Exercise for cats: how much do they need and how to do it best

Exercising is good for everyone, including animals. But sometimes we don’t know how to manage exercise for cats or can’t understand their needs.

It’s no secret that feline obesity rates have risen in the United States, but it’s a growing problem in the rest of the world as well. Part of the problem is a lack of exercise, but how much exercise does a house cat need each day? Cats that live outdoors or in semi-freedom often get a lot of exercise, but most cats only live indoors. As any animal behaviorist can confirm, exercise for cats – especially while playing – is critical to their physical and emotional well-being. Let’s avoid making them slaves to the sofa, their health is at stake.

How to practice and play with our cat

Do we worry that our indoor cat is not getting enough exercise? While it’s true that cats have the evolutionary advantage of a high metabolism that works even when they relax (see lions in the wild), they still need some physical activity to keep them away from a sedentary sloth life, and a possible obesity.

Unlike dogs, cats can’t be hooked to the end of a leash and taken for a walk around the neighborhood – well, some can, but they need to be collar-trained from kittens. It may take some imagination, along with some trial and error, but we can find ways to encourage our kitty to be more active. Playing with your cat can be a great form of encouragement. All it takes are some creative ideas to keep our cat cheerful and active!

How Much Exercise Do Cats Need Each Day?

It is generally accepted that most cats in the house do not get enough exercise. There is a recent study on outdoor cat activity and the size of these cats’ territories was surprisingly large, so they were moving around a lot. This study showed that non-owned cats were much more active than owned ones, leading some to think that our domestic cats are poorly trained.

According to our expert, cats should spend a minimum of 30 minutes per day engaging in moderate exercise. Some cats will need less exercise and others even more, but 30 minutes is a good place to start. As for how to do this type of activity, there is no easy answer, and all owners and cats will have different things they like to do. 

It is up to us to discover their favorite games. Some like to chase feathers, others play chase toys, others go for walks, others play with laser pointers or other interactive toys. Providing lots of vertical space such as climbing trees is one of the best ways to ensure our cats get enough daily exercise. We begin to think about practically how to increase activity levels in our home with our feline friends. This will lead to happier, less stressed and healthier cats.

The reason for exercise for cats

Physical activity is ideal for our pets. Activities help maintain a healthy body weight and keep muscles toned and strong, as well as keep the mind alert and active. Exercise is also fun and can offer bonding opportunities with our pets. There are many ways to get your cat more involved in the game and they don’t require a lot of time, money or effort on our part.

Depending on the cat’s age, weight, temperament and interests, we may be able to create an area in which it can move and climb. Cat trees and scratching posts are ideal for this type of activity. If we’re comfortable with DIY tools, we might as well build a jungle-style gym for our cats, or find one at pet supply stores, or online. And if the cat is reluctant, we may need to be more involved in the celebration with him / her.

How much time to devote to exercise

We should try to spend about 10-15 minutes, a few times a day, engaging our cat in some form of activity. Young cats and kittens usually take the initiative to get their owners involved in the game, or they will find their own fun on their own. Young cats tend to be easily amused and will probably want to keep playing for a long time even after we owners get tired.

Older, overweight cats are a little more difficult for cats to engage in exercise. They usually don’t have the stamina or interest for extended playtime, but they still benefit from short activities throughout the day. If we have a cat that falls into these categories, we can start with a few minutes at a time, a few times a day. After finding something that engages our kitty’s interest, we try different versions of that activity, gradually increasing the time we spend playing.

Tips for creative activity

Activities that stimulate a cat’s natural hunting instinct are often the best solution. Small, motorized, remote-controlled and battery-powered furry mice are perfect for attracting a cat’s attention. Cheap non-motorized mice are also interesting; we will just have to do all the movements of the fake mouse, perhaps using a string or a thread attached to the toy. 

Along the same lines, feather toys make good bird replicas and are often attached to the end of a stick or string, so you can mimic the movements of an injured bird, a cat’s favorite item to chase ( the kitty should never have access to feather toys unsupervised, however, as they can be very dangerous if ingested). And everyone knows how many kittens love a simple moving wire. A thick piece of tape, shoelaces, or thread, can be moved across the floor, or under a closed door (with us on one side of the door and the cat on the other), just out of the cat’s reach.

Many cats grow from this fascination with rope as they age, but not all of them do. It would be nice to try an older cat. We just remember to put away the rope and tapes after our play sessions. Many emergencies with intestinal blockages could have been avoided if the rope had not been left within reach of the cat enough to swallow it.

Another favorite toy is the ray of light. If we already have a small flashlight, we can try to make the cat chase it. Laser pointers are even better games, as the small beam of light appears to be a small insect, and cats love to chase insects. We stay low with the light, or we may see the cat trying to climb up the shelves to get it, and end up with broken knick-knacks on the floor. Also, always make sure to avoid blinking the beam directly into the cat’s eyes.

We keep the fun going for our furry friend by trying things we already have around the house. Empty boxes we punch holes in can be great “caves” and scratching toys, and crumpled paper, especially if the kind that makes a lot of noise, is ideal for running around. Paper bags are also fun to crawl into, but let’s avoid plastic bags; we don’t want to risk accidental suffocation. Also: plastic rings, toilet paper cardboard rolls, and paper towel rolls, stuffed animals, etc. Just be careful that none of these homemade “toys” can become dangerous.

Scratching posts and cat trees cause cats to climb, an activity that makes them use their muscles and naturally wears down the tips of their claws. If we have the space, we organize an obstacle course for cats in the house, so that the cat can jump from place to place to get to the next perch. There are prefabricated shelving systems that can be found online or in stores, or we can create our own system, with shelves that go from floor to ceiling in a stepped pattern. Some people will add a spiral staircase up to the ceiling so that their cats can climb and jump all the way to find a good spot from which they can watch over their feline kingdom. If we have a yard, we can build or buyan outdoor enclosure that allows the cat to be outside, but without the dangers of traffic and other animals.

Finally, if your cat really needs to lose weight, there are exercise wheels – such as wheels made for hamsters – made just for cats. Exercise wheels don’t take up much space and allow cats to run and walk as they please. With a little imagination and a commitment to devote at least one combined hour each day to our cat’s activity, we will find that both we owners and our furry friend are enjoying a healthier and more joyful life.

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