Wait, My Cat Actually Needs Exercise?

Posted on
July 5, 2019

There is a common misconception that cats are “easy-to-keep” pets, as they needn’t as much exercise and attention as dogs. Like cats, you enjoy those precious moments of utter relaxation--where you can lay on your couch, undisturbed, all day long. Myself included. However, you find that other days you become bored and even anxious not doing much… Your cat gets this way, too.

Cats, like all other pets, require some amount of exercise and play. It is perfectly reasonable for your cat to have some amount of “fluff”-- as it is a great indicator of a healthy cat. When does your cat’s extra fluff become a cause for concern? In 2018, a whopping 60% of cats in the United States were overweight and obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. There is a growing trend in indoor cat obesity in the U.S -- a trend that can have a significant impact on the life expectancy of your cat.

Playing with your cat will not only improve its health and boosts its mood, but will also strengthen the bond you two share together! After all, a healthy feline friend is a happy feline friend. We’ve mapped out some fun and safe ways to get your pet some exercise, which include:

  • Walking Your Cat
  • Outdoor Play  
  • Indoor Playtime with Toys
A fluffy white cat is led by an owner outside of the frame down a grassy path on a walk
Although this cat walks without a harness, it is recommended that your cat uses one. Image courtesy of Litter-Robot Blog.

Walking Your Cat

PSA: Walking your cat on a leash is not weird.

Yup, it’s totally normal. However, it is rare you’ll find a cat who willingly accepts and feels comfortable walking on a leash. Often times, cat owners run into the issue of their pet disliking the feel of the collar and/or the leash. Dislike is especially prevalent in older, grumpier cats. But not to worry-- with proper training and lots of patience, your pet can be a sidewalk superstar in no time!

Start by getting your pet used to a collar

While it’s recommended you start your cat on a leash as a kitten, it is possible to get your adult cat used to it as well. We suggest starting with a collar, and having your cat wear it around the house-- allowing enough time for your cat to become comfortable wearing one before going for an actual walk. If your cat already wears a collar, congratulations! Step one is complete.

If not, check out collars with reflective properties (to spot your cat if out at night), bells (to sound when your cat is near), or great durability and flexibility. The reality is that when introducing your indoor cat to the outdoors, they will get spooked. Whether it’d be a dog barking in a park or an obnoxiously loud car horn, your frightened cat may want to run away-- so much, that they practically pry themselves from your grip. You’ll want to be prepared, so a good collar is the first step in ensuring a safe walk outside.

The adjustment period varies, but a couple of days to a week worth’s time should suffice.

Next, try a harness

Now, these may take some time getting used to. There are thousands of cat harnesses out there, and selecting the best one for your cat may require some experimentation. To ensure that the harness will not only fit but stay on securely, you may need to buy more than one harness. The easiest way to avoid doing so is to take your cat’s measurements!

Sherry Woodard, an animal behavior expert for Best Friends Animal Society, recommends that you measure around the front of its chest and around its middle (just behind your cat’s front legs). You will want the harness to be close-fitting, but of course, not so tight that your cat can’t move. Let your cat walk around the house with it on for a bit. Observe and take note of how well it stays on.  

What’s the big deal about harnesses, you ask? According to Woodard, walking your cat with just a leash and collar poses a great risk to your cat’s neck, as continual pressure to that sole area could cause damage to its windpipes. Harnesses are vital, particularly for those “new to walking outdoors” cats. Your feline’s natural drives and instincts will be on full display...Be mindful of this. The more your cat is enticed by new critters and scents, the harder it will tug at its collar--potentially harming itself.    

While an important safety feature, your cat will likely see its harness as nothing but an annoying hindrance. So, be sure to provide your cat with loads of yummy treats and goodies when wearing it! Considering how uncomfortable your cat will feel at first, you’ll want to establish some sort of positive association with the harness right from the get-go. Soon, your cat will practically want to jump into its harness!

Off Into the Outside World, They Go

Time to hook on the leash and get out there! Start off with short walks around your property. We wouldn’t want to send your cat into excitation overdrive. Remember, don’t rush it!

This is an experience that both you and your cat want to enjoy. The outside world is an entirely new environment offering unique textures, sights, and smells for your cat to savor. You will want to present this environment properly and slowly so that your cat isn’t overwhelmed or becomes stressed. Work your way up to long walks-- that way you can gauge your cat’s comfort level before exploring different places and scenery.

A black cat reclines next to a silver water dish in the shade of a potted plant
Not all cats enjoy walks, but there are ways to engage cats in other fun activities, outdoors!

