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Cat treadmill: How to get your cat to exercise

Cat lying on a treadmill

Could a treadmill help your cat exercise?

© StepanPopov - Shutterstock

If you are worried that your feline friend is overweight or just not getting enough exercise, why not invest in a cat treadmill to help them get more active?

By Zoë Monk

Updated on the

Just like their owners, cats need regular exercise to keep themselves healthy. But just like us, cats aren't always that keen on getting up and moving about. That's why a cat treadmill can be a fun way to help your feline friend burn calories and stay in tip-top shape. Here's what you need to know about cat treadmills.

Are treadmills good for cats?

Treadmills have become increasingly popular among humans as they provide a simple and efficient aerobic workout. It can also work for cats in the same way. Cats are incredibly agile and can run up to 30 miles per hour. So running on a treadmill is a great way to get them moving, especially if they are indoor cats with little space to run about. Cat treadmills and cat wheels can make an excellent addition to the life of an indoor cat who can often get bored, depressed and even gain weight. Cat treadmills enable them to expend their excess energy and boost their physical and mental wellbeing.

Do cats actually use cat wheels?

Cat wheels are essentially a treadmill that looks like a large hamster wheel. The wheel turns from the cat's weight and running motion. Cats with medium to high energy levels such as Bengal cats will likely enjoy using a cat wheel to expel some of their excess energy. While it may take a little while for your cat to get used to, most cats enjoy the sensation of being able to run fast on the wheel. As with most things, it's a good idea to get your cat started young on a treadmill or cat wheel. But you can also use their favourite toys or a laser pointer as a positive motivator.

Are exercise wheels bad for cats?

While a cat wheel has many advantages and benefits for your cat, they have a few drawbacks. Most cat wheels are quite large and can take up a lot of space in your home. When your cat is running at full speed, it can make the wheel noisy and, in some cases, even cause the room to shake a little. You must supervise your cat every time they use the treadmill, starting them off slow and gradually working up until you find your cat's speed. 

How to get your cat to use a treadmill

To get your cat used to its new treadmill, allow them time to explore it at their own pace. If they don't show any interest in the cat wheel, get their favourite toy or a laser pointer and play with them near the wheel. Alternatively, give your cat a few tasty cat treats near or even on the treadmill while it's still to get their attention focused on the wheel. Once you feel that your cat is suitable accustomed to their new exercise wheel, pop them on it to see their reaction. You can gently move your hands in a walking motion to get the wheel to move so they can see what happens.

A laser pointer can help encourage your cat to get moving on the wheel when used carefully. Point the laser at a point on the wheel for the cat to try and get. As it tries to get the red dot, the wheel will move, and your cat should start to walk. Ensure that if your cat does any walking on the cat wheel, you reward them with a little treat, especially if you can see them going past their comfort zone. Eventually, your cat should go on the exercise wheel by themselves through consistent training and repetition.

A cat treadmill or exercise wheel can be a big financial investment, but they can become a crucial tool in helping your feline friend stay fit and healthy. While your cat may seem reluctant at first, with time and plenty of your patience, they can be trained to go on the wheel and run off all their pent-up energies. Just remember, if your cat refuses to go on the treadmill or exercise wheel, don't force it. Most cats will eventually do it, but like with most things in the feline world, it will be in their own time and on their own accord.

DIY cat treadmills you can build

Cat treadmills are expensive, especially if you are buying one brand new. However, there are many different ways you can make your own DIY cat treadmill. A simple cat treadmill or cat wheel can be made using plywood, a heavy-duty caster wheel (or even a bike wheel), wood glue, wood stain and screws and bolts.

  • Measure the wheel's backboard, aiming for 110 to 140cm diameter and cut it out using a hand saw or jigsaw
  • Cut strips of plywood to size for the running area of the treadmill (aim for around 35cm in width)
  • Ensure you cut enough strips to cover the circumference of the backboard twice to give it extra strength 
  • Cover the touching surfaces of the cat wheel with lots of wood glue and then clamp all the surfaces together tightly, leaving it for at least 24 hours. Nailing the parts together will give it extra strength
  • Finely sand the wheel and add some wood stain
  • For the base, cut thick plywood to a similar width to the diameter of the cat wheel so it won't fall over
  • Take a strong, thick piece of wood, long enough to keep the wheel off the ground and strong enough to support the weight of the wheel and your cat running on it and drill a hole through the top
  • Bolt the wood securely to the base plywood, adding a 45-degree support to each side
  • Stain the base wood
  • Get your caster wheel and remove the actual wheel as you won't require it
  • Thread a bolt through the section where the wheel had been and into the wooden support beam
  • Attach the other part of the caster to the exercise wheel

You can also add some carpet to the plywood to give your cat a good grip when they are running on the wheel. 

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