The average house cat can run 30 mph, jump about six times its height and is well known for its grace and reflexes.
Yes, cats are agile, but getting them to display those talents on command? That was the challenge 4-H participants faced Sunday afternoon during a cat agility exhibition at the Clark County Fair.
Forget herding cats. Try coaxing a finicky feline through a hoop or a tube, or kindly asking it to weave through a row of posts. The cat might respond with that familiar glance of indifference.
Luckily for the participants on Sunday, cats are also natural hunters, and some can’t resist a good toy.
“Instead of training them,” 10-year-old Heather Christenson of Ridgefield said, “you have to use a cat toy to make them go through the course.”
If You Go
• What: Clark County Fair.
• Hours Monday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• Where: 17402 N.E. Delfel Road.
• Admission: Adults, $11.25; seniors 62 and older, $9.25; kids 7-12, $8.25 ($6.25 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday); kids 6 and younger, free; parking, $6; C-Tran shuttle, free from six main transfer stations; $1 discount on full gate admission with coupon from shuttle operator. Schedules at www.c-tran.com
• Carnival: Opens at noon.
• ERS Free Grandstand: Chris Janson, 7 p.m.
• Pets: Not permitted, except for service animals or those on exhibition or in competition.
• More information:www.clarkcofair.com or call 360-397-6180.
The girl lured 2-year-old Mango, a Safari breed, around, over and through the obstacles. The kitty paused from time to time, distracted, but Heather bounced a cat wand in front of Mango to regain his attention. He managed to complete each part of the course.
Cat agility isn’t an official competition yet at the Clark County Fair, but there’s hope to make it one, said Shaun Christenson, Heather’s mom and superintendent of the fair’s 4-H cat project. Agility contests take place at the professional Cat Fanciers’ Association show, she said, and the fair’s course is modeled after it.
The fair’s event is also a way to get the cats out of their cages for a while and engaged with their owners. Participating doesn’t take much preparation, either.
“If you practice, they get bored,” Shaun Christenson said. “You just have to get them to play.”
Taylor Carey, 12, of Battle Ground had a couple of pointers: Try the promise of a kitty treat, “be calm and let the cat do what he wants to do.”
Daniella Magnusson, 12, of Vancouver brought her 8-year-old mixed-breed, Mittens, through the course, and although Mittens eventually decided to take a cat nap in the obstacle course’s tunnel, it was progress.
“Last year, she just hid in the tunnel,” Daniella said. This year, she explored other parts of the course first.
“She did pretty good,” the girl said. “I gave her a treat afterward.”
Her sister Jeannette tried to lead 9-year-old Sloan around the course, but concluded: “My cat is more of a lap kitty.”
Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523; email@example.com; twitter.com/StevieMathieu