Friday, September 26, 2014

Solving the Mystery of Cat Agility by Sheila Webster Boneham (w/Catwalk Review & Giveaway)


Over, Under, Around, and Through—Solving the Mystery of Cat Agility!

By Sheila Webster Boneham

When I announce that Leo, the lead cat in my Animals in Focus mystery series, goes to his first competitive agility trial in my new book Catwalk, people respond with everything from disbelief to uproarious laughter. A few even show interest in learning more!

Most people know about canine agility by now, since it’s become popular enough over the past twenty years to be televised regularly. Although the most spectactular runs tend to be by lightning-limbed Border Collies and other speedy mid-sized animals, dogs of all sizes, breeds, and mixtures compete successfully. Check out these videos:

* Yes, that’s a Chihuahua!


* All kinds of dogs, and people, too!


It looks fun, doesn't it? Well, it's not just limited to dogs--cats compete in agility, too!

In cat agility, the handler directs or—more often--lures the cat through tunnels, up and down ramps, over jumps, and through weave poles and other obstacles. Although it's a fairly new sport, it's growing in popularity in The U.S. and Europe. Here’s a dose of cuteness—a kitten beginning to learn about agility on a kitten-sized course.


My lead mystery dog, Jay, and his Labrador buddy Drake get to indulge in lots of sports in the series—obedience in Drop Dead on Recall, retriever training in The Money Bird. In the interest of interspecies fairness, Leo insisted that it’s his turn in Catwalk. So Janet MacPhail, animal photographer cum amateur sleuth, has entered him in their first feline trial just a week after a doggy trial with Jay. She’s running her socks (if not those extra twenty pounds) off! The trial takes place at a cat show, and the mystery in Catwalk involves the politics of feral cat colonies and trap-neuter-release programs, so it all fits together. Oh, and Leo’s furbrother Jay is a hero when some newborn kittens are lost. Good dog!

Too many people still believe that cats can’t be trained. Not true! Cats are smart, athletic, and fun-loving animals, so the trick for would-be trainers is to find something that the individual cat finds motivating. Clicker training (operant consitioning) is a very effective way to teach new behaviors in a positive, reward-based way. Here are some more happily trained cats:

 * Spectacular clicker-trained agility cats


* Getting started


* Beginners in competition


Like all good training, feline agility provides a wonderful way to strengthen the bond between cats and their owners. It also gives participating cats a fun way to keep their bodies and minds in shape.

To be successful in agility, your cat must

* have an outgoing, confident personality;

* be in excellent health and physical condition;

* love to play.

The sport is open to all kinds of cats, so it might be just the thing for you and your feline athlete. Even if you aren't ready to participate, why not visit a trial when the leaping, tunneling cats come to town and see what it’s all about. You can learn more at http://agility.cfa.org/index.shtml

Want to help name a new puppy and two kittens who are coming to the Animals in Focus series? Pre-order Catwalk by September 30, and then go to this site -- http://writersandotheranimals.blogspot.com/2014/09/help-name-mystery-kitten-and-puppy.html -- and follow the directions. Sheila's intern will select her favorite 5 names for each of the two kittens and the puppy, and Sheila will make the final choice. So put on your thinking cap!


Author Bio:
Sheila Webster Boneham writes the Animals in Focus mystery series. Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in the series, won the 2013 Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America and was an NBC Petside Best Ten Dog Book of 2012. Sheila is also the author of 17 nonfiction books, six of which have won major awards from the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association. For the past two decades Boneham has been showing her Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers in various canine sports. She has bred top-winning Aussies, and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. Boneham holds a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University, an MFA Stonecoast/University of Southern Maine, and resides in Wilmington, N.C. Sheila writes literary nonfiction and poetry as well, and teaches writing. You can keep up with Sheila’s latest news at  www.sheilaboneham.com and www.facebook.com/sheilawrites , learn more about animal-oriented writing—with some of your favorite authors!—at her Writers & Other Animals blog at www.writersandotheranimals.blogspot.com .

