration Month.” If you’ve done your research, bring your luck of the Irish to your local animal shelter and adopt a cute guinea pig. Remember, adopt don’t shop!

National Pig Day: Whether we grew up with piggy banks, eat bacon and ham, or have a pet pot-bellied pig for a pet, pigs are a part of our lives. On March 1, these snout-nosed creatures have their own day of honor.

National Pig Day started in 1972 by two sisters. Ellen Stanley was an art teacher in Texas and Mary Rave was from North Carolina. Rave said that the purpose of National Pig Day is to give “the pig it’s rightful, but generally unrecognized place as one of man’s most intellectual and domesticated animals.”

K9 Vets Day: The idea of a K9 Veterans Day originated with a retired military working dog trainer named Joseph Wright who wanted recognition for dogs who serve in military, law enforcement, and other capacities. Why the date of March 13? Because this is the official birthday of the US Army K9 Corps.

During World War I, the United States began to take notice of the how Europe employed dogs to carry messages, provide comfort to soldiers, etc. Well over a million dogs were being used for these purposes. Then on March 13, 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army began training its own dogs for a War Dog Program, which became known as “K-9 Corps.”

National Puppy Day: Just in time for National Puppy Day, I have a story to share with you from Big Dogs Huge Paws. Marshall is a five-month-old male black Great Dane whose family surrendered him to the Nebraska Humane Society after a car hit him. Naturally, his injuries were a priority, but the bigger concern was his lack of social skills. Marshall is representative of the thousands of orphaned puppies across the United States, which is the focus of National Puppy Day.

Cuddly Kitten Day: Just in time for Cuddly Kitten Day, I have a story to share with you about a cat rescue. Gravy is a long-haired tortoiseshell feral cat of unknown age with a missing paw, who found a home this past November thanks to the united efforts of caring pet owners. The concern was that with Gravy not having all her limbs, and cold weather having settled in, she wouldn’t survive winter.  Gravy is representative of the millions of homeless cats in communities across the United States which is the focus of Cuddly Kitten Day.

Respect Your Cat Day: Rounding out the pet holidays in March is Respect Your Cat Day. Its origins are unknown, although Legacy 9News from Colorado points out that March 28 is a historic day for our feline friends because allegedly, on that day in 1384, Richard II of England forbid the consumption of cats. While I couldn’t find anything to substantiate the claim, I did find records suggesting that cats used to be eaten in various European countries during hard times. Regardless of whether the date has any relevant historical significance, Respect Your Cat Day is a great way for cat owners to end the month.

To read more, check out Pet Calendar Dates. There you’ll find details not only about the above, but about pet-related dates that fall throughout the rest of the year.

 

All of my pets whom I have lost are missed and loved. I look forward to seeing them at Rainbow Bridge.

First, there were our Samoyed. According to the American Kennel Club, this is an ancient working breed developed by the Samoyede people of Siberia. They used the dogs for herding reindeer, hunting and hauling sledges as well as guard work. The breed was cherished by these people, because they depended on the dogs for their survival.puff_outside

Then, there were our Lhasa Apso. According to the American Kennel Club, this breed originated hundreds of years ago in the isolated reaches of the Himalayan Mountains. It functioned primarily as a household sentinel, guarding homes of Tibetan nobility and Buddhist monasteries, particularly in or near the sacred city of Lhasa. What appealed most to me about the Lhasa history is the breed is considered good luck while, at the time, being nearly impossible to buy.

cocoa

Finally, there was my Papillon. According to the American Kennel Club, this breed was known in the 16th and 17th centuries as Dwarf Spaniels and were often depicted on the laps of French and Spanish noblewomen. An erect-eared type, fringed as to resemble the wings of a butterfly (Papillon means “butterfly” in French), developed over time.

dogs_snow

To read more about the aforementioned dogs from my childhood, check out my post: Dogs of my Childhood. I also wrote a post exclusively about my Papillon, whose full name is Chuckles and Smiles. You can read about him at: My Butterfly Dog.

As an adult, I also owned three guinea pigs. You can read about them and how they changed my life by checking out this post: How Guinea Pigs Got Me Into Writing

fruitypudding

After guinea pigs came Lucy, who turned me into a cat-lover. You can read about her by checking out this post: The Cat Who Turned Me Into a Cat Lover

I wrote the above posts for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, a volunteer organization committed to improving the lives of animals and alleviating cruelty in the local community where I live. Some of their offerings include a low-cost spay/neuter program, temporary assistance pet food bank, and education about being responsible pet guardians. The latter is where I mostly help.

What pets have been part of your life? How have they impacted you? Post your own stories in the comments!

This post is part of the Small Victories line-up. Check out others by clicking on the below graphic.

SmallVictories


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Fall 2017

This fall I will be on hiatus except to post family news. Stay tuned!

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