Cats are not like dogs, and it is unusual for their owners to take them for walks. Indeed, it seems unnecessary, for many cats seem to stay fit by themselves, and you might think the idea of helping them to do so is a bit strange. But this is not true of all cats. Obesity in cats is becoming increasingly common, and in addition some cats are just plain lazy. Also, many cats now live exclusively or mainly indoors, which makes exercising much harder than it is for outdoor cats. If your cat is like this, or even if she just seems to be putting on a little too much weight or rarely getting up from her favourite armchair, here are some ways of helping her to get fitter….
1. Cut Back on Food Treats
Many of us give treats to our cats in addition to their normal meals. These might be titbits of human food which your cat really likes, but increasingly it is possible to buy a wide variety of supplementary food for cats. Many cats love these cat treats, and owners may think it is harmless to give their cat as many treats as she wants. But if you do this, you may add significantly to your cat’s calorie intake. So if your cat needs to lose weight, or you just want to make sure that she stays fit, give treats sparingly.
2. Make Your Cat Work for Her Food
In the wild cats have to use up a great deal of energy in order to get their food, for hunting is hard work. You can simulate this by either hiding your cat’s food, or by putting it in one of the puzzle feeders you can buy for this purpose. This might seem cruel, but many cats love ‘hunting’ for their food in this way. My cats have bowls of dried food out all day, but they also have a puzzle feeder available. They prefer to eat out of the puzzle feeder, moving bits of it to get at the food, then scooping it out with a paw. They just love this!
3. Remove Food at Night
Many owners have dried food available for their cats to eat ad lib. This is quite acceptable, for in the wild cats would eat little and often. But some cats will overeat if you do this. If your cat is one which tends to do this, it could be a good idea to remove her food overnight. It won’t do her any harm, and she may be fitter as a result.
4. Have Plenty of Toys
Not all cats like playing with toys, but many do, particularly younger cats. So make sure your cat has plenty of toys. It could be a good idea to vary those which are available, putting some away, and bringing them out a few days later. Your cat will act as though the ones she hasn’t seen for a while are completely new, and she’ll probably start to play with them again, even if she was bored with them in the past. This is a fun way for her to get extra exercise.
5. Use Catnip
Most cats love catnip. You can buy toys impregnated or filled with this herb, or simply buy small amounts of catnip and sprinkle it on toys or your cat’s bed. Even cats which show little interest in toys as a rule may well want to play with catnip toys, and again, this could be a way of giving your cat extra exercise.
6. Use a Laser Pointer
Most cats love to chase the little red light emanating from a laser pointer. You can buy these very cheaply, or you can get a battery operated one specially designed for cats, which costs rather more. Either way, you can give your cat hours of fun and a great deal of exercise this way – at least until she realises that no matter how hard she tries she just won’t be able to catch the little red light.
7. Get a Cat Tower
Cat towers, also known s cat activity centres or cat trees, are available from all good pet shops and also on the internet. They come in various designs and sizes, but all have platforms, tunnels, and boxes for cats to play in. Most cats just love running up and down these towers, and they are an excellent way of persuading even the laziest cat to get more exercise.
8. Buy Your Cat a Treadmill or Wheel
It is now possible to buy treadmills or wheels specifically designed for cats. These are a first-rate way of persuading your cat to get more exercise. They are quite large and rather expensive, but if you have the money and the space, this may well be something you would like to try. You might think that cats would not want to run in one of these, but many cats seem to really like them.
9. Teach Your Cat to Walk on a Harness and Lead
Strange though it may seem, some cats enjoy wearing a harness and going for walks on a lead with their owners, just like dogs. If you decide to try this way of getting your cat to exercise, take things slowly. Get her used to the harness first, just for short periods. Then try it for longer, and then add the lead. Praise your cat for wearing the harness, and stop if she seems at all distressed. Not all cats will do this, but many enjoy the experience.
10. Get a New Kitten
This might seem like an extreme way of persuading an older cat to exercise more! It also might not work, as some older cats become really annoyed if a new kitten is introduced to the family. But sometimes the older cat will play with the new kitten, and is given a new lease of life. This happened with my older Maine Coon when I got a new kitten. He just loved the new baby, treated it as his very own, and the two became firm friends. And he became a lot fitter too. So if you want a new kitten anyway, this may work.
Helping your cat to get fit is not all that difficult, but it may involve a bit of time and effort. You might want to try the suggestions above, and see which of them work for you. All cats are different, but you only need one or two of them to work well for your cat to start to become slimmer and fitter. Good luck!