People don’t often think about exercising their cats, but trust us, cats need exercise, just like dogs and humans do. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention almost 60% of the cats in our country are overweight or obese. In recent years, as animal control laws have become stricter, more people keep their cats as indoor cats only. This has contributed to a sedentary lifestyle, and part of the reason for this increase in cat obesity. Another reason is the misguided American tendency to overfeed our pets.
Your cat may not need as much exercise as your dog, but it’s still a good idea to exercise them frequently. It helps their physical and mental wellbeing as well as their waistline.
How do you exercise a cat?
Cats don’t need much exercise, a 10 or 15-minute session daily is usually enough. Listed below are six easy ways to exercise your cat. Some of these suggestions are so enjoyable for most cats, they might do them readily - much like dogs chasing sticks. Others may need more persuasion on your part in order to get them to give it a try, (a little food incentive can certainly help).
- Walk your cat: Yes, you can walk your cat on a leash just like you do with your dog. It may take some training and coaxing, but more and more often we see cats strutting their stuff at the end of a leash. It gets them out into the fresh air and sunshine without fear of their running away or getting hit by a car.
- Mental Agility games: Cats love to chase things, be it mice, laser dots, or feather wand toys. We’ve even seen You Tube videos of cats playing games on an iPad or on the big screen TV. These types of games exercise their hunting instincts and help keep their minds sharp.
- Cat trees: Cats love to climb and it’s a great exercise for them. You can buy all sorts of cat trees online from simple single-story that allow them to look out the window, to elaborate structures and multiple stories and ledges.
- Exercise wheels: We’ve seen some folks that get a large exercise wheel for their cat (think gerbil spinning wheel) or have trained their cat to walk or run on a treadmill. These more advanced exercises are easier to teach when your cat is young.
- Catnip is a plant in the mint family and can act as an ‘upper’ to your couch potato cat. It excites them, and they want to roll in it, play with it, just in general go nuts. The effects are short-lived and wear off in 10-15 minutes, but it’s a good burst of energy and exercise for your cat.
- Be creative: Boxes, ribbons, plastic straws, plastic water bottles – all these items can be turned into a fun activity for your cat. You’ve probably seen lots of pictures of cats sitting in boxes on the internet – it’s one of their favorite activities.
As with any new exercise regime, be sure and check with your vet before embarking on a new program. You want to be sure your cat is healthy enough to begin these activities.
Check out our sources listed below for some additional ideas.