Here we will discuss some essential exercises and enrichment activities for your cat.
Weight management is essential for feline health
Overweight cats become susceptible to several potentially hazardous health conditions such as diabetes, heart problems, etc. Exercise keeps your beloved furry friend healthy and fit. To keep them engaged, it’s important for owners to select exciting and engaging activities and games for them.
Another helpful approach can be to create a schedule for play and exercise. You can of course organize this around your work routine.. Remember though, that cats are more active during dawn and dusk. Planning regular playtimes around your cat’s mealtimes can be a good idea, too.
Secondly, playtime should be kept quite short - ideally around 10-15 minutes in total. This does depend upon the age of the cat, though. Ten sessions (each of 10-15 minutes) is ok for kittens and younger cats, whereas two to three sessions are sufficient for older cats.
Keep an eye on their level of interest or fatigue - although it’s likely that your cat will make it abundantly clear when they are getting bored!
Note: If your cat is panting or breathing heavily, give them a rest, and then resume the activity again once they have recovered and seem interested.
Related: 5 Common Health Issues that Cat and Dog Owners Need to Look Out For
Using a laser pointer is a great way to get your cat moving!
Using a laser pointer is a great way to make them feel that they are “catching their prey.” As this pet guide shows, this is an excellent activity that develops skills, and keeps your cat engaged.
‘Laser toys are often good entertainment, but do follow it up with a real toy the cat can catch to avoid fixation and frustration over never being able to catch the light beam,’ says Hofve.
However, be sure to never shine the beam directly into the cat’s eyes, as this can cause damage.
Complex toys that keep your cat working and provide sound reinforcement at the same time can be a real hit. Using puzzle toys to pull out dry food pieces can also help reduce their eating speed while keeping them engaged.
And these don’t have to be expensive toys from the pet store either. According to Dr. Nelson, you can use everyday household objects as toys to encourage cats to exercise. Think ping pong balls or balled-up pipe cleaners, there are so many options.
Cat trees and wheel exercise
Cat trees can also provide high rest or play areas for your cat. Many also incorporate cat scratch posts that promote healthy scratching behavior.
Cat wheels are a great way for cats to get their cardio! If you are unsure how to get your cat to use an exercise wheel, the manufacturers often include training materials to help you to encourage your cat to experiment.
The multi-story ‘cat towers’ sold online and in pet stores are another great way to ensure that your cat will have plenty of play areas and variety for good indoor exercise. Susan Nelson, DVM, an associate professor of medical science at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Manhattan, Kansas, proposes to set up small paths in various parts of the tower to encourage climbing and play.
Hidden treats, foods, and toys
This activity keeps cats busy and develops their browsing skills. Like jigsaw puzzles, concealing handles, food, and toys can help cats feel as if they are hunting for their food as they would in the wild.
Get outside! With the right training and equipment, you can take your cat outside with a leash and harness, just as we do with dogs.
“Walking on a leash is great if you can get your cat to be more tolerant of harnesses and lead,” says Emma from We’re All About Pets, who recommends a harness-like garment that covers the upper part of the cat's back, with strings built into it. “Make sure the harness fits snugly and can't be pulled off. Small cats are easy to train, but in all cases, it requires patience and perseverance.”
Create a hockey rink
To make things even more interactive and fun, Nelson recommends putting a ball in a large cardboard box or the bathtub to create an instant “hockey rink” for your cat. As the ball goes flying off the walls (and the cat goes flying after it), you’ll get some laughs and your cat will get some much-needed exercise.
Electronic toys and catnip bubbles
Catnip is a useful tool for increasing your cat's activity, but experts say it is best to use it only in the right conditions. “Keep in mind that not all cats respond to catnip, and of those who do, few will be aggressive from catnip,” he said. “Also, never give catnip before a stressful event, like going to a veterinarian. The veterinarian will thank you!”
Electronic toys are fun for cats, but they should be included in other types of combined play. Some cats enjoy chasing and blasting bubbles and this can provide lots of laughs for everyone.
Perches and shelves
Cats love to look at the world from above! This gives them a safe place to hunt in the wild. Providing standing spaces such as window shelves and seating areas gives them a better viewing space and encourages them to jump up and down. Please make sure these standing spaces are in a safe place.
Create a suitable environment for indoor cats
Domestic cats are more likely to exercise if their environment stimulates them. Having plenty of variety will mean they will get more exercise and express their natural instincts more.
Provide a scratching post or, best of all, a cat tree. This gives them an area dedicated to sharpening their nails, as well as something they can ride on.
Always rotate the toys to avoid boredom. The more interested they are in their toys, the more likely they are to keep active by playing with them.
Set aside a little time each day to share with your cat. There is nothing more exciting than having someone else play with you!
Remember: while it is essential to create your cat's regenerative environment, and the changes that will help them to stay active, most cats also like a certain amount of routine. Stick to the same feeding times as best as you can, and do not make any significant changes all at once.
Play with them using toys that they can chase and pounce on, such as feathers on a stick or other popular toys designed for cats. The movement of these toys mimics the actions of your cat’s natural prey, so they’ll love pouncing on them and trying to catch them.
Choose a scratching post that meets all their needs. It should be tall enough that they can stretch fully, and sturdy enough that they can put their weight against it. In the wild, cats enjoy maintaining their claws by scratching; a purpose-built post is a great way to let them express this behavior.
Give them somewhere to hide. This could be a ‘cat igloo’ from the pet shop, or somewhere else that’s safe, enclosed and easily accessible.
Additionally, find an elevated space that they can also enjoy, such as on an easily accessible, wide windowsill. Make sure the area is safe, and they can’t come to any harm. Many cats enjoy watching the world go by from up high, as it gives them a vantage point that would help them in the wild.