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Exercise for your cats

Cats that have access to the outdoors will usually manage to get plenty of exercise by themselves. Everything from stalking natural prey to pouncing on fallen leaves will help keep them active, and provide them with the exercise needed for a healthy lifestyle.

If your cat lives indoors, they may need a little extra help staying active. Getting enough exercise, in combination with a complete and balanced diet, is a vital part of their ongoing health and happiness. As well as enjoying the physical benefits of activity, your indoors cat will also be more mentally stimulated.

We’ve put together some ideas for encouraging indoor cat exercise.

Indoor cat exercise games

It goes without saying that one of the best ways to encourage your cat to exercise is to play games with them on a frequent basis. Young cats might happily play with you up to ten times a day, although senior cats will want to play less often – perhaps four times a day or less. However often they enjoy playing with you, short, frequent bursts of two to three minutes is completely fine.

Popular indoor cat exercise games include:

  • Feathers on a stick. This toy is a great way for you to interact closely with your cat. The movement of the stick mimics the movement of small prey; this is another way for them to express their hunting instincts.
  • Balls: Rolling a cat-friendly ball along the floor is a very simple, easy way to encourage them to exercise. Running, chasing and pouncing are all on the menu. Just make sure the ball isn’t small enough for them to swallow, and always supervise the fun.

Remember: It’s important to only use toys specifically designed for cats when playing with them. Toys designed for other animals or children should be avoided for safety reasons.

Create an environment that encourages indoor cat exercise

Indoor cats are naturally far more likely to exercise if they are stimulated by their environment. Having plenty to do, from things to scratch to places to hide in, means they’ll get more exercise as well as be able to express their natural instincts more easily.

  • Provide a scratching post or, even better, a cat tree. This gives them something solely dedicated to sharpening their claws, as well as something that they can climb over.
  • Frequently rotate the toys in their environment so they don’t get bored of having the same objects around them. The more interested they are in their toys, the more likely they are to stay active by playing with them. Find out which toys are best for your cat here.
  • Set aside small amounts of time every day to interact with your cat. Nothing is more interesting than having someone else to play with!

  • Remember: while it’s important to create a stimulating environment for your cat, with changes to help keep them active, most cats like a certain amount of routine as well. Stick to the same feeding times as much as possible, and don’t make dramatic changes all at once.

Let them exhibit their natural behaviour

One of the best ways of keeping cats active is to allow them to do what they love best – expressing their hunting instincts and other intrinsic behaviours.

  • 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 movements 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 behaviour, as well as get some gentle exercise.
  • 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 space 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 be helpful to them in the wild.

The best way to help keep your indoor cat active is to encourage playtime and provide them with a naturally stimulating environment. Remember, indoor cat exercise is an important part of their healthy lifestyle – and a fun one, too! For more information and advice check out our full Cat Mag section.