How To Exercise Your Cat

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How much exercise does a cat need? Do I need to exercise my cat? And, if so, how do I exercise my cat? What do I actually do? Whether they’re old, young, full of energy, or getting a little lazy, here’s your guide for how to exercise your cat!

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Do I Need To Exercise My Cat?

So first up, you may be wondering, “do I need to exercise my cat?” After all, it’s not like they’re a dog, are they? They’re typically known for being a “low maintenance” pet.

But, in short – yes! You do need to exercise your cat. Or at least make sure they’re getting the exercise they need.

As a rough guideline, experts recommend that cats should ideally spend an average of 30 minutes doing moderate exercise each day. 

This may be more, or less, depending on their age and whether they’re an indoor or outdoor cat. You may need to do more or less, to encourage this physical activity too, depending on your cat and what they’re like.

But as a whole – that’s the aim to work towards. Why? Well for a number of reasons…

Why Should I Exercise My Cat?

Cats need exercise to keep their body and mental health in tiptop shape. 

1) Exercise Keeps Their Body Fit and Healthy

Just like humans, exercise is vitally important for keeping a cat’s body fit and healthy. Uh huh, they can’t ACTUALLY just sleep all day!

Exercise ensures they have good muscle and bone health; and coordination when they stalk, chase, or attack stimuli. It keeps them “on form” as a cat!

2) Exercise Helps Avoid Depression

Did you know that around 40 percent of cats suffer depression due to boredom. This may be surprising to hear, but cats do actually have their own mental health for you to consider.

The good news is – exercise helps avoid depression because it improves the production of serotonin. This is a natural chemical that helps stabilise their mood (alongside improving sleep, appetite, and digestion.)

Yup, an active cat is far more likely to be a happy cat… which is of course, just what you want for your furry little friend!

obesity in cats

3) Exercise Helps With Behavioural Issues

Cats that are not given sufficient opportunity to expend their energy are more likely to develop behavioural problems; some of which are actually pretty destructive.

So you may notice that things like – your cat scratching the carpet, furniture or flooring; your cat chewing or attacking things; your cat behaving in a hyperactive way, or exhibiting other similar undesirable tenancies.

The likely cause is too much pent-up energy which leads to frustration, but which could so-easily be resolved with some EXERCISE. (Which is why it’s great you’re now looking at how to exercise your cat!)

BONUS: It Also Improves Your Relationship With Them

Exercise is often done through play (as you’ll soon read), and every time you exercise your cat, you’re spending time with them, doing things that are good for them and that they enjoy.

This really helps to build on the bond that you have… And a stronger bond means a happier cat. It also creates a more rewarding experience for you, as their Cat Mom / Dad.

How Many Cats Are Overweight?

Now we can’t move on before talking about obesity, as avoiding obesity is often a huge driver for why you may want to know how to exercise your cat.

See, it’s thought as many as 40% to 50% of cats in the UK are overweight or obese. Similarly, in the US, over 33% of cats were reported to be obese and almost 26% to be overweight.

Obese cats develop an increased risk for:  

  • many types of cancer, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and hypertension.
  • osteoarthritis and a faster degeneration of affected joints.
  • urinary bladder stones.
  • anesthetic complications as they are less heat tolerant.  

Consequently, this is unsurprisingly one of the biggest reasons to exercise your cat. After all, exercise helps to burn calories that would have otherwise developed into fat…

is my cat fat?

How Do I Stop My Cat Becoming Overweight?

Ultimately, if you want to stop your cat from becoming overweight, you simply need to make sure they burn more calories than they consume.

Figuring this out for cats however, is not quite as easy as it is for humans. I mean, how many calories do cats burn doing different things?

Well it’s difficult to know for sure. This chart gives a rough guideline for the number of calories they burn in a day, even without doing anything. But there’s too many different variables and factors to break it down any further.

Essentially, it would take some fairly complex calculations which you probably don’t have the time or patience to do. 

So instead – if you want to stop your cat from becoming overweight the best thing you can do is to just manage their food intake and focus on exercise, exercise, exercise, and how you can get them moving!

How To Exercise Your Cat

So how do you exercise your cat? Well, the main ways are through walk or play.

1) Walking Your Cat

Walking your cat?! Really?! That’s actually a thing?! Well, yes. Yes it is. And not only is it amazing for them, but it’s also increasingly popular with more cats kept in apartments or as indoor-door cats (for safety reasons more than anything else!)

By being able to take them on a walk, the cat hen still gets the best of both worlds, and of course – it gives that much-needed exercise.

Now it’s worth mentioning that some cat breeds prefer walking on a leash more than others. For example: rag dolls, maine coons, bengals, burmese and shorthairs – are all cats that you can take on walks. (To mention just a few!)

We’re currently training our little Maine Coon, Cody to do this. Here, watch his first adventure outside. (Although we’ve had plenty more since!) We’re now developing to the actual-real-taking-on-walks stage, which is amazing!

When it comes to walking your cat, it’s all about knowing them and finding what suits them. But it’s well worth noting that cats are actually far more trainable than you think… And if you can start to train them to walk with you, it opens up a whole new world of opportunities for both you and them.

