How to Encourage a Lazy Cat to Exercise
Many people will say that spaying or neutering a cat will make it fat and lazy. This is a bit untrue, cats typically sleep 14 – 16 hours a day regardless of being fixed, and generally become less active around one year of age in most situations.
Often obesity in cats is due to a poor diet (many cat foods are not good quality), however a lack of activity does make things worse. If you think your cat is not getting enough physical activity there are a few things you can do to improve the situation.
If your cat is on a low quality cat food it probably does not have much energy to exercise to start with. Too many cat foods use cheap filler, such as corn, brewers rice, and even by-products. If we want our kitties to be healthy and active we have to start by feeding them better. Cheap foods are cheap for a reason, some spend so much money on advertising, they have very little left for nutrition, and only follow low minimal standards.
Switches to better food should be done gradually. Not only will a cat on better food feel healthier, it will shed less and have fewer feces. Good foods use meat as the number one ingredient, and do not contain any by-products or cheap filler.
Cats like toys they think are new. You can either buy your cat new toys every two weeks or try to trick your cat. Always have a few toys out, but have other toys hidden in a box or drawer. Every two weeks switch around the toys so new ones are out. Provide a variety of toys, some hard toys will bells inside, some soft toys the cat can carry, some cat nip toys (store in the freezer when not in use), and some honey suckle toys (spray with water to bring out more smell). Be sure to encourage the cat to play with the toys by rolling them around.
You should also have a few interactive toys, ones where you engage your cat in play. These are generally toys on strings, and care must be taken that these toys are put away after playtime because a cat can strangle itself in such a toy.
There are many different cat towers, and cat furniture, available today, or you can make your own. The key is to provide a place on the top where the cat can sleep. If placed next to a window the cat will enjoy this even more, but to encourage activity try laying a large cat tower on its side for a day or two, and rub areas with cat nip. This goes along with the notion that cats prefer things they think are new, or at least “different”.
Cats like to climb, so by providing cat furniture with multiple levels we can encourage a bit more activity out of a lazy feline.
Cats are often food motivated. Some owners simply drop cat treats and that is it. If you want to encourage activity toss treats for your cat, or encourage it to do a trick. Jumping over things is probably one of the easier tricks to teach a cat, and the treat is used as a bribe. Similarly when you open a bag of cat treats, and your cat comes to get some, go somewhere else before giving them, make your cat follow you around for a bit.
One of the very best ways to encourage activity in one cat is by getting a companion. It is always best (for feeding reasons) to get cats that are similar in age to each other. If you have an old cat, and get a kitten, they have different diet requirements, so this is very tricky. If you have a three year old cat (for example) you might be best to select a cat that is between 1-4 years of age, leaning towards a younger playful cat perhaps.
Two cats are more fun than one!
If you are a person who is not home very often, having a second companion for your cat is a great way to get a bit more exercise for your cat.
Letting the Cat Out
Although I never want to encourage anyone to simply let their cat outside, if you can keep it safe, cats tend to be more active outdoors, than in. You can build a proper cat enclosure, or catio, or can fence the yard so the cat cannot get out of the yard.
As well cats can be harness trained and taught how to walk on a leash – this is best done if taught first indoors, when the cat is still young. Cats should never be left outside tied up. Cats who do go outside need to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and wormed. They should also be checked regularly for fleas, and should be marked with some sort of permanent identification just in case they get lost.
Perhaps your cat will take up a sport such as horseback riding?
Note: If your cat is obese it should be taken to a veterinarian an be checked for diabetes or other health related problems. As well if your cat is old be sure it is not in pain, as pain can reduce its ability to be active.
Also remember... cats do sleep a lot!