Since most cats live indoors, they lack the natural ability to burn off excess fat by chasing bugs, mice, and other prey that outdoor cats encounter on a daily basis. For that reason, pet parents must find ways for our furry friends to exercise their natural instinct indoors and burn excess fat at the same time. As an added benefit, play also strengthens the bond between you and your kitty.
You can step up your cat’s physical activity with toys, tactics and, tried-and-true methods. Shoot for about 20 minutes of physical activity a day, which can be broken up into increments. Here are five tips to get your cat off its bum for a good healthy workout:
Offer unlikely play things – Ever notice how a toddler becomes more interested in exploring an empty box than with the toy that came inside the container? Your cat friend is not unlike a toddler. Cut out a hole or two in a box and watch your feline explore. They love to hide, climb into, and roll around in empty confined spaces. Stuff in a hidden treat, a fuzzy cat toy, or wads of tissue paper and you have fashioned the ideal play place for your kitty.
Use a large box with the top open to create a “hockey rink.” Ping pong balls are lightweight and easy for your cat to bat around. Put the two together in the “hockey rink,” and enjoy a rink-side view of the action while your cat gets a great workout.
If you can find a rabbit’s foot keychain, you’ve struck gold. Not only are cats drawn to the furry foot, but they also love the shiny metal and clanging sound it makes when it skitters across the floor once it’s slung.
Lasers are another unlikely play thing that stimulates cats. For them, the small beam of light mimics a bug creeping across the floor or up the wall. Your little guy will spend several minutes chasing around that beam of light, just be sure to not point the light directly into your cat’s eyes.
Use tools that motivate – The vet experts at WebMD.com recommend using resources that encourage your cat to climb, stretch, and run, all behaviors that keep felines fit in the wild. Look for cat trees or cat condos that feature scratching posts and hanging ropes that encourage climbing and stretching. You can also place small treats in the higher landings to motivate your cat to scale in the search for his reward.
Similar to the wheels made for hamsters, cat wheels or treadmills are designed to help your cat lose some weight. Cat wheels are portable, take up little space and encourage running. Supervise kitty while she's using the wheel.
Buy toys that mimic “prey play” – Rolan Tripp, an affiliate professor of applied animal behavior at Colorado State University and founder of animalbehavior.net, told WebMD the way to get cats to move is “to let them use their hunting talents.” Invest in toys that stimulate a cat’s predatory behavior, Tripp said. Wands with feathers or a toy mouse on the other end are fun for cats and allow you to mimic the movements of a bird or mouse. Remember a cat’s attention span. After about five minutes, he will lose interest and be ready for a new game.
Introduce play partners – If your cat is alone, you might consider play dates with other cat parents to encourage interaction. If you are weighing whether or not to adopt another cat to get your established cat to exercise more, a highly energetic kitten is a better option than an adult cat and easier to introduce into the family. Ideally, starting with two cats is always the best scenario.
Create an agility course – Capitalize on your cat’s friskiness and curiosity. Build an agility course with obstacles like tunnels, boxes with holes, cat towers, hoops to jump through, and other hurdles. Bear in mind, it will take several attempts and some poking around before your cat figures it out. But it will certainly provide you with entertainment while you watch her master the course.
Getting your cat to exercise might be a bit of a challenge, but with some creativity and patience on your part, you will discover play time with your kitty to be both rewarding and healthier for you and your finicky feline.
Early detection and good care after diagnosis are a cat parent’s best defense for ensuring their cat’s longevity and quality of life.