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How to make your cat to do exercises

Physical exercise is important for the well-being of your feline friend. Lack of exercise leads to boredom which a cat controls in two ways: by sleeping and by eating. Both are undesirable in excess since they can lead to health problems - the most common of which these days is obesity. But a sedentary lifestyle can cause other health problems including over-grooming and adverse behavioural changes. So a healthy dose of exercise is good for the cat, but the mental picture of an indoor cat doing press-ups is a difficult one to visualize. So how do you know when your cat needs more exercise and how do you keep the cat active?

If your cat is an outdoor/indoor cat it is quite likely she will be able to control her own exercise adequately. The great outdoors offers all sorts of stimulation, from things to chase to things to climb. (Whether this is always safe is another question.) With exercise, the major problem lies, and I choose that word carefully, with indoor cats. The problem gets even worse if the cat spends a lot of time alone. For example when the humans go to work and the cat is left alone in a house offering few chances for physical or mental stimulation. In such cases it is especially important to involve the cat in some kind of activity for at least 15 to 30 minutes every day. This has two important aspects. The cat gets some physical exercise which it needs, but the play also creates a tighter bond between the cat and her human. But play does not mean that you should not also provide an environment which allows the cat to amuse herself while the human is away.

Play time

The amount of exercise that an indoor cat requires depends on that cat's age, breed and physical condition. Some breeds require more active play, for example Bengal cats or Abyssinians are in general much more active than British Shorthairs. Older cats are more sedentary and therefore more difficult to get into play. The same is true for overweight cats. So it may be that when you start playing, initially it will be all one sided one-sided play, with the human making all the effort whilst the cat watches with varying degrees of attention. But once you get your cat interested she will become more active. Remember also that cats, like humans, are not all amused by the same things. It may take some experimentation before you can find a game that is your cat's idea of a good time.

There are lot of commercially available toys for cats, some involving feathers on a string, balls, and fluffy toys on the end of a fishing rod. They are designed to imitate the natural prey such as mice and birds which outdoor cats love to chase. Now in order for the cat to chase something, the object has to move, hence the strings and fishing rods. It is a good idea to buy toys which contain catnip. Many cat respond to catnip and are more readily engaged in play. If you already have toys which are not catnip toys you can get a catnip spray and spray the toys before play time. Make sure you move the toys to imitate the movement of real things like mice. From time to time hide them behind your back or under the carpet. The cats cannot resist finding out where the things have gone and will start looking for them.

There are also lots of different types of balls for cats to play with. They normally have something inside to make a noise when they roll. Again, roll them around the floor to engage your cat. Roll them under the edge of a rug for her to find. Many cats love diving under a loose carpet or a rug to retrieve the toy in question. Some great toys you already have at home: balls of paper, straws, and plastic rings from milk or juice containers. Chestnuts are another highly appreciate toy. Whatever you and the cat settle on as a plaything, make sure it is large enough that the cat cannot swallow or choke on it. With most toys the play should be supervised so small bits which might become detached are cleared away before the cat can choke on them.

It is not a bad idea to put the toys away after play, so kitty does not get too used to them and becomes uninterested. this also ensures that there are no accidents when you are not watching. There is also an additional benefit - once the play becomes a routine the cat will actually look forward to it and the sight of toys will automatically stimulate her. Rotating her favourite toys will also keep your cat engaged for longer.

There are a number of other toys on the market, for example, remote-controlled mice. These are great and very engaging for most cats (and some humans rather enjoy them too!). Such toys give humans the additional benefit of playing while seated in their armchair. Technocat toys are normally more expensive and, from my experience, a bit more difficult to get since they are not available in an average pet store, but online catalogues often carry them. Another thing to try is a small flashlight or laser pointer in a dimmed room. This can provide hours of entertainment for your cat. Chasing, jumping on, and looking for that point of light keeps the cat entertained and active. It is important never to shine the light directly into the cat's eyes.

A new idea is now becoming fashionable is a cat's exercise wheel. Once the cat gets on the wheel, the wheel starts to spin under her weight. the quicker she moves the faster the wheel spins. There are a number of videos on U-tube where you can see such wheels in action. There are expensive, and as with any other toys they may or may not work for your cat. The cat wheel works on the same principle as the treadmill for humans so, if you already have one of these at home you can try to see if your cat is interested on jumping and running on it. Make sure this is strictly supervised.

Exercises during daily routine.

One of the things almost every indoor cat will certainly do during an average day is move between her food and the litter tray. If you have stairs at home it is a good idea to put the litter tray upstairs and the food bowl downstairs or vice versa. This will encourage exercise through using the stairs. Similarly the bed should be yet in another corner of the house as far away as the cat permits. Many cats like going up and down the stairs, and it is great exercise - remember that steps are a lot higher from a cat's point of view.

Many cats also like climbing. There are now many climbing frames available for cats in the pet shops. They are usually called cat trees. Some of them are designed to be built up as high as your flat/house/significant other permits. Some cat trees also have cat houses built into them. Many cats love to make these their sleeping quarters since from above they can see everything that is going on.

Again, there is now a new concept of encouraging cats to hunt for their food rather than just letting them find it in the food bowl. The idea is that you hide the food in different places each day and the cat has to find it. Its not advisable to do this with fresh food but if the cat eats dry food, that may certainly work well. On the same principle you can now buy containers which dispense food after a certain amount of effort by the cat. For example a ball dispenses biscuits more or less one by one, but only when it rolls. This means the cat has to play with the ball to get to her food.


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