6 Creative Ways to Transform Your Cat Into an Indoor Athlete

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January 03, 2017 | 24,786 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Most indoor cats don’t get nearly enough exercise to keep their bodies fit and their minds stimulated
  • Keeping your cat well-exercised doesn’t have to cost much money — it just requires a bit of creativity, time and attention. One example: Turn mealtime into a workout session
  • To help kitty stay fit, it’s important to supply her with a cat tree. Empty paper bags (with handles removed) and cardboard boxes are also a big hit with many cats
  • Also consider training your cat to walk on a harness and leash so you can take her outdoors safely to explore

By Dr. Becker

The majority of feline family members don't get enough exercise to keep their bodies well-conditioned and their minds stimulated. Regular aerobic activity provides incredible benefits for your kitty companion, including:

And while helping your cat stay physically fit can be more challenging than exercising your dog, it's far from impossible. It just takes a little creativity and motivation.

6 Tricks to Keep Kitty Active

1. Toys

The good news is you don't have to spend a lot of money to fill kitty's toybox. You just have to think like a cat and use toys that draw out his hunting instincts. A piece of string wrapped around the end of a stick that you drag on the ground will bring out the stalker in almost any cat.

So will ping-pong balls or small balls of paper flicked across the floor. And if you happen to be artsy-craftsy, you can even make your own inexpensive kitty toys like these yarn balls my niece, Blair, created.

A sturdy acrylic yarn stands up well to rough cat handling. It's washable and won't stretch too much, plus the fibers won't fray or break down enough for kitty to accidentally ingest them.

Wool is another good fabric for this purpose; when you run it through the washing machine, the heat and friction felts the fibers into one tough surface. It's best to knit your wool yarn toy first, then launder, which locks the fibers together and makes the piece softer.

I enjoy knitting, and prefer to use organic cotton for making my pet's tugs and toys.

2. Trees or towers

Cats love to climb, so every home with a kitty in residence should have at least one multi-level cat tree or tower. Whenever she goes up it or uses it to sharpen her claws, she'll get in some good stretching, scratching and climbing time.

3. Turn mealtime into a workout session

Here's how to do it. Put Fluffy's meal in a bowl, and walk around the house with it, with her following close behind. Stop from time to time and offer her small bites.

As she gets used to this new game, you should notice her being very active as she weaves around your ankles, runs ahead then turns back and runs towards you, stretches up toward the bowl and hops around on her back legs.

After 10 to 20 minutes and a good little workout for kitty, you can put the bowl on the floor and let her finish up her meal.

4. Try-to-find-me games

Cats often think boxes and bags much more fun than whatever came in them, and they can get a good little workout investigating them. For example, an empty gift bag with the handles cut off and some tissue paper makes a fun and fascinating little hiding spot.

Many cats also absolutely love to "hide" in boxes, especially ones they don't quite fit into:

5. Take a walk

Just because Tiger lives indoors doesn't mean he doesn't need or deserve to spend time outside. Just like dogs, cats require mental stimulation and the opportunity to explore the world beyond their front door. Kitties also benefit from grounding.

Sadly, many indoor cats spend their entire lives never feeling the earth beneath their feet, but one way to broaden a willing cat's horizons and enrich his comfortable, if under-stimulating indoor existence is to train him to walk on a harness and leash. In fact, walking your cat can be an ideal way to allow him safe, controlled access to the great outdoors and increase his physical activity level at the same time.

6. Consider "at-home" kitty agility training

Believe it or not, feline agility competitions are a thing! And while convincing your cat to actually compete might be out of the question, I think there are some great ideas we can borrow from these events to help our own kitties stay physically active. Feline agility competitions are modeled after dog competitions. Cats run through a scaled down, feline-friendly obstacle course that includes hurdles, tunnels, hoops and poles.

Cat parents or trainers use a feather or other type of wand to try to persuade the kitties to make their way over, under, around and through each of the obstacles on the course in as little time as possible.

Even if your cat doesn't have a competitive bone in his furry little frame, I think feline agility competitions offer some good ideas for activities we can try at home to get our indoor cats off the couch and moving. The key is to use something chase-able to entice your cat to engage in more physical activity.

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