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.)