Exercise is important to keep your cat healthy. If your cat is on the heavy side, be sure to start in small doses. When we first brought Bronson home, he was 30lbs and would quickly tire out when playing with toys. However, when anything with food was involved, he'd push through. Make sure to give your cat a break if they start panting or sticking their tongue out.
It can be hard to get a cat to be more active. It seems like 90% of the time I wave toys in front of them, they don’t want to play. Luckily, Bronson is motivated by food and so almost all of these games end with him eating. We’ve found that freeze-dried chicken and dental treats work really well for this.
It's not only good for your cat's body to get exercise, but also good because it keeps their mind active. If you're interested in learning more about Importance of Feline Enrichment, check out our blog.
1. Food Walking
This was one of the very first exercises we did with Bronson after adopting him. Initially, he preferred to sleep and would only get up to eat and use the litter box. This is where "Food walking" was born.
Early-stage - We started off with moving his cat grass about 6 feet at a time as he ate it.
Intermediate - Eventually, we started doing the same for his wet food during meal times. Then we started increasing the distance so he would be doing a large circle around our living room.
Advanced "Food Walking"- If you have stairs in your home, you're in luck, because they are great for exercise. Bronson always preferred sleeping in the bed upstairs, so during meal times, we would take his food downstairs so that he would need to take the trip down to eat. Then after he was done he would also need to take the trip back up to his bed. After a few times of this, we started worrying about his joints and held off until he dropped under 30 pounds (13.6 kg).
2. Playing with toys
3. Tossing dental treats
Chasing after dental treats is one of Bronson's favorite activities. This is one that he will never stop doing so we're careful not to overdo it. If you have stairs, tossing dental treats up and down them for your cat to chase is even more exercise for them.
4. standing for treats
This has been one of the most fun activities to see progress over time. When Bronson first tried to stand for treats it was one of the cutest things ever. At that time we celebrated seeing him get his front paws off the ground about an inch and today he's dominated the sport.
Standing at 30 lbs (13.6 kg)
Standing at 23 lbs (10.4 kg)
Jumping at 18 lbs (8.1 kg)
5. Walking on a harness
Exploring outdoors may be another good source of exercise, but it's not for every cat. Our cat Heisenberg is incredibly skittish. He will come out on the porch as long as he can hang out right next to the door and it remains open in case he changes his mind.
But other cats really enjoy the outdoors and giving them the opportunity to safely explore the wildlife offers a nice source of enrichment and also promotes them to get up for a walk.
To initially get Bronson used to the harness we would put him in the harness and then toss treats around the house so that he would walk in the harness and then receive a treat. At the time, Bronson was too heavy for flea and tick medicine, so he had months of wearing the harness indoors before actually going outside.
6. Playing on Cat Furniture
Cat furniture can be really beneficial in promoting exercise because using it entails your cat climbing and jumping up the wall.
This is something we keep in mind when designing our cat wall condos. Since cats like to be up high, we design them with having a high perch to end on. Typically that endpoint is some type of lounging area, but can also be something like a feeder or planter lounge. So for cats to get up to their favorite area, they first need to climb up things like shelves, sisal poles, and hammocks.
The Juggernaut Cat Condo shown below is a good representation of this.
I remember how excited we were the first time Bronson climbed up on our cat furniture, because for the two years prior he'd been watching the other cats climb up sisal poles and jump along cat shelves from below or his hammock that was mounted close to the floor. So when the day came where he was healthy enough to maneuver up the walls himself, it was a huge celebration.
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