Feline exercise using a cat tower

The Importance of Feline Exercise: Why Your Cat Needs Space to Climb

While most people understand the importance of getting enough cardiovascular and muscle-building exercise themselves, they don’t always know that their cats need the same. Indoor cats, in particular, sometimes tend to be couch potatoes. They might go from bed to bed, occasionally jumping up on a table or counter to hunt for tasty morsels, but house cats don’t always get the exercise they need for good health. Here is your primer for why feline exercise is important, how you can help your cat get some exercise, and what products might help get your couch kitty up and moving.

Why Cats Need Exercise

Just like anyone else, your cat needs to move, run, and climb in order to keep their heart healthy, to keep up their strength, and to prevent excess weight and obesity. The average house cat sleeps up to 20 hours per day, and, as you can imagine, they don’t get a lot of exercise. Kittens often get exercise because they tend to run around. This is the case especially if you have 2 (or more) kittens! They will play, wrestle, and zoom around your house, getting plenty of cardiovascular exercise in the process. As cats get older, though, they tend to become more sedentary. A middle-aged or elderly cat likely spends their days lounging on whatever soft, warm surfaces they can find. As cats slow down past kittenhood, the most immediate effect is that they begin to gain weight. Since cats are small to begin with, gaining even a fraction of a pound could potentially become a cause for concern. Obesity in cats is a major contributor to diabetes, liver problems, and arthritis. In addition, a lack of feline exercise can cause your cat to get bored. A bored cat is more likely to cause mischief such as biting people or scratching furniture. They might also stop eating well and might take out their frustration by eliminating outside of the litter box.

Games and Strategies to Get Your Cat Moving

The best way to avoid health and behavioral issues caused by a lack of feline exercise is to find ways to interact with your cat and get them moving.
  • One of the simplest ways to encourage your cat to become active is to play with them. You can purchase cat toys at any pet supply store. Look for little toys that they can bat around as well as toys that hang from a string that you can drag along for them to chase. Laser pointers are also great fun for cats; shine them on the floor and move them around for your kitty to stalk and pounce on.
  • You can also encourage your cat to climb. Outdoor cats will climb trees and other objects, but indoor cats might not. You could try keeping food on a counter or another elevated surface; this will encourage your cat to jump or climb up each time they want to eat. (Of course, if your cat is elderly, overweight, or otherwise not limber, you will need to be sure that they can physically get to where the food is without help!)
  • Setting up a cat condo of some type is a good way to encourage your cat to climb and jump. You can place a catnip plant or some cat grass on the top level. Also, putting it in a window will encourage your kitty to find the warmest, sunniest spot to lay in.

Products That Might Help

Since the holiday season is coming up, you might be ready to purchase some special toys for your feline friend. Consider some of these toys and products that might inspire some extra activity.
  • The Petstages Tower of Tracks Cat Toy. This, along with other puzzle toys, can get your cat’s heart pumping as they try to catch the balls (which will roll around in their tracks). This particular track toy is good for both single and multiple kitties.
  • Catnip toys. These make great stocking stuffers and, if your cat is sensitive to catnip, will provide hours of fun. Many cats will become a bit goofy and will run around when exposed to catnip, and the mouse shapes will add a layer of enticement.
  • Laser pointers. You will have as much fun as your cat when you wiggle the laser pointer around on your floor and walls. Kitties are attracted to the red dot and will jump, bounce, and zoom around trying to catch it.
  • Cat tree. Your cat can practice their climbing and jumping skills with a cat tree. They come in many different configurations with many different price points. The one linked is great whether you have one cat or several cats. You can place cat toys, cat grass, catnip toys, food, and treats on the various levels to add interest and encourage climbing.
  • Cat harness. Take your indoor kitty outside safely by keeping them on a harness. You can walk them around your yard or neighborhood and let them sniff and explore to their heart’s content without putting them in harm’s way. Going outside is a great way for your cat to stretch their muscles and get some fresh air.
If you are concerned about the amount of activity your cat isn’t getting, try some of these or similar products. You should also talk to your veterinarian, who can advise you on whether your cat is overweight or whether there are any health problems that can prevent your cat from getting enough feline exercise.
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