So – a few helpful guides to get you started in this area…

The above are all clickable links with complete guides – so work your way through, step by step as walking your cat really is one of the best ways to exercise your cat – encouraging all their natural instincts to come out at the same time too!

How To Exercise Your Cat

2) Playing With Your Cat

The second – and most popular way – when it comes to how to exercise your cat, is to simply play with them. Little and often is best, and scheduling time to play with your cat makes sure you’re sticking to it.

Now the good news is – there are so many different games to play with your cat. (The list really is endless!) There’s also heaps of fun cat challenges you can try, so you and your cat will never need to get bored!

From the feather chaser game to football, right the way to Cat Ping Pong (yes, this is actually a game and it’s one of our Maine Coon‘s favourites!) and the Cat Toilet Roll Jumping Challenge!

The key to using play to exercise your cat, is to:

  1. Pick the games that get your cat moving around the most.
  2. Get them moving around more by the way that you play with them.

Playing With Your Cat For The Purpose of Exercising…

For example, if you have a cat wand toy, get them running all the way across the room, jumping up & down and really moving around.

Don’t forget, they’ll still need breathers; especially if they’re not used to a lot of exercise. And of course, with all of these chase / hunt games, you want to allow them time to have actually “caught” their pray.

However, you choose the intensity of the workout by how much you move them around. (It will then be down to them how long it lasts!)

You can also mix high-intensity activities, with more mentally stimulating games. It’s one of the key ways to make a cat tired as it’s pushing them in different ways. This therefore makes the exercise more manageable for them.

So for example, when it’s time for your cat to have biscuits – why not put them in a DIY Cat Feeder Toy, or – a more challenging – Cat Feeder Puzzle?

It then gets them working for their food, instead of simply giving it them, and is a great time to slot in – what becomes – both play and light exercise!

How To Keep Cats Active (And Exercising!)

Alongside both walk and play, there’s ways in which you can keep your cat active and exercising, without you having to do much – if anything at all. So let’s run through these ideas to finish. (That’s right – we want to make sure you’re super prepared here. We will get your cat exercising. We will, we will, we will!)

1) Focus Simply on Movement If You Have To

If you have an older cat, or an overweight cat, play can be challenging and the thought of getting them out on a walk would be out of the question! But start small. Focus on how you can simply get them moving more…

So for example, we mentioned above about DIY Cat Toys. If you don’t think they will play, try hiding their cat around the house to get them to work for it that way. Start by simply putting it – for example – on a chair next to where they usually eat, then upping it to the windowsill or on top of their cat tree, etc.

It doesn’t matter if they can’t find it themselves straight away – you can show them. It’s more about incorporating the strategy of making them work for it, as mentioned above.

Consider – how can you move things around? How can you mix things up? What things do they typically do, day to day, and what movement / exercise could you incorporate into it?

how do I keep my cat active?

2) Use Your Trusty Catnip

Just like food is a great incentive to encouragement movement and exercise, catnip is too… Only it doesn’t have the added extra calories, which makes it your secret weapon when it comes to how to exercise your cat.

See, catnip is a herb that many cats find irresistible. They go after it, they sniff it, they play with it and it naturally makes them more active and playful.

You can therefore use catnip on its own, to get them moving more, or to “get them going” and liven them up, so that you have more joy walking them or playing with them. Talking of play…

3) Consider Getting a Playmate

Now this isn’t a decision you should make lightly. You need to weigh up all the pros and cons of getting another cat or kitten, to make sure it’s definitively the right thing for you – and you can afford it.

But if it is an option and something you’ve been wanting / considering anyway – having another cat / kitten also helps to exercise your cat, as they then have someone to play with.

It also helps to beat boredom and loneliness! (Providing you can get them to get on from the get-go!)

4) Play Simple Games That Don’t Take a Lot

What other helpful little tips have we got when it comes to how to exercise your cat, now then? Well, play simple games that keep your cat moving, but don’t require a lot of time or effort from you.

For example, one of our kitten’s favourite games is fetch… and this is perfect! I just sit and work on my laptop and in between, throw our kitten’s spring. He then runs off after it, knocks it around a little, then brings it back.

Uh huh, it’s one of the cool, simple, tricks to teach your cat! The great thing is however – it also gets him moving and exercising, whilst I can still get on with what I’m doing. Here, have a watch…

It’s like the Cat Dancer Toys. These are ones you can simply hold, whilst watching tv or reading a book, and your cat can then play with it next to you.

It’s minimal effort, super easy to do or squeeze in, but keeps your cat moving and playing! On a similar note…

5) Encourage Toys Cats Can Play With By Themselves

You don’t always have to be doing something in order to exercise your cat. Sometimes, it’s simply about making sure you have everything you need for your cat, there for them.

So – when you’re busy with work, or even just out and about, it’s well worth getting some toys cats can play with by themselves (and there’s actually more available than you may think!)

Just find the toys or games you know they like, and don’t need you for; or find electronic cat toys – both those that are timed and tap activated. They really do work a treat!

That’s All For This One

So there we have it – how to exercise you cat, and keep them as active as you possibly can.

I hope this guide has helped.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to browse our articles for more!

How To Exercise Your Cat
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Ell is the Founder of Totally Purrfect & Cat Mom to Cody, The Maine Coon. Her areas of expertise lie in Cat Care, Enrichment & Training.

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