How to get your overweight cat to exercise more
Exercising a cat may seem like a bit of a conundrum. Unlike their canine counterparts, cats are not as enthused to go for a hike or play fetch in the park. But exercise for our cats is just as important as it is for our dogs.
With 57% of household cats being overweight; it’s our responsibility as pet owners to ensure our cats not only eat a well-balanced diet but are mentally and physically stimulated.
The type of exercise your cat will enjoy might depend on whether or not they are food or prey motivated. Luckily we’ve outlived some games that satisfy both types.
Firstly, no more free feeding. Leaving food out all day for your cat to graze on as they please is definitely contributing to their obesity. Instead, feed your cat measured meals, appropriate to their current or ideal weight.
For the Foodies:
Food on the Go: At meal time, put their food in their bowl and walk around the house with it, your cat should follow you around. If you have stairs in your home, go up and down the stairs to get your cat really moving. Give your cat small breaks, let them have a few bites and then continue on with the game.
Food Puzzles: There are many different interactive feeders and treat puzzles on the market which are great not only for the figure but the brain! The cat must manipulate the puzzle to dispense a kibble or treat.
Play fetch: Using a low fat treat or kibble, throw it down a long hall or across the room so your cat will run after it. Have them come back to you before you throw the next one. Our own clinic cat Mary LOVES this game. It satisfies both her appetite and hunting instincts.
Hide and Seek: Shut your cat in a room while you prepare their meal. Then, put their dinner in another room of the house so they have to search for the food.
For the Hunters:
Light play: Laser pointers are an excellent way to get your cat moving. There are many different ones on the market, they are inexpensive and will catch most cats attention. Point the laser up the wall so your cat has to jump and stretch and really get moving
Wand Toys: These toys are great because there are so many different ways you can play with them. Hold them high in the air so your cat jumps up to catch the prey, or drag them along the ground so your cat can run and pounce after them.
Variation: Rotate your cat’s toys. Keep them interested by not always playing with the same toy. Find toys that mimic the movement and feel of actual prey; toys containing catnip are also a big hit.
And if all else fails, get your cat a cat wheel!
Naturally, cats are most active at dawn and dusk; try to play with your cat during these high energy times. Not only will these games be good for your cat’s figure and brain, they will bring you closer together, deter unwanted behaviour (like scratching the carpet or sofa) and will overall help keep your cat happy and healthy.