Cats and exercise

Do I really need to exercise my cat?

Just as humans need to exercise to stay well and healthy, so our cats need to exercise every day. This will ensure that kitty’s weight is kept down and all that pent-up energy is worked off. Cats can also get bored which can lead to illnesses related to stress and it can also lead to behavioural problems. Playing with your cat can also increase bonding, which is good for both of you.

Why is exercise so vital for my furry friend?

There are many reasons:

  • Cats have lots of energy which needs to be burnt off. You don’t want to end up with a clawed lounge suite.
  • Exercise helps with digestion.
  • It helps your cat to remain flexible.
  • If your cat has arthritis, exercise can ease stiffness.
  • Obesity in animals seems to be becoming an epidemic. Exercise burns off calories and can help to keep your moggie’s weight down. An overweight cat can develop diabetes mellitus and joint problems.
  • Being overweight can also restrict movement which may make it harder for your cat to groom effectively, possibly leading to skin problems.

Can you suggest how much exercise is needed per day?

In the wild, cats hunt for prey in short bursts, so his/her natural inclination is to play for around 10-15 minutes at a time. If possible, you should have several play sessions a day. Your cat will let you know if he/she isn’t interested in a particular game by walking away. Give your moggie a small treat after each session so that they feel they have earned their food.

Can you give me some suggestions of games my cat may enjoy?

Certainly! There are many games that you can try with your moggie. Every cat is different and individual cats enjoy certain games while others do not. Introduce some toys and watch your cat’s reaction. You could, for example, try a mouse-like toy or one that looks like a bird. This will give you ideas for toys to buy.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Scratching/climbing post

There are many types of these posts or towers. Some are covered in carpet, rope or fake grass. Remember that cats like scratching so appropriate surfaces will allow him/her to practise this instinct.  Cats love climbing and like high towers with lots of perches and places to hide. Climbing is a way of using up energy. You could put your tower near a window so that he/she has a good view.

  • Laser pointers

Most cats love to chase the point of light from these pointers, which keep them entertained and are also a good way of burning up his/her energy. Be careful not to shine the light in your cat’s eyes – always point it at the floor or a wall.

  • Puzzle feeders

Food can be concealed in various places or in these puzzle feeders which provide opportunities to exercise, feed your cat and require him/her to use his brain, keeping your moggie mentally active. Your furry friend also gets a reward when he finds the treat.

  • Toys

Cats love certain toys, especially those which resemble prey, like fake fish, mice, lizards and birds on sticks with feathers. They also like solid balls and also those with bells in them. They also love it when you blow bubbles for them to catch.

You could also provide them with toys to ‘kill’, such as rubber mice or birds. This satisfies their instinct to kill their prey, when they can get their teeth into a toy. These can easily be replaced when the old ones become worn out.

  • Wearing a tail

If you tuck a long string or strip of cloth into your waist-band as you walk around the house, your kitty will have great fun chasing it. Be careful not to leave this lying around if you’re not there to supervise though, as your cat may swallow it or choke on it which can be very dangerous.

  • Going for a walk

If you start this when your cat is still a kitten, they can learn to walk on a lead, like dogs. This works better with sociable cats. Use a harness rather than a collar and lead. Check that there are no dogs roaming around before you go out.

  • Pinatas

You can make these from empty yoghurt or cream containers. Just cut a small hole in the base and put a few treats inside, then hang it up with a piece of string so that your kitty can reach it. Cats like batting things which hang  overhead – when they hit this the treats will fall out and he/she will be rewarded.

How can I plan these play sessions?

These play sessions should be incorporated into your daily schedule – that way, you and kitty can have some bonding fun each day. You could, for example, have a play session before a meal so that they are effectively ‘catching’ their food. Remember that cats are most active in the early morning and in the evening, so these are athe best times for play.

Remember that your kitty not only needs these sessions for his health, they are also important for bonding with you.

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