Although every pet lover knows that pet obesity can (and usually does) lead to many health complications down the road, many cat owners still find themselves with the stereotypical “fat cat” on their hands. Sometimes even after making conscious efforts to control your cat’s weight, diet, or exercise, it can seem like a losing battle to get them to shed the extra pounds. Obviously having the proper amount of exercise helps prevent obesity, and also keeps pets stimulated to ward off destructive behavior, strengthens bones, and improves circulation. For dogs, it’s easy; from daily walks, to games of fetch, to agility classes, there are a lot of obvious options for making sure a dog gets enough activity. But, how do you get a cat to exercise? Below are five ways to ensure your cat is getting a healthy amount of activity:
1. Set up play dates: If you have friends or family members with feline companions, set up a date! You can catch up with your BFF while the kitties have fun running and playing together. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, and you may even get a super cute video and/or picture out of it. Making memories and burning calories and the same time!
2. Invest in a cat tree or similar cat exercise toy: A cat tree is a great way to encourage climbing for indoor cats, and if you find that they are too expensive – you can build your own! You can also purchase something smaller like a cat wheel that has a rotating mouse toy on it, cat tunnels, or scratching post with hanging things on it. A good rule of thumb is that anything with a spring or string that has a toy attached is guaranteed to provide endless hours of bouncy entertainment for your feline.
3. Purchase a cat treat puzzle: These types of toys are specially designed to stimulate your cat mentally and physically. Put low-calorie cat treats inside to make sure you’re not ruining all that activity with too many calories! If you’re too cheap to buy one, you can even try your hand at making your own DIY cat puzzle. It will be hours of fun for you as well as your cat.
4. Use interactive toys: Choosing cat toys that allow you to participate with your kitty (i.e. sticks with feathers, balls, laser pointers) is a good way to encourage exercise. Plus, you get to spend some quality time together, so put down your smartphone for a little bit and have some fun IRL.
5. Leave out paper bags or boxes: If you’re looking for a free way to encourage some activity, just leave out a few cardboard boxes and paper bags around your home. Most cats love playing with these items – sometimes even more than their actual toys that you’ve spent your hard-earned money on.
6. Build a Cat Castle: All you need is some boxes, paper tubes, and other random stuff that you’d normally dispose of – and you can build a magnificent, beautiful, Cat Castle for your kitty to enjoy! There are many places online to consult about this activity, but it is pretty self-explanitory. Attach a bunch of boxes together for some levels, tunnels, and spacious playing, and then embellish with other cat-safe attachments for some extra fun!
7. Train your cat to walk on leash: It may seem like a difficult task – especially if your cat is especially resistant to any kind of training or authority of any kind – but it will only help both of you in the long run. You will be able to enjoy the “dog owner privilege” of going for walks outside, and your cat will get much more exercise than it usually would just being inside of your house. There are many resources online to help you train your cat to be leash-friendly, and there are numerous harnesses and leads available in stores made specially for cats!
If your cat has any health issues, it’s a good idea to speak with a vet before beginning a new exercise program. Ensure that there are no health problems already present that would be exacerbated by exercise or pose a threat to your cat’s safety. It is also a good idea to speak with them about other options to decrease your cat’s body fat, such as a special diet or treatment available.