Indoor cats benefit from the added safety of being shielded from predators, but in that safe space, a new enemy can rear its head, and that enemy is poor health. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) (an American association), 59% of cats living in the United States are overweight. While these numbers may differ slightly for Canada, it paints a fairly obvious picture that indoor cats need help keeping fit. You can help them stay trim with a few new activities and the odd gadget.
These little things may no longer be novel to us humans, but cats still LOVE them. A laser pointer will pull your cat from whatever activity they are doing to join the hunt. Eventually, they will become conditioned to recognize the sound the laser pointer makes and will spring into action at the click of the button. While this activity can’t keep them entertained forever, it’s a good habit to get into at least once every day or two.
Cat toys with strings, feathers, bells, and all sorts of jangly bits are ideal for a cat. They set off their senses and tempt them into chasing, rolling around, and… exercising. These toys can be bought at most pet or grocery stores, but if you prefer, you can make your own! Grab some string, cut some different lengths, and watch your cat go to town on it.
Building a cat run on your home gives your cat the gift of being able to stretch their legs and enjoy the outdoors, all while still in the safety net of your home. A cat run is a long, fenced-in, covered attachment for your home and yard, where the cat can exit when they please (usually through a window) and go for a quick run in the grass. Think of a catio, but one that is longer and shorter. You can build it however you please, but it needs length if the cats are going to get any exercise out of it. To get ideas for designs, have a look around online and pick up materials from a place like Home Depot or Lowe’s.
These allow your cat to stretch, and resistance train their muscles. It keeps their arms toned, meaning a stronger and more agile kitty, one that will be more inclined to keep exercising. These can be bought in any pet store locally, but also online from places like Amazon or Wal-Mart.
Cat wheels are like a big hamster wheel. Not all cats take to them, but you can encourage them to use it and show them it’s safe. The wheels are set up on bearings and have sticky surfaces to let your cat grip and run! For more information, check out the One Fast Cat website: https://onefastcat.com/products/cat-exercise-wheel
Make Mealtime into a Game
Cats love the thrill of the hunt, and when it’s time to eat, with your dry food, throw it out to them one piece at a time. They will want to chase after it and eventually they’ll figure out the game. Sometimes you can get them to jump dramatically into the air or run full tilt down the hall! If you do this with an extra meal, as opposed to a regularly scheduled one, it may not make much of a difference in their health, but as a replacement for the odd mealtime, this can be a great method for building some exercise into the day. It also brings out their predator instincts and lets them show off a bit!
Special Note: Diet
First and foremost, learn how your cat is eating. If they have food insecurity issues, they may benefit from an automatic feeder. Overeating is a big issue for some cats, as they like to eat when bored. Not all cats have issues with this, but ‘grazing’ (leaving a bowl always full of food) can be one of the behaviours keeping your cat fat.
Automatic feeders allow you to regulate the amount of food, and the frequency with which it drops, preventing any overeating that may have otherwise occurred. These can be set up to drop specific amounts at specific times you choose throughout the day.
Additionally, there are some cat toys that periodically drop treats and make it a bit more of a challenge for your cat to get to the food. This helps hone their hunting skills, as well as their problem-solving skills.
At the end of the day, your cat should be exercising and eating the right amount of food as prescribed by the vet. Obesity is quite detrimental to their health and most cats cannot control themselves at mealtime. It is up to us, as owners, to ensure they remain healthy. Get them started with some cat toys or string, the mealtime game, and a laser pointer. For those who want to take things to the next level, cat run, cat wheel, and anything else that encourages them to move should satisfy.