Do you own one or more indoor-only cats? If you do, then odds are good that they’re not getting as much cat exercise as they should. So the question is, does your cat get enough exercise?
Outdoor cats are typically healthier, even if they tend not to live quite as long. If they’re free to roam, they will, and their days will be filled with bug-chasing, exploring, and much more moving about than a strictly indoor cat, whose main form of activity will be to wander over to the food bowl to graze, and pounce on you to let you know when the food supply is running low.
The problem is somewhat mitigated if you’ve got more than one cat, because they’ll play together periodically, but even this isn’t a perfect solution. Indoor-only cats need more cat exercise than that, and it’s up to you as a responsible pet owner to see that they’re getting it.
Fortunately, there are two simple changes you can make that will help your cherished pet get all the cat exercise he (or she) needs to be healthy and happy. Here’s how:
The first thing to remember is that cats are hunters. It’s ingrained in their DNA, and even an indoor cat will enjoy a good round of “hunting practice” with you. There are three kinds of hunting strategies you can help your cat hone.
- Pounce Practice – Almost all cats love a good game of “Cover Monsters,” so the next time you’re in bed, and your cat is with you, get a small stuffed mouse and place it under the covers so that you can move the toy around, causing the mouse’s nose to “peek out” from under the covers.
The moment your cat sees this, those instincts will kick into high gear. Ears will go back, eyes will get wide, and you’ll get treated to the signature “butt wiggle” just before the big pounce!
Reward your cat with praise for capturing the evil cover monster and let him savor the victory by playing with it for a few minutes before taking it back and repeating the game.
- Leap Practice – Cats are powerful jumpers, and leaping is an integral part of hunting, in addition to being great cat exercise. You can use the same toy mouse used in the first example, only this time, hold it at least a foot above your cat’s head and encourage him to jump for it.
Ideally, you’ll want to hold it close enough that the cat can successfully snatch it from your hand, so if a foot in the air proves to be too easy a challenge, then each time you play, increase the distance.
As before, reward your friend with words of encouragement, petting, and allowing them to play with their prize for a few minutes before taking the toy and doing it again.
- Chasing – This is big, and is also easy to do. You can buy a wand with a trailing line of soft material, often topped with feathers or a bell, but these are entirely optional. In fact, if you don’t have any money, you can make your own version of this with nothing more than any available stick and a shoelace.
Here, the idea is to simply encourage your cat to chase the string. If you want to go high tech, then a laser pointer works well too, and most cats will play this game until they fall over in utter exhaustion!
The second thing you can do also plays on a cat’s natural hunter’s instincts. Instead of doling out soft, chewy treats by setting them in front of your cat’s nose, hide them at random around the house, placing 1-2 treats in various out of the way places.
Your cat, as a hunter, will regularly patrol the house, and when he runs across one of these treats, he’ll not only enjoy it, but also go on the prowl for more, which increases his physical activity and gives him something fun and challenging to do.
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If you adopt these strategies, you’ll go a long way toward ensuring your indoor cat is getting all the cat exercise he needs, and he’ll love you all the more for it!