Twyla Takes the Leap

by Lisa-Maria Padilla

Editors Note: Beside being the fastest and highest scoring cat on the agility circuit during the 2006-2007 show season, Twyla also competed in the Championship Class. She finished the show season as the 28th Best Cat in CFA, 5th Best Cat in the Southern Region, and Third Best of Breed Abyssinian. Well done, Twyla!

I’d love to be able to say that I actually trained my blue Abyssinian Zehnder’s Twyla Mooner of Hitails to compete in agility competition. Sure, I’d take enormous pride in proclaiming that through focused training sessions and my own reservoir of patience, I taught my cat to deftly maneuver through an obstacle course designed to test her speed and my skill as her handler. But that would be a terrific lie.

Twyla is a natural.

A cat born with a nearly insatiable need for speed and activity—as well as a most agreeable personality–a five-month old Twyla entered an agility course ring for the first time at the National Capital Show in Virginia in 2005, and she intuitively followed a fast moving toy through the circular course. I was just the lackey that ran alongside dragging the wand toy over and through the obstacles while my kitten left me sweating and panting. She enjoyed the experience so much that she just kept running around the course after she had already set a new competition record of seven seconds!

Clearly, Twyla was made to go fast.

While Twyla’s enjoyment of speed running certainly helped her to conquer the timer, the fact that she is an Abyssinian—an especially active breed with an attention span of perhaps two seconds—means that the challenge for me as owner and handler, is to keep her focused on actually going through the obstacles in the correct order.

Likewise, since my Aby is all about speed, admittedly there is not a lot of style and finesse in the manner in which she tackles the course.

Twyla, like most Abys, gets bored rather easily, so that also means that there are never any practice runs. Every run is a timed run, and my little cat is good for about two runs in a row, after which she usually decides that it’s time to PLAY.

Most of those who have watched Twyla careen around the course in record time have also had the opportunity to see her joyfully bolt through the fabric tunnels repeatedly, teasing me to try and catch her, and zooming around until she flops down in exhaustion. No one is more worn out than me!

In truth, what began as a diversion for both my cat and me in between her more “serious” career as a competitive show cat became, during our show season of 2006-2007, an anticipated highlight of shows that included an agility competition in their lineup.

Twyla and I traveled all over the country, and at every opportunity she would liven up the cat show experience for spectators by zipping through the agility course, doing her rollover tricks for a treat, and strolling through the showhall visiting with the crowd.

While she showed off her breed’s beauty in the formal judging ring, the agility course allowed her to show off the beauty that all cats achieve with such ease of motion