How To Get Your Cat To Exercise (And Stay In Shape)

If you want your cat to stay healthy, you need to know how to get your cat to exercise. This really only applies to indoor cats, though some outdoor cats can get quite lazy!

Just like you, your cat needs regular exercise every day. Even if your cat only spends a few hours a day outside, she’ll get enough exercise. Most healthy cats like to chase and hunt.

If you have a garden, your cat will probably enjoy climbing trees or hiding in bushes. She’ll probably also spend a little bit of time running and chasing after things.

This is normal cat behaviour and if you can let your cat outside you’ve nothing to worry about. She’ll probably get all the exercise she needs.

In this post we’ll be looking at how to get your cat to exercise if she spends all or most of her time indoors. You’ll discover how much exercise your cat needs from kittenhood to senior.

Plus, you’ll discover the best type of exercise equipment for your cat as well as how to keep your cat active when you’re out at work all day.

We’ll also look at how much time you should spend playing with your cat each day, and the best interactive toys. You’ll also learn why this strengthens the bond and stops your cat getting depressed.

How much exercise do cats need?

how much exercise do cats need

As previously mentioned, if your cat spends time outside each day she probably gets plenty of exercise. However, if your cat spends much of her time inside you must encourage play to keep her fit and active.

It’s believed cats need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise. Though your cat sleeps for much of the day, when she’s awake she’ll be very active!

Obesity and depression are not only suffered by humans, but our pets as well. And, in the same way we benefit both mentally and physically from daily exercise, they do as well.

Lack of exercise and obesity in cats

obesity in cats

If you were to spend all your day slumped on the couch watching tv you’d soon gain weight. A sedentry lifestyle with no exercise can soon lead to obesity.

Your health would suffer putting you at risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Your cat is exactly the same. It’s not just your cat’s physical health at risk, but mental as well.

As cat parents we want the best for our fur babies, but it can be all to easy to over indulge! Cats learn how to play us, and train their human!

Walking into the kitchen can be a signal for your cat to expect food. Mine winds himself round my legs until I give in and feed him!

So you can see how easy it is for your cat to start gaining weight. Cutting back on treats may seem harsh, but may help prevent many health problems in the future.

Should you keep your cat indoors?

should you keep your cat indoors

This is a question asked by many cat parents. Here in the UK a large majority of cat owners allow outside access. Of course, if you live near a main road, or in a high rise apartment you’d need to keep your cat indoors.

There are also dangers of your cat being stolen, especially if you have a pedigree. It really depends on how you feel, and if you have a safe area outside for your cat to run around in.

One of the main advantages of your cat going outside each day is you don’t have to worry about her getting enough exercise, or getting bored. However, if you feel it’s not safe you’ll need to find ways of getting your kitty to exercise indoors.

Can indoor cats get enough exercise?

indoor cats and exercise

If left to their own devices indoor cats would probably just sleep all day. If your cat doesn’t go outside it’s up to you to create a routine of play and exercise.

Inactivity can lead to lethargy and boredom. Simply tearing round the house in a crazy five minute fit won’t be enough. Cats do this to burn off pent up energy.

However, your cat doesn’t need to chase around all the time to keep healthy. In fact, in the wild felines conserve energy for hunting. Your cat will probably be active in short bursts during the day, which is completely normal.

indoor cats and exercise

One of the best ways to get your cat to exercise indoors is by having 2 cats! Of course this isn’t always possible, and depends on your circumstances.

Adopting 2 cats often works best if they’re from the same litter. Introducing a new cat just to encourage exercise may not always work out!

If you have 2 indoor cats that get along, they’ll fight and
play together. Of course, this is good exercise but they’ll still need toys to stop boredom.

Set aside time each day for two 15 minute play sessions with your cat. This will all depend on when she’s most active.

If you have a kitten, you’ll be exhausted well before her. Kittens make their own amusement and often find fun ways to keep active such as climbing up your curtains, or swinging from light shades!!

