The Top 3 Ways to Exercise Your Cat

black and white tuxedo cat laying on its side looking at the camera

Cats get a bad rap for being lazy, unmotivated, and just wanting to take a nap. But the cold hard truth is they need daily exercise, just like us humans. An active cat is a happy cat.

Helping your cat get enough activity can be difficult. Cats aren’t like dogs. You can’t throw a tennis ball to them and they instinctively know they must retrieve it. You throw a toy for a cat to catch and you’re (most likely) out of luck.

As cat parents, it’s so important that we take the time to learn how to properly keep our feline fur-iends fit so they stay healthy. 

So we’ve got three tips that are sure to get your cat moving in no time. 

1. Let your cat explore

Cats are natural hunters and with that comes exploration. They need fresh air and sunshine to stay healthy and happy. If you want to give them a chance to explore, you might consider a unique indoor adventure or giving them a safe outdoor space like a catio.

Give your cat an indoor adventure

Cats get very comfortable with their usual spaces. Your living room and kitchen can get pretty dull if that’s all they see 24/7. One way to give your cat a little variety is to open up spaces they don’t get to explore very often, like an attic or garage. If you live in an apartment or condo, you can let your cat explore the hallway or staircases. 

The simple act of smelling new things or seeing new household items can be interesting for your cat. Add a few tents, tunnels, empty boxes or play rugs and watch your cat sniff and stalk their way through the room.

Even a closet or storage room can be a fun mini adventure for your cat. I let my kitties sniff around the box where I keep the toys I have on hiatus. When it’s time to swap, I open up the closet, get out the box of toys and let them decide what’s on the playtime menu for the month. Wand toys seem to be a perennial favorite. 

Set up a safe outdoor environment

Just because it isn’t safe for your cat to roam freely outdoors doesn’t mean they can’t have a little backyard adventure. Two of the most popular options are screened enclosures and cat-proof fencing. 

Outdoor time can help your cat:

  • Get exercise
  • Explore their surroundings
  • Hunt for prey
  • Socialize with other cats
  • Enjoy the sun and fresh air

A safe outdoor environment like a catio or screened patio/lanai can provide your cat with all the benefits of the outdoors without the risks of being exposed to predators, cars, or other dangers.

The space should be big enough for your cat to move around comfortably and explore but also secure enough that your cat can't escape. You can build a catio yourself or buy a pre-made one. My book has a tutorial for making a small window catio for your cat. And of course, you could have a custom space built – if you’ve got the extra dough to spare. One thing’s for sure: Your cat will love it, regardless of the cost.

orange tabby cat sitting in a window catio box

Cat-proof fencing has become popular for folks who want to let their cat outdoors without limiting them to a catio. This kind of fencing has either a rounded top or coyote roller so kitty can’t jump or climb over. You can add these to your existing fence, or build a cat-proof enclosure from the ground up. 

BUT! As us cat parents know, nothing is 100% “cat-proof,” so you’ll want to take your cat’s abilities into account any time you let them outside. If you want that extra level of security, you might want to try leash training your cat. It’s extra work, but many cats love going for walks. 

2. Give Them Room to Run and Climb

Climbing and running are both fun and stimulating activities for cats, and it can also help them to stay fit and healthy. Scratching posts, trees, and other climbing furniture may help satisfy their natural instincts. 


Indoor cats have an instinct to climb because in the wild, cats climb trees to hunt prey or to escape from predators. Climbing also allows cats to survey their surroundings and to get a better view of their surroundings. 

So how do you make the perfect climbing surfaces for your pet? The good news is you don’t have to build an entire indoor playground. Although, your cat would love it if you have the space.

You can easily keep climbing fun with a simple cat tree from the pet store. There are many to choose from in sizes to fit just about any home. 

Cats are very agile and have sharp claws that help them to climb. They also have a strong sense of balance, which helps them to stay on even the most precarious surfaces.

If your cat is more prone to sleeping on their tree than playing, try initiating play time on the tree. Dangle a wand toy over the tallest part and make them climb up to it.

white cat sitting on a bookshelf


Most high-energy cats love to run, and will often get the zoomies throughout the day. The good news is that running doesn't require special equipment, although they do make cat exercise wheels, think giant hamster wheel, but for cats. If your cat shares DNA with any of the more playful cat breeds, like Bengals, they might really love an exercise wheel. 

Wheel can be wonderful but they are expensive, and we think play time should be easy and frictionless. Try using a play mat or sheet like our Magic Carpet to pitch a kitty tent, or unfold a Hide and Sneak to create a pseudo racetrack for your cat. Sprinkle in some toys and you’ve got the perfect zoomie-approved space.

3. Add a Pinch of Silvervine to Playtime

We have talked about silvervine many times on our blog here, but, in short, it’s a species of kiwifruit that produces a euphoric response in cats. Think of it as an alternative for catnip. So how does this help your cat stay fit?

Cats love it, and since it’s similar to catnip, it can energize your cat and put them into overdrive. They’ll burn off excess energy and stay in shape. 

It’s super easy to use. Sprinkle a pinch of silvervine on your cat’s favorite toy. Or try a scent enrichment toy, like our new Pop ‘n Purr toys. It will add a little variety to your cat’s play time as they try to figure out where that great smell is coming from. 

And of course, you can always let them just roll around in it on the floor. 

[insert that video of the cat rolling in the silver vine that I sent you!]

Keep in mind that silvervine can have the opposite effect, too. Some cats become very mellow when introduced to silvervine. Just test it out before you introduce it into your cat’s workout routine. If you do find out that silvervine calms your crazy cat, congrats! You found the purrfect solution for calming your cat in stressful situations. So grab a wand toy instead and save the silvervine for the cool down.

Play is Essential to Your Cat’s Wellbeing

We all want our cats to live long and healthy lives, but we often forget how much care and attention our feline friends actually need, especially when it comes to play.

Don’t worry about the details. If your cat is moving and using their brain, they’re getting the stimulation they need from play. 

For more tips on how to improve your indoor cat’s quality of life, check out the book I co-wrote with Laura Moss, Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World. It's full of information and offers a unique perspective on how we can do our best for our fluffy besties.

Cover of book Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World

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