• Adele Danskin

How to Exercise and Play with a Cat

Do you worry that your indoor cat is not getting enough exercise? While it is true that cats have the evolutionary advantage of a high metabolism that works even as they lounge around (see lions in the wild), they do still need some physical activity to keep them from a sedentary life of sloth and eventual obesity.

Unlike dogs, cats cannot be hitched to the end of a leash and taken for a stroll around the neighborhood -- well, some can, but they need to be trained from kitten-hood. It may take a little imagination, along with some trial and error, but you can find ways to encourage your cat to be more active. Playing with your cat can be a great form of encouragement. All it takes is a few creative ideas to keep your cat entertained and active!

Why Should Your Cat Exercise?

Activity is good for our pets. Activities help maintain a healthy body weight and keep the muscles toned and strong, and keep the mind alert and active as well. Exercise is also fun and can offer us opportunities to bond with our pets. There are many ways to get your cat more involved in play, and they don’t take much time, money, or effort on your part.

Depending on your cat’s age, weight, temperament, and interests, you may be able to set up an area where your cat can romp around and climb. Cat trees and scratching posts are ideal for this kind of activity. If you are handy with tools, you can build your own cat jungle gym, or you can find one at your local pet supply store or online. If your cat is reluctant, you may need to get more involved in the festivities.

How Much Time Should Your Cat Exercise?

You should try to spend about 10-15 minutes a few times each day engaging your cat in some form of activity. Young cats and kittens will usually take the initiative in engaging you in play, or they will find their own entertainment. Young cats tend to be easily amused and will probably want to continue to play long after you have tired of the game.

Older and overweight cats are a little tougher to engage. They usually don’t have the endurance or interest in extended playtime, but will still benefit from short activities throughout the day. If you have one of the latter, begin with a few minutes at a time, a few times a day. Once you have found something that engages your cat’s interest, try different versions of that activity, gradually increasing the time you spend playing.

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