Catwalk
Blurb: When animal photographer Janet MacPhail gets a frantic call from champion dog owner Alberta Shofelter about a "cat-napping," she and her Australian Shepherd Jay jump in to assist. Fur flies when the search turns into a nasty run-in with local big shot Charles Rasmussen, a bully who enjoys throwing his weight around. As Rasmussen makes good on his promise to cause trouble, Janet tries to keep up with her mom's romantic travails, figure out her own relationship with Tom, and train her animals for the upcoming agility trials. But when a body is discovered at the Dog Dayz event, it stops the participants dead in their tracks—and sets Janet on the trail of a killer.

"Animal photographer Janet MacPhail's latest adventure will delight dog lovers, cat lovers, and mystery lovers. Janet is excellent company, and although Leo the cat plays a starring role, I'm happy to report that Leo does not eclipse Jay the Aussie, who has become one of my favorite fictional dogs. Indeed, if Jay ever needs to move out of the pages of Sheila Boneham's mysteries and into a nonfiction house, he'll be more than welcome in mine. Five stars for CATWALK!" ~ Susan Conant, Author of BRUTE STRENGTH and other novels in the Holly Winter series of Dog Lover's Mysteries http://www.sheilaboneham.blogspot.com/p/mysteries.html

Tortie Shorties
Book reviews that are short and sweet...just like Truffles!

Already one of my favorite cozy series on the shelves, this third book in Sheila Webster Boneham's Animal in Focus series is the BEST ONE YET. Janet finds herself knee-deep in trouble once again trying to solve the murder of a local big shot, a real scumbag who deserved his fate more than just about any other fictional character I've come across.

What Made Us Purr:

* Feline Agility: I've always been interested in reading about dog agility trials, and have always said that if there is ever a dog in my life it's something I would love to participate in. In this book Janet's cat Leo performs at the Tri-State Cat Show & Feline Agility Trial. I never even knew this was a sport and now that I've read about it I think it would be so much fun! I think Truffles may be a bit concerned...

* Feral cats: A wonderful new character introduced in this book, Alberta Shofelter, has recently adopted a little calico from the feral cat colony in her neighborhood. She is very active in caring for the ferals and the TNR (trap, neuter, release) program, and a lot of valuable information is provided on the topic.

* Scene of the crime: The worthy victim is found dead in the middle of a 20' agility tunnel.

* Family, romance, and new friends: A good part of this book revolves around Janet's relationship with her beau Tom, and also with her elderly mother, who has found herself madly in love with another resident of her assisted living facility. New four-legged family members for both Janet and Tom are also introduced.

* The killer: The final reveal of how the victim died is the BEST TWIST EVER! I never saw it coming, but it is oh so fitting.

Final Catcall: This isn't a dog mystery series, it's an animal mystery series, but the fact that this one is more cat-centric makes it even more special to me. It has earned a spot on my Favorite Books of 2014 list.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

39 comments:

  1. I've never heard of feline agility. This should be an interesting and educational read. A new author to become acquainted with. Servedogmom@yahoo.com

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    1. I hope you enjoy the book(s), and the videos!

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  2. I don't have a cat right now but I've seen cats do amazing things - including falling into a wringer-washing machine when she leaned over too far while batting at the soap suds. No harm done.

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    1. Whew! People often think cats will always land safely, but sometimes they don't. I'm glad yours came out of the washer just fine!

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  3. I have never heard of this; yes, i think i would try it.

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  4. Us cats are very agile! But we didn't know cats were competing in it. We bet this book is very interesting.

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    1. Island Cats, maybe you can read the book, or listen to the Audible version. >^..^<

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  5. My cats try their own versions of feline agility every day! :)


    patucker54 at aol dot com

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    1. Yes, as with all smart creatures, cats will find their own entertainment!

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  6. I don't think that they need it since they are extremely adept and agile. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Traveler, I'm not sure what you mean, but I'm guessing you mean the training for agility contests (or just for fun)? Cats are certainly natural athletes, as are dogs of most breeds. The point of training and possibly competing isn't to teach them to be "adept and agile," but to give them something fun to do. Most house cats live lives of boredom, which often leads to behavioral issues. It's obvious in the videos that the animals all enjoy the activity. Training an animal also helps strengthen the bond between animal and person because communication is essential, and they have to work out problems together. It's hard work at times, but fun for both.

