What do you and your cat have in common? Well, perhaps there might be a number of things but one of them is the need for exercise in order to keep a healthy body and a healthy mind. Without exercise, your cat might gain weight, suffer from boredom, and even get depressed. Yes, cats can get depressed. It’s a thing. If your cat’s physical and mental state are not in tip top shape, then you might start to see some behavioral problems.
So, whilst your cat might not necessarily bench press or run on a treadmill— although that would definitely be a sight for sore eyes— there are lots of exercises you can encourage that can help keep them healthy.
Getting your cat to become more active might not be super challenging because cats naturally love to play. They have built in instincts that predispose them to playfulness in short bursts at a time. Ten to fifteen minutes of activity at a time is the recommended amount. However, your cat’s age, weight, and health issues may determine how long your cat’s playtime needs to be. If your cat is sedentary and on the chunkier side then you might want to start with shorter bursts of playtime, as short as two to three minutes at a time in order to avoid injury by putting too much pressure on their joints.
Here are some creative ways that you can encourage your cat to exercise.
1. Pouncing games
Cats are natural hunters, so games that bring out their natural predatory instincts such as stalking, pouncing and chasing are near to irresistible. They just can’t help but do what comes naturally to them.
Letting your cat chase and pounce on a laser from a pointer is a fun way to have your cat work off some pent-up energy and exercising your cat’s pouncing instincts. You have to be careful when playing with a laser pointer and your cat. Be sure to never point the laser directly in your cat’s face or eyes because it can actually be painful for your cat. Remember, the point is to play with and not to maim your cat. Also, to keep your cat from being frustrated you need to finish the game off by pointing the beam on a toy that your cat can actually catch. This will leave your cut with the sweet satisfaction of knowing that they came, they saw and they conquered their prey. And just like that, you will have given your cat a fun recreational workout. Think of it as a feline laser tag.
2. Climbing games
In addition to their hunting instincts, cats are natural climbers as well. A great way to feed their natural climbing instincts is to give your cat something to climb. A cat tree is a good way to give your cat some climbing exercise. Letting your cat climb helps your kitty with improving their balance as well as their agility. Where can you get a cat tree or cat tower, you may ask? You can visit a pet store to get your cat a climbing structure. If you’re not too keen on a cat tree, then you can carry out a DIY project and install some floating shelves on your wall for your cat to climb. If you want to make the climbing exercises that much more fun for your cat, you can add little treats on the cat tower or the floating shelves so that your cat has a little snack during their workouts.
3. Give your cat lots of toy options
Giving your cat a variety of options of toys can keep your cat from getting bored. This creates an environment that will constantly stimulate your cat to be active. Think of it as a gym circuit. Imagine going to a gym that only has treadmills and nothing else. Not only would your workouts get boring and predictable, but they would only offer you one type of exercise. Your body would not benefit from only one type of exercise. You also need leg workout stations, arm workouts, glute workouts, to keep it interesting and holistic. It’s not different for your cat. Your cat needs a variety of toys that will allow them to play and exercise differently without getting bored.
Having multiple toys provides for high energy playtime, allowing your cat to chase, pounce, and work off some energy. The good news here is that your cat’s toys don’t have to be super expensive and can be everyday household items. If you have a feather duster for instance, you can shake it around and watch how thrilled your cat will be to chase and pounce on what it thinks is prey. You can get really creative with cool household toys for your cat or you can also check out a pet store for some cool toys. Your cat will appreciate it.
A playful cat is a happy and healthy cat. As long as your cat is engaged in activities that appeal to their instincts, you will not have any trouble getting your cat to engage in a healthy amount of exercise. If you would like more guidance and tips on getting your cat active, you can contact your vet or behaviourist to work out a purrfect exercise routine for your kitty.