Older cats need encouragement, and as I previously mentioned, will become lethargic if you don’t provide things for them to do. Engaging your cat in a game of chase the ball, or catch the feather works well.

Indoor cat exercise equipment to keep your kitty active

indoor cat exercise equipment

Your cat likes to climb and jump. Provide a cat tower with high perches for her to climb up.

Some cat towers and condos have ladders to encourage climbing. Try placing a few treats on the higher perches to motivate your cat!

If possible place the tower so your kitty can view the outside world through a window. This will help keep her stimulated and stop boredom.

Scratching posts allow your cat to stretch and sharpen her claws. Make sure you get one that’s tall enough for your kitty to stretch herself at full body height.

Is a cat treadmill a good way to get your lazy cat active?

Treadmills are not just for us humans. You can buy treadmills specifically for cats, but there’s no guarantee your kitty will actually use it!! That being said, there are certain breeds of cat that can be trained to use a treadmill including bengal and siamese.

You get your cat to start using the wheel by placing a treat inside it. Make sure it’s high enough for her to stretch up and turn the wheel slightly with her paws. This will take a lot of treats and loads of patience, but you may be rewarded with a slimmer, fitter kitty!

You can also get a smart cat treadmill with an LED light that moves into the centre of the wheel. As we all know, cats love laser pointer toys!! It’s the one thing that’s guaranteed to get your cat moving!

The best cat toys to get your kitty off the couch!

best cat toys for indoor exercise

Your cat’s natural instinct is to hunt. In the wild she’d conserve her energy by sleeping, then use it to chase after her prey in short, intense bursts.

You can replicate this by providing hunt and chase games. Laser pointer toys and feather wands are great examples that never fail to work.

Leaving toys lying around expecting your cat to play with them doesn’t always work. A new toy can be a novelty for a short while, but your cat will lose interest.

Robotic toys may prove to be an effective way to get your cat to exercise. As it provides a moving target, it will encourage stealthing and springing actions.

Senior cats and exercise to loosen stiff joints

Your aging cat has many similarites to that of a human. Lack of exercise can not only result in obesity, but stiff joints as well as other elderly cat health problems.

Depending on your cat’s age and mobility you can encourage some gentle exercise. If she can’t jump very high, get a lower cat tower. Make sure she can use the ladder to access perches.

A feather wand can encourage stretching and provide mental stimulation. You can also get treat balls for cats. These provide exercise as well as puzzles. Your cat gets rewarded with a treat after she’s rolled the ball.

How to get your cat to exercise and prolong her life

Your cat will benefit both mentally and physically from exercise. As you know, a good workout makes you feel invigorated and in a happy mood.

This is no different for your cat. The release of endorphins, or feel good hormones make your cat feel calm and content. Exercise will help keeep her body in shape and lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

If you have an indoor cat, there are many ways to encourage exercise. We’ve looked at interactive play, indoor cat exercise equipment, and some of the best cat toys to get your kitty moving.

A cat treadmill may sound like a brilliant idea, but you’ll still need to train your cat to use it. As mentioned previously, feather wands and laser toys are great for getting your cat moving and are very inexpensive.

Having several cats helps as they’ll play together. However, as we’ve seen it often works best if they’re siblings and from the same litter.

If your cat is elderly she can still benefit from a gentle workout. Even if she finds it hard to jump, providing low level perches allows her to stretch and exercise.

Feel free to add your comments and ideas. If you have an indoor cat do you have any tips for getting her to exercise that you’d like to share?

Wishing you a purrfect day 🙂

12 thoughts on “How To Get Your Cat To Exercise (And Stay In Shape)”

  1. Thanks for a great article on how to keep your pet cats active and healthy. Guess what I’m gonna do when I finish commenting to you…yes, play with my 2 cats. And, do you know what they love to play with? A rolled up in a ball aluminum foil! All kinds of store-bought toys around and they prefer the makeshift toy. All my cats over the years always liked a rolled-up aluminum ball. Thanks.

