Cats need plenty of daily exercise to stay fit and healthy. Does your cat get enough?
According to Canada’s Pet Wellness Report, veterinarians believe that 70 percent of their feline patients do not get enough exercise to maintain good health.
In the wild, cats stay fit and trim by climbing, running, and hunting prey – but when cats live indoors, their need for daily exercise must be met in different ways. Hunting is no longer necessary to survive, and opportunities to hunt prey are few and far between. Likewise, the activities of indoor cats are limited by the confined space inside the home, with very few areas to climb and run.
Why exercise is so important
Cats are born athletes. Their sleek, agile bodies are built for movement. In the wild, there are no overweight cats. Living the lifestyle they were designed to live keeps their minds sharp and their bodies strong with well-developed muscles.
Indoor cats on the other hand, sleep most of their day away. Unlike their wild counterparts, they have very little opportunity for natural aerobic exercise. That’s why it’s up to us to help our indoor cats get the exercise they need to stay physically and mentally healthy.
How do you keep an indoor cat active?
While it’s easy to get a dog to be active, cat exercise can be a real challenge. Anyone who’s ever had a cat knows that cats will do only what they want to do, when they want to do it.
Your job is to provide every possible opportunity for movement, activity, and fun… and hope that your cat will play along. Get creative and keep things interesting by following these tips.
Spend more playtime with your cat
Play with your cat for at least 10 minutes several times a day. Your participation will encourage your cat to play along. It will be a lot of fun for you both!
Provide vertical access for jumping and climbing
A cat tree is a great investment. It encourages cats to jump and climb. To make it even more irresistible, position it near a window where your cat can watch birds, squirrels, and nature.
Simple pleasures are often the best
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on toys to make your cat happy. Often it’s the simple things that bring the most pleasure. Here are a few suggestions:
- There’s nothing more inviting to a cat than an empty box or paper bag.
- Put a ball or a small catnip toy in the bathtub where your cat can bat it around without it disappearing under furniture or appliances.
- Pull a piece of string or ribbon across the floor for your cat to chase. (Always put the string or ribbon away after play so your cat won’t swallow it. This can cause serious medical issues.)
Make play seem natural
Make the movements of the toy mirror the natural movements of prey animals. For instance, if you’re playing with a feather wand, make it move like a bird in flight.
Find toys that encourage your cat to “hunt”
Find toys that appeal to your cat’s natural instincts to stalk, hunt, and capture prey. These toys will help keep your cat’s instincts sharp and satisfy the need to hunt.
Make mealtime an exercise
Don’t just fill the bowl with kibble. Make your cat work for it! Treat toys are a great way for cats to actively enjoy retrieving treats and dry food.
Invest in a tall, sturdy scratching post
Scratching is a natural activity for cats. Even cats that have been declawed will continue to go through the motions of scratching. This is a great exercise that stretches and strengthens leg muscles. Get a tall scratching post that encourages your cat to really stretch and move.
Rotate toys to keep them interesting
Over time, most cats lose interest in their toys. Give your cat plenty of fun toys, but don’t leave them all out at once. Change up the fun to keep it interesting. Put a toy away for a few weeks, then bring it out and it will be “new” again.
Get a laser pointer
Many cats will happily chase a laser beam to the point of sheer exhaustion. This is one of the best ways to get your cat moving. You can buy an inexpensive laser pointer that you can move across the room, or invest in one that’s designed to work automatically. Not only can the automated laser toy keep your cat occupied when you’re too busy to play, you can even program a play session for your cat to enjoy when you’re away.
Tempt your cat with catnip
If your cat loses interest in a scratching post or toy, rub some catnip on it. To “reactivate” old catnip toys that have lost their punch, put the toy inside a bag of fresh catnip for a week or so.
Regular exercise will help keep your cat’s muscles, organs, and body strong while helping your cat maintain a healthy weight. It’s also a great cure for boredom. Best of all, those play sessions will bring lots of joy to both of you!