Did you set a New Year’s resolution to get some exercise? Don’t forget to include your cats in this resolution. Exercise is important for cats of all ages. As with humans, cats who exercise regularly are generally happier and healthier, both physically and emotionally.
How much exercise do cats need?
Dr. Joy Weinstein, VMD, DACVS from the NorthStar VETS Surgery Team, explains, “We know cats benefit from exercise, environmental enrichment and daily interactive play.”
Cats can be independent, and many will entertain themselves with toys, rush, run, and climb around your home.
“The amount of exercise a cat needs can vary based on age, health, and lifestyle,” says Dr. Jamie Richardson, Chief Medical Officer at Small Door Veterinary. Dr. Richardson advises, “Some cats are more energetic than others, but most cats generally require at least two to three play sessions a day, if not more.”
These game sessions should be spread out throughout the day and not last long. Cats often play in short bursts.
Why is regular exercise important for cats?
“Regular exercise helps keep joints moving and is especially important as cats age and develop arthritis. Cats with arthritis will be stiff or lame when they stand up, but this improves when they move, ”advises Dr. Tartar.
In addition, Dr. Richardson states that helping your cat with regular exercise is a key component in maintaining your cat’s overall physical and mental health, so that your cat remains fit and at a healthy weight.
“Approximately 60% of cats in the US are overweight or obese, which affects their quality of life and makes it difficult for them to enjoy playtime and exploration. It can also lead to medical problems such as diabetes, pancreatitis, and arthritis.” Dr. Richardson explains.
Physical health can also improve behavior problems.
“When cats don’t get enough exercise, they can turn to disruptive actions such as nighttime hyperactivity, scratching unwanted surfaces, or aggression,” says Dr. Richardson.
Helping cats exercise enough can also improve relationships between cats in multi-cat homes and reduce conflict.
How to increase your cat’s movement indoors
The best way to add exercise to your cat’s daily life is to play with your cat.
“Different cats enjoy different play activities. Interactive play can be initiated with laser toys, balls, small toys (with or without catnip), and toys dangling from a stick, ”says Dr. Tartar.
You want to encourage your cat to pounce, chase, jump, and chase. Cats are natural hunters, and you can channel that hunting instinct through games that naturally increase your cat’s movement.
“Provide puzzle and interactive toys that your cat can play with on their own,” says Dr. Richardson.
You can also add exercise to your cat’s routine by allowing cats to work or forage for their meals. You can do this with toys that dispense food, or by hiding treats around your house, on scratching posts, or in boxes for your cat to hunt and find.
“Changing toys every day keeps everyone busy, but remember that toys should be monitored and kept in a safe place when not in use to avoid chewing and / or swallowing small parts like strings or feathers “Says Dr. Tartar.
How do you know if your cat needs more exercise?
All cats need exercise, but a sign that your cats need more deliberate exercise in their daily lives is when they engage in disruptive behaviors such as nighttime hyperactivity, scratching unwanted surfaces, or aggression, says Dr. Richardson.
If your cat has been inactive and / or overweight for a while, it is a good idea to speak to your veterinarian before starting any more exercise.
“If your cat is just getting up to go to the litter box or the food and water bowl, they definitely need more exercise. However, it’s dangerous to just start exercising obese cats as they can injure themselves while running and jumping for toys, “says Dr. Tartar.
Featured image: Yamac Beyter / Getty Images
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