Though dogs are generally eager to accompany you on a brisk walk or jog, your cat is likely to be disgusted if you suggest such an activity. Getting cats to engage in aerobic exercise is more than just difficult — it actually goes against their very nature. Wildcats spend very little time in motion. They sit and watch before bursting into an intense chase that typically lasts only minutes. After hunting, cats return to their sedentary watchful position to recover for the next opportunity.
Our house cats are similar in some ways to these wild felines — though they generally watch the world from their favorite pillow. Just because cats don’t excel with long-distance exercise doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage them to get up and move — especially if they have pounds to lose! But because exercise is not second nature to cats, it often takes creative thinking to get our feline friends on the go.
Cats are designed for short bursts of activity, and any opportunities for your cat to stalk and pounce will provide both excellent exercise and mental stimulation. There are many kinds of cat toys available and many you can make yourself. Cats generally love toys that squeak, chirp or move in some manner.
If your veterinarian has advised you that your flabby feline could benefit from a little more activity, here are some helpful tips to get you started on the path to better health. Try these games and tricks to get your cat moving and, hopefully, losing (although be sure to consult with your veterinarian before embarking on any exercise program with your pet).
- Find the food. Gradually move your cat’s food bowl up or downstairs, so he must walk in order to get his food. If mobility problems keep him from being able to go up or down stairs safely, keeping his food bowl as far away from his favorite resting spots as possible will help accomplish the same goal (although be sure to consult your veterinarian first to make sure it’s obesity and not painful arthritis that is keeping him from getting up and moving around). This way he won’t wake up from a nap and take a bite out of boredom — he’ll have to walk a distance when the hunger pangs hit.
- Stalk and pounce. Small, fast-moving objects appeal to most cats’ innate love of chase. Many cats prefer realistic bird or mouse toys at the end of a string pulled across the floor or dangling from a stick. Some cats will be perfectly willing to chase small hollow balls or scrunched up pieces of newspaper thrown across the floor. Try tying any small toy or feather from the end of a wand or stick and see what your cat thinks.
- Boxing or bagging.Nothing spells joy for some cats more than an empty paper bag or cardboard box. They will dart in and out and climb on top. It may not seem like much, but some cats will play vigorously for long periods of time.