Sure cats love to sleep, but exercise is crucial for them to remain healthy and happy. They need exercise, plain and simple.
Cats who don’t get enough activity during the day can have all sorts of problems such as unwanted behaviors, lethargy, depression, obesity, heart disease and lots of other illnesses.
The good news is you can make it fun for you both by engaging them in play that mimics their own natural instincts. Here are some tips to ensure your cat is getting enough exercise.
Make it fun. I started Dezi & Roo to help owners encourage cats to play. Our toys mimic real life prey so cats are instinctually drawn to them and are more likely to come back for more. You can help your cat have fun by learning what kind of “hunter” they are.
Start with a variety of toys: wands, tunnels, plush, balls, and cat attractants like silver vine or catnip. Use the toys to mimic the movements of the kinds of small animals cats catch in the wild such as lizards, voles, birds, snakes and bugs. Watch how he reacts to each type of toy and movement. The one that gets him moving is likely his favorite. Rotate often to keep the hunt interesting.
Make it challenging. Be sure you’re not making their hunting too easy or too difficult. Cats should only catch their prey about 30% of the time. Prey will outsmart them, run, hide, and even change its movements. It’s your job to keep it interesting.
The best way to keep your cat challenged is to encourage them to chase, pounce or bat. Flick their wand toy just out of reach; toss their ball; make their plush skitter across the table. Get that “prey” moving and your cat will follow. Vary the movement and tease her a little. You can even hide the toy behind a box or piece of furniture. Cats are so smart, and they love the challenge of finding their prey.
Patience can also go a long way in keeping your cat interested. Don’t constantly move the toy or wave it in their face. Wait for them to attack. If your cat is focused on the toy, they’re still engaged and will eventually go for the “kill.”
Just remember it’s important to let your cat catch the toy eventually or they’ll give up out of frustration or boredom. And let them drag it away. That’s what cats do.
Make it regular. Play time needs to be consistent and frequent, but it doesn’t have to be lengthy. I set aside just a few minutes twice a day to play with my cats. They know when and where to expect the fun, and they show up! We’ve trained each other to remember our daily “dates.”
Cats are creatures of habit and will feel safer and happier when they know what to expect. And with how busy we all are, it will help to have a routine with play time worked into your schedule.
Change it up. Yes, I know I just said that cats like a schedule, but they also are super smart. If you only ever offer one kind of toy or always do the same movements with it, they’re going to get bored… and so will you.
I recommend regular toy rotation. A good rule of thumb is to switch out your cat’s toys at least once a month. I keep a few small boxes of toys. Once a month, I go around the house, gathering up all the cat toys and throwing them in an empty box. Then I trade it out for a different, full box of toys that I scatter about my home. It’s an easy way to keep your cat interested in his prey.
You can also buy or make something new from time to time. Get creative: build a box fort; let them play with that scrap of paper; bring in some leaves from outside. Cats will play with just about anything. Give them choices.