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  7. I'm allergic to cats.. lol But we did have a big orange cat (who now lives at my mother in laws) name Challi. He was a butterball when I got him. I don't think he would go for it.

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    1. One of the benefits of training, though, is weight control. Cats are not naturally chubby, but when they have lots of food and no reason to exercise, they can certainly pack on the pounds.

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  8. To cool! I've seen some videos of this already and think its awesome, I just don't know if I could get my cats motivated enough to do this! It would be fun to learn more though!

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    1. You might take a look at some books or online sources on "clicker training" (operant conditioning). Most animals (including us!) don't work for nothing, but with proper motivation, anything is possible. The trick is to find the right motivator. Good luck!

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  9. My cat is agile in her own fashion, lo, she even gets over the refrigerator, which is high!!! :3 But the course seems to be pretty cool (although my baby kitten really loves to sleep more than anything...)

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    1. Love cats, they are very entertaining.

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    2. Babies need their sleep! Just wait - adolescents are usually quite busy, and that may be the time to try a few obstacles or tricks. >^..^<

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  10. Alice's Mum here: I would definitely try feline agility with my cat......but unfortunately I don't think my cat would try it with me! But that looks like a really interesting book and I'd love to read it.
    pacificcattoys@yahoo.com

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  11. You’d NEVER catch me doing that for any human.

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    1. Ah, but it isn't for the human. It's for the fun! >^..^<

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  12. My cats don't follow orders so I don't think they'd be good at it.

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    1. Good trainers don't give orders, though. They encourage team work, and offer rewards. Big difference! >^..^<

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  13. I was watching the kitten video when my new kitten, Mariusz, jumped onto my lap and began to watch. He was fascinated. He then started to climb toward the monitor and was swatting at the feather. Then he was swatting at the adult cats jumping. I think he's interested! lol

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    1. Katreader, that's great! Interest is the first requirement :-) I used to have an Australian Shepherd who loved to watch dog-sport videos. He especially loved watching himself, and I'm quite sure he understood that it was him on the screen. (He also often admired himself in mirrors - totally obnoxious in a human male, but fun in a doggy boy!)

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  14. I had NO idea you could really train a cat. I seriously doubt my cats would do any agility course.

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    1. Cats are very trainable if properly motivated. They just want to know what's in it for them. Check this out - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlKYtLlvRlU

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  15. What fun! I gotta admit that the dog agility videos held my attention better than the cat videos. But that's what I get for being a Beagle person. :-)

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    1. Never apologize for what you love, Suzanne!

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  16. My cat Malachi is more like a dog than a cat---so maybe he would be a good candidate for agility training. I'm not sure I'd have the talent to train him however.

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    1. Great name, Sue. And why not give it a try? I'm sure Malachi will forgive you if you make mistakes. >^..^<

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  17. not only am I allergic to cats, I am so not very animal-friendly......I just like them in pictures & stories...........

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  18. I've read the other two books in the series and enjoyed them so I'm looking forward to this one. I haven't seen cats do agility but there's a rabbit agility team here that performs at nursing homes, I think.

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    1. Glad to hear you enjoyed the first two books. I bet the residents enjoy the bunnies - maybe a bunny troop should visit Janet's mother in her nursing him. :-) Thanks for dropping by.

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  19. I've heard about this but I would not be able to keep up.

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    1. Sherry, agility is fairly strenuous, although the feline courses don't cover as much ground as the canine. Thanks for dropping by!

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  20. I made the mistake of leaving the washer door open one day and our cat Whiskers climbed in and had kittens inside the washer. We gave her a couple of days, which put a crimp in my laundry...NOT that I'm complaining! :O)

    Sheila, I'll have to see if there are cat agility trials near us. My daughter would be over the moon!

    Melissa, I ADORE the style of your review. Extra catnip for YOU! :O)

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