6 Cat Exercises to Keep Kitty Fit and Strong for Life
It’s time to get physical! Love it or hate it, exercise is just as important for your cat as it is for you. I have a desk treadmill so I can get in some steps while checking and answering email. The Pet Health Network points out that pet obesity can lead to future health issues like diabetes and arthritis, and that cats can really benefit from three 5-minute intense play periods every day. It’s good for your cat’s mental health, too. On PETMD, Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM advises that exercise can reduce anxiety and destructive behavior.
As a certified animal behavior consultant for cats (and dogs), I know that an active pet also has fewer objectionable behaviors. Some cats gobble their food, and pack on the pounds. Crash diets, though, pose risks for cats. If your cat already has a weight problem, check with the veterinarian for healthy tips on how to slim down a tubby tabby.
If you decide to jump into extra daily exercise for your feline family member, start slowly and check with your veterinarian for an all-clear, especially if your cat is overweight, on medication, or is in their senior years.
When encouraging exercise with your cats, let them decide if and how long they play. Cats don’t pant the way dogs do, and cat panting points to danger. If your kitty is overweight or is normally quite sedate, start out with exercises that won’t strain their muscles, and avoid dramatic actions like leaping high after a feather toy.
6 easy cat exercises
- Teaser toys on a stick or string. I love teaser toys because they inspire cats to chase, catch, and attack the lure in a species-appropriate way. That mimics how cats hunt and provides a natural way to exercise. I put toys with feathers or strings up out of my cat’s reach after playtime, so they don’t chew and swallow these dangerous parts.
- Laser pointers. These are a favorite in many cat homes, but not all cats like them. Laser pointers are great entertainment, but they can become frustrating for your cat because they can never catch that elusive dot! When ready to stop the game, focus the laser pointer on a soft toy they can bite and “kill” to give your cat the satisfaction of catching prey. Also, avoid pointing the light in the cat’s eyes, as that can hurt.
- Go for a walk. Leash training isn’t something all cats like, but some really love it. If you decide to leash train, make sure you use a properly fitted harness. Read online reviews carefully and measure your cat appropriately before making a purchase. Here are detailed tips on how to leash train your cat.
- Clicker training. Cats learn basic commands and even tricks quickly, and just as easily as dogs—sometimes faster! Many folks know about clicker training for dogs, but it works just as well for cats. I love clicker training because it lets animals learn at their own pace, and try to please you to get that CLICK (reward!). Here’s how to teach clicker training.
- Cat trees or towers. My Karma-Kat loves his cat trees and towers. He has three. They’re positioned at the front and back windows of the house, and on the second-floor staircase landing. Cats love second-story territory (do your cats countertop cruise?), so providing legal outlets gives them places to climb, claw, leap, and exercise. Hide a favorite catnip toy or treat on the different levels to encourage exploration. Or make the top tier the cat’s high-rise dinner spot, so they MUST move to get the food. If you don’t have cat trees, clear off a bookshelf to add perches to the home for a similar effect.
- Puzzle toys. These can keep your cat moving for a long time, chasing a ball that spills a little of their dinner kibble around the room. But don’t add even more pudge to your cat’s middle by filling these to the brim with high-calorie treats. Instead, use puzzle toys like the Doc & Phoebe No Bowl products to feed cats in a species-appropriate way with several mouse-size meals throughout the day. They have to hunt them out to find the yummies, encouraging natural exercise and hunting behaviors.
When you’re looking for ways to improve your cat’s health, always double-check advice you find online – even mine! – with your own veterinarian. Got a great cat exercise or cat fitness tip? Drop it in the comments below.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!