If you have a dog that loves to run, Fast CAT might be the sport for you. Even though it has "CAT" in the name, Fast CAT is a dog sport (pardon the pun) and one of the fastest-growing sports where dogs of all sizes compete to see who can run the fastest in a 100-yard sprint.
What is Fast CAT?
The "CAT" in Fast CAT stands for Coursing Ability Test. Fast CAT competitions are organized by the American Kennel Club. The competitions are fun to watch and even more fun for the dogs who are running in them. Not a lot of training is needed beforehand because the sport relies entirely on a dog's instinctual interest in running and chasing. Similarly, Fast CAT is a great activity for dog owners who are interested in starting to get involved in dog sports.
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How Fast CAT is played
Fast CAT is a sport that is very easy for dogs and their owners to get involved in unlike agility which requires a lot of time to train as well as equipment. Fast CAT channels a dog's natural desire to chase and run, so all you need is a healthy dog who likes doing both of these. The Fast CAT course is (usually) fenced-off for safety. Once they are let off their leash by an accompanying person, the dog will run as fast as they can to the end of the course where they are met by their owners.
Chasing the lure
During Fast CAT, the dogs run to their owner who is at the end of the 100-yard course. They are also chasing a white plastic bag that has been attached to a mechanical lure. The lure has a movable line above the ground that makes the bag move quickly down the field. It might sound silly, but the quickly moving white plastic looks like an animal to most dogs. This inspires their prey drive, which encourages them to run faster. For many dogs, this highly self-rewarding game easily becomes their favorite sport.
Which dogs can participate
Fast CAT is welcoming to purebred dogs and mixed breed dogs alike, they just need to be registered with the club. Mixed breed dogs competing in performance sports like obedience, rally, agility, tricks, and Fast CAT, can be registered with the Club (so long as they are also spayed or neutered) via the Canine Partners™ program. To compete in Fast CAT dogs must be at least 12 months of age.
Competing in Fast CAT
Some dog breeds were first bred to run, and they are therefore going to be faster than others. But, all dogs regardless of speed or size can and do play in the Fast CAT competition. The registry lists here, the fastest dogs of each breed for the year! When competing in Fast CAT, dogs are scored based on a combination of their size and how fast they run. The speed dogs run is calculated into miles per hour based on their speed. That miles per hour speed is then multiplied by a predetermined "handicap" based on the dog's height. For dogs who are over 18 inches at the withers (shoulders), the handicap is one, for dogs up to 12 inches at the withers. Less than 18 inches for their handicap is 1.5 and for dogs lower than 12 inches at the withers the handicap is two. Fast CAT titles are earned by dogs earning a certain number of points, for example, the first one called "BCAT," is earned when a dog earns a combined 150 titles.
Since dogs are being inspired to run at full speed during Fast CAT, this is considered a high-impact sport or activity for them. Before getting involved, it's a good idea to talk with your veterinarian to ensure that running Fast CAT is a safe option for your dog. To start competing in Fast CAT, dogs need to be a minimum of 12 months of age. Running can be strenuous and it's important to ensure that dogs are fully grown. Make sure your dog's growth plates are closed before encouraging your dog to run. For large and especially giant breed dogs, you may need to wait even longer than 12 months of age to get involved in the competition. This is because they grow at a slower rate and take longer to physically mature.
Chasing and running come very naturally to most dogs, and Fast CAT is a fun way to channel a dog's prey drive and provide your dog with outlets for running. If you're interested in getting involved, it is helpful to make sure that your dog is comfortable being around groups of people and other dogs. It's also helpful to make sure that your dog is confident with recalls and coming when their name is called. This will be useful for them in the competition. The events usually take place at dog shows and are also fenced in for safety. If your dog is healthy and enjoys running, Fast CAT can be a great sport for them to participate in.
Many local dog training clubs and organizations have opportunities for dogs and their owners to try out Fast CAT, to see if their dogs are interested in the sport. If you're looking to get involved, contact local dog training groups and clubs in your area. These groups will provide information about how to get involved with your dog. You can also search for local events on the American Kennel Club website.