Tips for Exercising Your Cat
From going on a walk with a leash to a good game of fetch, dog owners know there are many ways to stay active with their pet. These same activities and many others can be enjoyed with cats too. Just like their canine counterparts, cats need exercise to stay stimulated and entertained and to avoid health problems such as obesity and arthritis. And it’s a great way to spend time with your cat. There are several things cat owners can do to make exercising fun and enjoyable for their feline companion(s). Continue reading to learn more!
Exercising a Cat: When and How Long?
Cats are the most active early in the day, at sunrise, and at sunset or after. If possible, the best time to plan on exercise for your cat is first thing in the morning or in the evening, when they will be more energized and interested in participating. Mealtimes can also be a good time to schedule activities so food rewards can be incorporated into their exercise routine. This food should be a part of their daily caloric intake to avoid weight gain.
In general, 20 to 30 minutes a day is a good goal, separated into several shorter sessions. Cats can get bored easily and don’t need extended periods of increased activity. They will usually let owners know if they are not interested in participating by walking away or demonstrating a complete lack of interest. Reading a cat’s body language and attitude is important to avoid exercise becoming a negative stimulus. An interested cat will be alert when a toy is presented, be curious about an activity, and be eager to engage.
Types of Exercise for Cats
Cats normally will not exercise without some type of motivation. Below are some suggestions.
1. Leash training
This is a great way to get your cat outside in a controlled environment. It is important to use an appropriately sized harness they cannot escape from rather than a collar that can easily slip off.
Starting indoors and increasing the time on the leash is a good place to start in order to avoid unfamiliar stressors (i.e. loud noises, other pets, people, cars, etc.) when they are learning to walk on the leash. Proper identification including a microchip and a tag on the collar, appropriate vaccinations, and flea and tick preventative should be used before taking your cat outside for a walk. Outside enclosures for your cat can be beneficial as well.
2. Toys that encourage natural behaviors
Cats are predators by nature. Games, toys, and activities that encourage them to use their hunting instincts will usually attract their interest and hold it for a period.
These can include items that can be manipulated in short, sharp, unpredictable movements that mimic prey behavior such as laser pointers (with a toy they can ultimately “catch” at the end of the session), feathers, wand or fishing pole type toys, motorized or electronic toys, small balls, and even simple homemade items such as paper formed into a ball that can be tossed or rolled. Even a cardboard box with or without paper in it can stimulate your cat to use hunt and play-type behaviors.
3. Puzzle toys
These types of toys can be used with dry food to encourage cats to eat out of something other than a bowl. They can be laid flat on the floor or be hung by a rope or string. Cats have a strong sense of smell, so toys that hold treats or catnip inside are also good options.
4. Furniture for cats
Cats are also natural climbers. Cat furniture that has vertical height such as cat trees, elevated platforms such as window shelves, and scratching posts encourage natural behaviors and give them something to visualize as well.
5. Cat exercise wheels are also available in pet stores and online
These activities give you and your cat a chance to spend more time together, keep your cat healthy, and can provide a more active and enriched lifestyle for your feline friend.
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