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5 fun cat exercises: How to get your cat to exercise

Cat with toy looking up at camera

Cat exercise will keep your feline happy and healthy.

© iwciagr - Shutterstock

Cat exercise is important for keeping your feline friend healthy and working off some of that extra energy. But how can you get a reluctant moggy to exercise?

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the

Just like us, cats need exercise for its overall health. The movement that comes with being active, especially the kind that utilises your cat's hunting skills, helps keep their weight down and improve their mental wellbeing. Regular exercise can help avoid your cat feeling bored or depressed, leading to serious health and behaviour issues. And it all comes down to playtime.

How much exercise does a cat need?

Each cat's exercise needs are different, depending on their age, health, size and whether they are indoor or outdoor cats. However, cats should ideally have around 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day on average. Cat exercise doesn't have to be running, and after all, you cannot realistically force a cat to do anything they don't want to. Cats are also less motivated to exercise than dogs, so getting your feline moving may take some extra effort.

How to exercise a cat

One of the most effective ways to exercise your cat is to spend some time playing with them each day. You can do this by finding a game that gets your cat active, such as chasing a laser pointer or feather. Don't be put off if they seem uninterested. It may just be that you've not found a game or toy to spark their interest. Here are some tips to try to motivate your moggy:

  • Keep playtime short: Cats aren't really built for stamina and will get tired after around 10 minutes, so they prefer to play in short sessions. These short bursts of play will help them focus and stop you both from getting bored.
  • Use different toys: Your cat may not play with a specific toy, but that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't interested in playing. Therefore, try using different toys to see what your cat likes.
  • Play with your cat at hunting time: Cats tend to be more active at the start and the end of the day as this is when they'd be hunting in the wild. So try to pick these times to play with your cat to get them active.
  • Introduce food puzzles: Many cats are food-driven, so try using treat balls and food puzzle toys to feed your cat some of their daily food allowances. They get a tasty treat while having some playtime exercise. Just make sure you give them a little less food at their mealtimes.

Even if you can't do this for 30 minutes every day, the more you can do with your cat, the better it will be for them.

How to exercise a fat cat

If your cat is overweight, exercise is key to helping them get back to a healthy weight, along with a healthy, balanced diet. But don't try to involve your feline friend in long physical activity sessions. Cats are only designed to participate in short bursts of activity which is why toys and games can help encourage them to get moving.

The best cat toys for exercise are those that stimulate their predatory instincts, such as fishing rod toys. You can also use puzzle feeding as a way to get your cat more active. Put some of their daily food ration inside feeding balls that they have to get out. Making an overweight cat work to find their food is a great way to get them to be more active, burn off calories and help them lose weight.

How to exercise an indoor cat

If your cat doesn't go outside, indoor cat exercise is very important. While it can help your moggy avoid becoming overweight, it also helps to stop boredom and depression. After all, cats are active and curious, and if you give them a chance, they will happily move around and play. Why not see if your cat will enjoy:

  • A catio (enclosed cat patio)
  • Walking on a leash
  • Cat exercise toys at playtime
  • Puzzle feeders
  • Cat scratchers
  • Cat exercise wheel
  • Different things to explore (cardboard boxes, cat climbers, shelves, runways)

How much exercise should a cat get per day? 

If you can, try to encourage your cat to play for two sessions of around 10 to 15 minutes a day. They'll soon let you know if they aren't enjoying it. If they seem bored and uninterested, put the toys and cat exercise equipment to one side and give them plenty of praise and a few treats.

What activities are good for cats?

The best activities for cats touch on a feline's natural instincts. If you've noticed that your cat darts around the house first thing in the morning and then again in the evening, that's because they would usually hunt during those times. These are the best times to play with your cat and get them active. Here are some activities you can do with your cat to help keep them happy, healthy and strengthen your bond:

  • Play a game of hide and seek: This is a great way to unleash your cat's predatory nature. You just need to hide behind a bed, desk or sofa, and your cat will stalk you like their prey.
  • Walk your cat: Yes, walking on a lead is not just for your dog. If your cat is an indoor feline, taking them out on regular walks while on a loose leash will enable them to explore the outdoors and get some great exercise safely.
  • Hunting food: Try hiding small bits of your cat's food or some tasty treats around your home and let your feline friend find them.
  • Feather and string: Playing with feather wand toys is a great activity for you and your cat. By waving it around to mimic a bird's movements, it gives your cat the chance to hunt.
  • Cardboard boxes: You don't always need to buy expensive cat toys to keep your cat active. Cardboard boxes and even paper shopping bags can encourage them to play.

5 cat exercises your pet will enjoy

Playing not only helps your cat stay physically fit but also helps them develop their problem solving and hunting skills and helps keep them mentally stimulated. Try these five exercises with your cat to encourage them to get active:

1. The climber challenge

Cats are great natural climbers, and a multi-levelled cat tower will provide them with an opportunity to run up, climb and stretch. You can make it even more fun for them by placing toys or even the occasional cat treat on the different levels to encourage them to climb up.

2. Laser chaser

A laser pointer can give your cat endless fun and exercise as they chase the red dot. Shine the beam over the wall and the floor to encourage them to run around as they hunt it. You could even pause the light on one of their toys so they can feel the satisfaction of 'catching it. Just make sure don't shine the beam into anyone's eyes, including your cat's.

3. Turn the wheel

Cat wheel exercise is a great way for your cat to burn off some energy. While they may look like huge hamster wheels, they are particularly beneficial to indoor cats.

4. Create a feline agility course

An agility course offers your cat a great mix of challenge and speed and includes obstacles that your cat can jump over or tunnels for them to run through. You can make one yourself fairly easily using different household objects.

5. The friendly pinata

Most cats really enjoy batting things hanging overhead. Put food inside, and you have a winning combination. All you need to do is get a plastic container, cut a small hole in the bottom of it and put a couple of treats inside it. Then use a string to hang it up where your feline friend can reach it. The cat treats will drop out when they hit it enough times or the right way.

Set aside a little time each day for you and your cat to have some fun together. With your help, your feline friend can enjoy lots of fun exercise that will help them keep happy and healthy.

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