Controlling your Cat’s Weight through Exercise

Cats, just like people and dogs, need regular exercise.  Many cat owners don’t think to exercise their cats, because we generally don’t take them to the park, or on a walk, like we do routinely with dogs.  However, as a cat owner you should know that your cat’s inactivity can lead to obesity, which can lead to medical problems.  An overweight cat is more susceptible to developing diabetes mellitus, or having orthopedic problems.  An estimated 57% of U.S. cats are overweight or obese, according to a 2008 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. To learn more about obesity in cats, click here.

Inside or Outside Cat?

Cats that are allowed outdoor time tend to have less obesity. These cats are generally more active than cats that live strictly indoors, but there are risks to letting your cat go outside.  They can get into fights with other cats, be attacked by dogs or wild animals, be hit by a motor vehicle, or get lost or stolen.  Although it might seem that a cat would be bored staying inside, they can actually live a full life if given the right environment.

Chase Games for your Cat

There are many games and toys that can help to exercise your cat indoors. Cats love to chase toys.  They are predators and having toys that they can chase or hunt often is very exciting for them.  Get toys that mimic the action and appearance of some of their potential prey like mice, birds, lizards, or bugs.  It is up to you to make the toy “come to life” for your cat.  Vary the speed, make the toy hide and come out all of a sudden, make it fly, and keep the chase going for awhile.  Don’t make it too easy, but occasionally let your cat win.  You can even try dimming the lights since cats like to hunt when it is darker.  The other toy that most cats really enjoy are laser pointers.  If you move the laser around the room your cat will chase it like it were a bug.  Watch out where you direct it because your cat will go just about anywhere you direct it.  This can be very easy for you and extremely exciting for your cat.  See the video below of cats enjoying a game of laser chase!

Cats rarely get bored of this game.  Twenty minutes a day should be significant amount of time for your cat to exercise each day.

Scratching Posts for your Cat

It is also recommended that you have scratching posts and cat trees for your cat.  cat with scratching post Your cat can maintain a healthy claw length, work the muscles in the shoulders and forelimbs, and reduce stress.  Yes, your cat can benefit from this in more ways then just physical.  In fact, cats that are bored often do bad things, such as urinate or destroy household items.  The cat tree provides them with a structure they have to climb and jump to get to.  Both the cat scratch post and cat trees can give your cat healthy things to do while you are away.

Have a pet dog too? Click here to learn how to exercise with your dog to maintain her healthy weight.

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Dr Peter Nurre

Peter Nurre, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (internal medicine) is a board- certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. His professional interests include internal medicine and cardiology.

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