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Is Your Cat Getting Enough Exercise? Here’s How To Make Sure

A white and gray cat sits in a field of grass with a red halter leash on.

Your cat probably likes doing their own thing most of the time. They sleep and eat and climb and generally stay out of your way unless it’s playtime or they want the occasional snuggle from you. 

So with all of this going on it can be easy to dismiss the concept of your cat’s exercise to the backburner. After all, your cat seems to be getting around fine. They can jump and claw and play with you. Until they don’t.

You’ll want to spare yourself the vet visit where your veterinarian says your cat has put on more than a few pounds than they should. An overweight cat is an unhealthy cat most of the time, and not only is it bad for their physical health to go without consistent exercise but for their mental health as well.

Cats need stimulation for their paws as well as their brain, and exercise is the best way to accomplish this. However, there are better ways to get your cat to exercise than others and to stay safe while doing so. 

Read on below for a breakdown on how to exercise your cat and some things you might need for it. 

  • Make sure exercise is safe first
  • Amp up your playtime
  • Make mealtime a part of their exercise
  • Invest in a tall, sturdy, scratching post
  • Rotate your cat toys out
A white cat with one green eye and one blue walks on a blue leash.
Safety is most important, so before you try anything new check off your boxes. 

Make sure exercise is safe first

Determining the kind of exercise you want to implement into your cat’s life is the decision you should dissect first. A cat can function perfectly and happily inside with exercise. Taking your cat or allowing them to go outside without proper supervision can cause problems.

The best way to go about exercising your cat outside if you choose to do so is to get your cat leash trained. Now, not every cat is going to be able to do this, and it’s going to take a bit of training but it can be accomplished.

Getting your cat used to the cat harness and leash while they’re inside is a start, and from there you can determine if it’s something they’d like further. You can also allow your cat some outside activity under your supervision, with a cat playpen if you’d like.

And no matter what form of exercise you choose it’s good to be prepared for injuries or slips from your cat, especially if they’re trying an activity they’re never done before. Having a first-aid spray like FaunaCare’s on hand can spare your cat some pain if they take a nasty fall. 

A gray cat with yellow eyes stands up on its hind legs with its front paws out at the camera.
The simple solution to your cat’s exercise problem is to make sure they’re exercising more yourself.

Amp up your playtime

The easiest and the most obvious solution to increase your cat’s exercise time is to simply put more time into the exercise you already do with them—their playtime. 

A cat’s playtime with you can consist of multiple things, it can consist of the typical catch and throw antics with small toys. It could be with a feather wand, your cat batting at the bird-like tether. Or it could even be some fun training in a few situations.

No matter what method you choose chances are that your cat could use more of it from you. It’s easy to step away from playtime if you have something to do that’s calling your name or your cat isn’t reacting fast enough to show interest.

Being patient is key here. Your cat appreciates the effort on your part in playtime. It’s not just an opportunity to exercise but a chance for you two to bond together. 

A brown tabby cat eats a meal from its orange and white bowl.
Cram in exercise at every moment of the day for your cat, even mealtime.

Make mealtime part of their exercise

This suggestion might seem a little bit out there to you. What does that mean? When my cat is eating they’re not exactly running around getting exercise, they’re just eating. Well, with a specialty trick bowl your cat can exercise their body and even more importantly their mind.

A specialty treat or trick bowl for cats can be a great way to get your cat moving and thinking. Often these bowls come in strange shapes, with weird grooves, or hidden pockets that you can hide dry food in. 

The goal of these bowls is to get your cat moving and thinking to get to their dinner. Instead of just plopping themselves in front of the bowl to chow down, your cat has to maneuver themselves or the treats so that they can eat.

Even though your cat is very cute and cuddly they’re still an animal with all their natural instincts intact. Instead of hunting, you feed your cat themselves, so to channel that predator drive gives them a trick bowl to stimulate this desire. 

A gray cat lies down on the platform of it's scratch post/cat tree.
A textbook example of healthy cat exercise, the scratching post. 

Invest in a tall, sturdy, scratching post 

If you’re a cat owner, you should already have a scratching post in your home. Unless you want your cat clawing up your table legs more than they already do. Let’s resist that temptation.

But a scratching post is more than just a cat-claw furniture deterrent, it’s a healthy aspect of a cat’s lifestyle. Cats like to scratch; it's a component of their natural behavior, and a good scratching post can cater to this need.

More than that a scratching post enables your cat’s natural desire to exercise. When a cat uses a scratching post they not only stretch out their limbs but strengthens the muscles in their back legs which is important for their wellbeing.

Now it might take a couple of tries for your cat to find a scratching post that they like, and this can get pricey as cat trees and scratching posts aren’t always the cheapest cat owner product. But there are ways to encourage this behavior. Vertical posts are a good bet to buy and make sure to place the post in a central area of the house. 

A orange and white cat with yellow eyes chews on a blue worm toy attached to a wand.
Cats want shiny new toys too!

Rotate your cat toys out

Just like you as a kid, there are some toys that just don’t hold your attention for too long. Sure everyone has a favorite toy that you don’t want to part with, but the ones that your cat hasn’t touched in months? Well, it’s time to let those go.

If you accumulate cat toys without throwing them out or donating them away, your cat is going to get disinterested in them. Your cat needs new stimulation and their toys are no exception from this rule. So it’s out with the old and in with the new.

Cats that get new toys are more likely to play with them and remain interested in your playtime when the moment comes around. 

So it’s not an overindulgence to spoil your cat with some new toys. It’s going to get them to exercise more, it’s going to make them happy. And there is nothing you want more. 

A brown tabby cat sits on top of a gate.
Exercise ties into the natural instincts of your cat.

It’s easy to assume that cats, being more solitary and more aloof than dogs or some other pet can get all the exercise they need on their own. What else could they be doing when they’re not with you?

It doesn’t matter what they’re doing, it’s not enough to hinge your cat’s health and daily physical activity on their shoulders alone. You should be taking an active part in this. 

Any of the suggestions on the list could solve this problem, and better yet your car might enjoy this new part of their lives. The goal here is to make sure that your cat stays healthy physically while resting easily in their mind. 

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