    • Hi Terry, isn’t it strange how cats prefer to play with packaging and boxes rather than the toys we buy them! It just goes to show, you don’t need to spend much to keep to keep your cat amused 🙂

  2. My wife has a cat and we don’t worry about how much exercise she gets. We have 2 dogs and they all chase each other around all the time. If anything, we might need to look into something to calm them all down! LOL

    • Hi Andy, that’s good to hear! Hopefully you don’t get too many breakages in the home with your boisterous dogs!!

  3. Great article,
    One thing I am a little concerned with, especially indoor cats is when they go from being lazy to the oppersite. They can sometimes become overactive and nearly phycho. I had cats most of my life, and in more recent times indoor cats only.

    One the biggest issues I had in the past is cats going balistic in the house jumping from couch to couch knocking things down etc. In the past we even had to get rid of a cat because it was so out of control. You got any advise on how to deal with a cat or cats that do way more than 30 minutes exercise a day.

    I fully agree the cats need to be active but like i mentioned at times it gets way to much.

    • Thank you Sam, yes, some cats are very hyper, and need little encouragement! It’s mostly middle aged and older cats that are prone to laziness. A bit like us! Actually, Feliway is very effective in calming down over active or stressed cats. You could try installing a Feliway plugin diffuser and see if that helps.

  4. Hello Kathy Joyce,

    I enjoyed this article very much.
    I have one (apartment policy) indoor tabby cat, and I’ve always wondered how I can get him to move around some more.
    I play with him frequently with laser pointers and a toy that has catnip inside that he chases around when I throw it. It’s shaped like a fish so my cat practices his hunting skills on it. He wins most of the time. lol.

    I’m interested in these robotic toys. I think there’s even one that has a built-in camera so that you can see your cat while you’re at work. Technology really amazes me sometimes!

    I’m assuming that you are a cat parent as well, if so, how many cats do you have?

    This article is really informative. I thank you!

    Have a good weekend!

    • Hi Migzz, yes, I’m a cat parent as well! Just like you, I live in a flat, and my leasehold terms only allow 1 cat or 1 dog. Luckily for me I’m on the ground floor with access to a garden so exercise is no problem! Laser pointer toys are fantastic at getting your cat to move! When I first adopted my cat last year I bought a laser toy to keep him active while I kept him inside for a few weeks. Yes, it amazes me too how technology has advanced with robotic cat toys. The camera idea sounds fun! Glad you enjoyed my article 🙂

  5. Hi Kathy very interesting about the cat treadmill. I’ve never heard that until I read your post.

    Right now I am catsitting for my daughter and she has a older cat and the cat’s kitten. The older one has seperation anxiety and does not eat or I havent seen here eat. The kitten is fine he’ll eat and play but still shy.

    They’ve only been with us for a couple of days. How do I get the mama to eat? My daughter said she’s done that before. My daughter said if I pour food in front of her she’ll eat but it hasn’t worked.

    Any recommendations?

    • Hi Kaylee, yes, even our pets can can get treadmills now! Your daughter’s cat may be off her food as she’s missing her. You could try Feliway as that may help her feel calmer. Also, try offering her a few tasty treats by hand. Make a fuss of her, and she may start eating. Tuna works well with most cats. Try a small tin of tuna and offer her little bits at a time. Kittens can be very timid just like small children. I’m sure she’ll soon start to socialise!

  6. Hi Kathy, I am a huge fan of cats and I really love your idea of helping cat owners that are struggling with their cat’s health problems.

    Among all the exercises, the treadmill is my favorite since I always think that pets sprinting on a treadmill are really cute. I hope that more people can see this post and teach their cats to do more exercise on a daily basis!

    • Hi Jon, thank you for your comment. Yes, the health of our pets is so important, after all they are a big part of our lives. Treadmills are normally associated with humans, but yes, it can be fun to watch your dog or cat sprinting on one. It can take a while to train though, with plenty of treats involved! 🙂


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