Outdoor Play

If you tried walking your cat outside and it didn’t go well, there are other outdoor activities you and your cat could try out. That being said, it’s generally not a good idea to let your cat roam free outside alone. Although your cat may not spend as much time outside as an “outdoor cat”, there’s no stopping disease, weather, poisons, other cats, etc.

We at Fauna Care want to make sure your cat is safe and is being appropriately taken care of. If you desire for your cat to be outside more, we recommend you verify the following checklist:

Microchip

Again, you never know what might happen to your cat, outside. Microchipping is essentially a precautionary measure. If your cat were to meander around the neighborhood or get stolen, you’ll want a way to track it down. According to Pet Finder, the average cost of implanting a microchip is $45-- which is a one time fee that often times includes registration in a pet recovery database. You can get this procedure done at most vet’s offices, but call and inquire just to be sure.

Vaccinate

The only way to protect your cat from contracting diseases is to vaccinate it. Outdoor cats require more shots, so if you intend on your cat spending a lot more time outdoors than it’s used to, we recommend your cat receive most of these vaccinations:

  • Rabies
  • Panleukopenia (feline distemper)
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis

Talk to your vet about the amount of time your cat spends outdoors, as they will be able to determine best what shots to get.

Spay and Neuter

This procedure must be done before your cat gets to be five months of age. Cats who aren’t fixed are much more likely to find themselves in trouble. Male cats who aren’t neutered will become very territorial and will most likely wander off in search of a mate. Female cats will also want to roam and do run the risk of becoming pregnant by a stray or another unfixed cat. This is incredibly dangerous, as they could potentially be hit by cars. Unless you plan on fencing in your cat, we highly suggest you get it fixed.

Build an Outdoor Pen

If you are up for it and have sufficient space and resources, consider building a protective outdoor pen! dvise using wood posts and wire netting so that you have a strong, solid base and armored covering. Incorporate differing levels of perches for your cat to climb on and scratching posts to promote good grooming.

You’ll also want to put some sort of cover in the pen, too. If it starts to storm, and you aren’t home, your cat will need a place for shelter. If this sounds like something you’d want to invest in, research different layouts! This outdoor pen would be the perfect way to get your cat adapted to the outside world in a comfortable setting (it would also be play-paradise).

A cat sits on a white chair against a white wall, batting at a toy mouse  as she enjoys some indoor exercerise
Exercise can always be disguised as play-- given the right toys and teasers.


Indoor Playtime with Toys

Let’s face it, some cats are indoor cats through and through. If your cat is a kitten, it will be easy to keep it entertained and occupied for quite some time--however, if your cat is older, it may need a little extra encouragement. Older cats won’t play spontaneously, so if you want your sofa spud to get active, you’re going to need to stimulate it.

Disguise exercise as play. Cats respond to movement, so get toys that move or mimic small animals! Pet stores contain a multitude of cat toys that specialize in bringing out your cat’s stealthy feline instincts. From catnip filled faux-mice to sparkly teaser wands, you can find 20 of the best-ranked cat toys of 2019 here.  

Grab a variety! Swap toys in and out to keep your cat intrigued and on its toes! Make sure to hide the toys you have swapped out very well, as cats are incredibly sneaky hunters.

We recommend The ABO Cat Tunnel, as it has velvet on the outside and makes crinkly noises as your cat wiggles through! Your cat will have loads of fun and will be enthralled for hours (you get a front-row seat for the cute show).

We also love The Armarkat Cat Tree. If your cat has expressed dislike for the outdoors but still has that desire to climb, this is an excellent substitution for an actual tree. Tall, with different levels of pedestals and inclined planks, your cat will adore this product. Since Armarkat offers a wide array of cat trees, look to see which would fit your cat’s climbing ability best.    

A gray cat with orange eyes sits next to a colorful vase of flowers, relaxing after a day full of play and exercise
All cats are unique, but one sure way to keep them happy and healthy is to incorporate daily exercise.

Whether you are a cat owner veteran or novice, it is important to remember to play with your cat. There are many factors that dictate how long your cat should be active like weight, age, or present health issue. However, according to Pam Johnson-Bennett, a certified cat consultant, cats need at least fifteen-twenty minutes of playtime twice a day. You can adopt and modify any of the ways we have mapped out above.

If you decide to come up with a specific and individualized workout plan for your cat, go you! Way to take an initiative to improve and/or maintain your cat’s health! Make sure to discuss the ways in which you plan to get your cat more active with a veterinarian. We at Fauna Care ultimately want what is best for you and your buddy.



Posted on
July 5, 2019
in
Advice
category