Health & Wellness Articles

Exercise Ideas for Indoor Cats

Feline Fitness Boosts Emotional and Physical Well-Being

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Until 2010, when a cat walked up to me on the street, all scraggly and dirty, I was ambivalent toward cats. However, that cute little orange face won me over, and I took in the stray we later named Dizzy. Fast forward two years, and that formerly skinny kitty weighed in at 15 pounds. Dizzy, my vet said, needed to go on a diet. More than 58% of cats are overweight or obese, according to a 2009 study. Treats are to blame, experts say, but so is inactivity.

Since Dizzy, like most cats, is an indoor-only cat, I had to find creative ways to get him moving more. Beyond weight management, exercise (playing, really) can even help reduce or eliminate aggressive or destructive behavior in cats as well, according to the ASPCA. That's an extra bonus for cat owners whose attention-seeking pets interfere with their plans to sleep through the night or work without distraction!

Cats are predators, and while it's natural for them to live outdoors, they live longer and stay healthier when living in your home. But as a downside, indoor living can thwart their hunting instincts and cut down on the amount of time they spend moving. Running around the house isn't enough for most pets; you need to build in play time each day to help them burn energy and stay healthy. Of course, we know cats are finicky and each one has a unique personality. If your cat doesn't like one toy or game, try another. And some cats just have no interest in playing with humans or toys, in which case, you've got your work cut out for you!

If you're worried about trying to find the time to play with your kitty in an already busy day, consider this: In 2008, researchers found that owning a cat could lower your heart attack risk by a third. Spending time with a pet has also been found to lower stress levels and blood pressure in humans. If nothing else, it will put a smile on your face and bring you and your feline companion closer.

When to Play
Does your cat get rowdy every night before bed? Does he spend most of the afternoon sleeping, only to wake and demand attention at dinnertime? Pay attention to your cat's natural rhythms, and if possible, integrate playtime into the times when he is more active. A sleeping cat is not going to be excited to be roused for playtime, nor is a post-mealtime play session the best idea. (I learned that one the hard way.)
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About The Author

Stepfanie Romine Stepfanie Romine
A former newspaper reporter, Stepfanie now writes about nutrition, health, fitness and cooking. She is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who enjoys running, international travel and all kinds of vegetables. See all of Stepfanie's articles.

Member Comments

  • The cat I had as a child (a tom that lived to be 18) used to bat and chase one of my marbles for exercise, This was OK until he discovered the knotty pine in the rumpus room under my parent's bedroom - particularity noisy when hit by a marble!! - 7/31/2015 11:26:38 PM
  • Unfortunately I had to put down my cat this year. She was a just a couple months shy of 16 years, but I use to play so called tag with her. Just kind of play chase her around the house, if she went upstairs I wouldn't follow and she'd come back down peek around the corner and give me a "Hey, where'd you go?" look. As far as laser pointers she never paid any attention to them. - 7/31/2015 3:07:09 AM
  • SUEINPALOMINO
    I have two cats. One is old and not up to much at all, but the other one loves to walk on the treadmill. As soon as she hears the beep when we hit "stop", she jumps on and wants to walk. Her best time so far is 7 minutes. Give it a try! - 7/29/2015 1:28:51 PM
  • Every night, I put all of the catnip mice in a basket and every morning I wake up with a trail of mice leading from the basket to my bed, with a cluster around the foot of my bed. My Pancake is such a good "hunter." ;) - 7/29/2015 11:03:19 AM
  • My cat loves laser pointers. I tried a leash once. She freaked out and almost gave herself a concussion from trying to hide under my car. She used to play with catnip mice but those had to go up because they were choking hazards to the dogs. - 6/24/2015 10:21:52 PM
  • Our cats are generally fairly active and we do play with them. We have 2 black toms and the younger one will sometimes get bored and take this toy we have ( a feather on a string with a stick) in his mouth and then he will run around and make the black tom chase him!! Too funny. - 4/9/2015 4:44:48 PM
  • I really wish I could figure out our cat. She doesn't seem to like heights and doesn't climb much. I can't even find her during the day. She will occasionally chase the dog around the house. She actually torments the poor dog, who is twice her size yet seems intimidated by the bird who is about the same size as her. At least we have found that she likes to play with the laser just before we go to bed. Cats are complicated! LOL! - 5/6/2014 5:26:05 AM

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