Cats and Exercise

August 29, 2011

Cats have short attention spans, so putting them on an exercise program doesn’t take a lot of time. Keep sessions short. Two to five minutes a few times a day is plenty. And remember that cats are nocturnal. They’ll be more interested in playing once the sun goes down. Most important, introduce exercise gently and gradually. Obese cats can injure their joints if you try to get them to do too much too quickly. Hold off on the jumping and stair running until your cat has lost some weight.

So how can you end your cat’s life in the fat lane? Cats are predators, so key in on their ability and desire to stalk and chase. Look for toys and treats that will encourage him to chase or bat at objects. Think electronic mice, balls that light up when they move, laser pointers and catnip-filled toys that make a crinkling sound when pounced on. If your tastes are simpler, toss a Ping Pong ball in the bathtub to simulate a feline hockey rink.

Aim the laser down the hall, up and down the stairs, onto the furniture or up the wall for a little vertical action. Beyond the basic red dot, some laser pointers can produce different images, including butterflies, mice and stars. Be careful not to shine it in your cat’s eyes.

Wand- and fishing pole-type toys are favorites, too. Some fishing-pole toys mimic the real thing, with a fly reel that has a catnip-stuffed mouse attached at the end. Cast it down the hall, reel it in, and watch your cat go wild chasing it.

Cats are climbers. Put up a floor-to-ceiling cat tree that gives your cat a view of the outdoors, or install window box bird feeders that encourage the cat to jump onto the windowsill.

If your cat yawns at toys, appeal to his self-interest: food and its whereabouts.

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