Low-maintenance care is of the biggest perks of owning a cat (aside from all the cuddles and cuteness, that is). Cats are known for being independent, and are relatively self-sufficient when it comes to rationing their food, using their litter box, grooming, and exercising.
Unlike dogs, cats don’t require daily walks in order to relieve themselves and get their exercise fix. That doesn’t mean cat exercise isn’t important, though. As much as your kitty loves lounging in her sunspots, it’s important to make sure she has plenty of opportunities to move her muscles.
Why is Exercise Important for Cats?
Exercise is crucial when it comes to keeping your kitty healthy. Exercise, along with diet, is important for maintaining your cat’s weight. Chonky cats may be adorable, but it is worth noting that obesity can lead to health problems. Plus, that extra weight can put added pressure on the legs and feet, leading to joint and mobility issues down the road.
Exercise is also good for mental health. Providing sources of entertainment helps to reduce boredom and minimize the likelihood of depression; expelling excess energy can reduce stress and anxiety. As an added perk, providing healthy physical and emotional outlets can keep your cat from acting out in destructive ways.
One of the best ways to help your cat exercise is by engaging in playtime every day—a perfect opportunity for important bonding between cat and owner.
How Much Exercise Does Your Cat Need?
The exact amount of recommended exercise varies from cat to cat. For most adult cats, though, aim for 30 minutes per day on average. This doesn’t necessarily mean running or walking for 30 minutes straight, though.
Since you (most likely) aren’t taking your cat outside for daily walks, you’ll need to get creative. Try playing together for at least 15 minutes or so per day with toys such as lasers and wands. With enough independent games, toys, and tools for your cat to use on her own terms, she will ideally get in more movement from walking, climbing, and scratching.
How to Help Your Cat Exercise
Outdoor cats tend to get more physical activity simply by going about their day, but indoor cats may need more encouragement to move from their favorite lounge spots.
Anyone who has spent time with a cat is well aware of the fact that you can’t force a feline to do something she doesn’t want to do. That being said, there are a few ways you can entice your kitty to get moving.
While cats don’t require daily walks like their canine counterparts, you can still purchase cat harnesses and leashes for outdoor adventures. Allowing your cat to explore and climb in your neighborhood or backyard can be a good form of exercise, mental stimulation, and bonding between pet and owner.
Cat exercise toys are a great way to get your cat moving while also spending some quality time together. These could include toys for your kitty to chase such as lasers and wands, and animal-shaped toys that are perfect for pouncing.
Some cat owners even invest in cat exercise wheels or agility courses, either purchased or homemade.
Utilize vertical space, especially if your house or apartment is small and doesn’t have lots of room for running around. If you have stairs, place toys or treats on different steps to encourage your cat to climb up and down. Cat towers and other climbing structures give your cat an opportunity to climb; you can get extra creative by putting treats or catnip in different spots of the cat tree so she has to do some extra moving in order to earn her reward.
Speaking of food… if your cat gets excited and starts following you around anytime you prepare a plate of wet food, you can use this to your advantage by “teasing” her a bit and walking around with the plate before setting it down. Your cat will be so focused on the food, she won’t even realize she’s exercising.
Scratching is an important feline instinct that acts as a grooming mechanism, emotional outlet, and form of exercise. Make sure your cat has access to plenty of scratchable surfaces so she can stretch her body and move her muscles. (Your furniture will thank you.)
If you have another cat in the household, your kitty may have a built-in exercise partner. If the cats get along, they may take turns chasing and “hunting” each other or wrestling, which can be especially helpful for getting rid of those middle-of-the-night zoomies. Just make sure you know the difference between playing cats and fighting cats.
For cats who are reluctant or have difficulty moving around, it may be worth consulting a vet to rule out any potential health concerns. Promote your cat’s health with Pet Honesty’s Digestive Probiotics+ Powder for Cats, a blend of natural ingredients to support healthy digestion and immune response.