Most cat lovers know that obesity and lack of exercise is every bit as dangerous for cats as for humans. Just like us, our feline friends can suffer from heart, joint and tooth problems, to name just a few, if they are allowed to get out of shape. There is also evidence that lack of physical activity and play can affect a cat’s brain function. Clearly, keeping your cat active is one of the most important acts of care that you can give them.
However, this can be challenging because many cats are kept inside, which limits their options when it comes to exercise. Also, unfortunately, cats have another thing in common with humans – many of them are not fond of taking exercise, especially when the weather is bad in the winter months.
However much we love our pets, it can be difficult to get them up and about when it is easier to laze around in the warmth. What should a caring cat owner do?
Fortunately, there are plenty of options. Specialist cat furniture, such as cat trees and scratching posts, can help you to keep your cat active. Lots of cats love these, and they can be particularly useful if you have more than one pet because they can exercise and play together. Before making your purchase, take a little time to watch your cat at play – is it a climber, chaser, runner or a combination of these? Your pet’s preferences can help you to choose the furniture most appropriate for your situation.
Lots of breeds, particularly the more social cat types such as Burmese and Siamese, are most likely to play if their owner joins in, so why not get hold of some fun cat toys and run around the home with your pet? Not only is this fun and a great way of bonding with your cat, it can actually keep both of you fit and active at the same time!
Another option is to shine a laser pointer or flashlight onto a surface (such as a wall) and keep moving it around. Many cats love to chase points of light and will get lots exercise in the process – it can also be hugely entertaining to watch!
Other playtime options for cats include cardboard boxes to jump in and out of, toys filled with catnip (many cats go wild for this and will “hunt” such toys for hours), a bucket filled with crumpled paper or table-tennis balls and wind-up toys.
Some owners find it helpful to timetable their cat’s exercise, setting aside two ten or 20 minute periods a day, during which time they play with their pet. This helps to ensure that exercise is regular, which increases the benefits.
Whichever form of exercise appeals most to you and your cat, do remember that by keeping kitty active and maintaining its weight at a sensible level, you are making two of the most important contributions possible to your pet’s health. Your cat may not, at first, be overjoyed at having to take exercise throughout the winter, but in its own feline way it will thank you in the end!