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How to Make My Cat More Active: 10 Vet-Approved Exercises & Tips

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on May 8, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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How to Make My Cat More Active: 10 Vet-Approved Exercises & Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc GPCert (Derm) MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Do you have a lazy cat? Are you trying to figure out how to make your cat more active? Cats are undoubtedly different from dogs in this department, and sometimes, it takes a little creativity to ensure your cat is receiving adequate exercise for optimal health. Cats can easily become obese if they don’t receive enough exercise, leading to other health issues, such as diabetes mellitus.

Exercise is important for your cat’s mental health and to keep their hunting skills sharp. In this guide, we’ll learn 10 cat exercises and tips to make your cat more active for a healthier, longer life.

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The 10 Tips to Encourage Your Cat to Be More Active

1. Encourage Playtime

woman-playing-with-her-cat
Image Credit: Kmpzzz, Shutterstock

A crucial step in getting your cat more active is encouraging playtime. Cats are crepuscular creatures and are most active at dusk and dawn, often preferring to snooze most of the day. Dusk and dawn are the perfect times of day to squeeze some playtime in, either before work or after. Doing so will also encourage your cat to sleep better at night instead of keeping you awake.

Aim for 10–15 minutes of playtime each session; even 5 minutes per session is better than nothing. Spread the sessions throughout the day to 30 to 45 minutes as long as your cat is healthy and has no restrictions from your vet (if your cat is a senior, consult your vet for suitable playtime amounts). But how do you encourage playtime? Hang on; we’re getting to that.


2. Introduce New Toys

Cats love wands and teasers, so be sure you have these interactive toys on hand. Even if you already do, introduce new wands and teasers from time to time to keep your cat interested and engaged.

An excellent way to introduce new toys is by subscribing to a cat toy box. Most deliver new toys monthly, allowing flexibility with delivery schedules based on your needs. You’ll receive high-quality toys cheaper than buying directly from your local pet store, and many offer free shipping.

However, if this isn’t an option, you can cycle your toys in and out. If your cat is sick of one toy, put that one away for a while and bring out one that they haven’t seen in a couple of months, as they’ll likely be interested in it once more.

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3. Provide Interactive Toys

persian kitten playing on carpet
Image Credit: Zarubina_Yuliya, Shutterstock

Interactive toys are a great way to get your cat moving, especially those that include cat nip or objects your cat can swat and bat such as toys with a spinning action, balls or bouncy teasers attached. There are a variety of interactive toys on the market designed to get your cat moving and provide mental stimulation.


4. Provide Food Puzzles

Much like interactive toys, cat food puzzles are a terrific way to engage your cat and provide physical and mental stimulation. These take advantage of a cat’s drive to ‘hunt’ for their food and have been shown to reduce aggression, anxiety and fear.1 Remember not to overfeed treats to your cat; the goal is to exercise your cat, not make them overweight in the process. Generally speaking, treats should make up no more than 5–10% of your cat’s diet.


5. Laser Pointers

cat-playing-laser-pointer
Image Credit: LauraVincent, Shutterstock

Cats absolutely love laser pointers; they are almost a surefire way to get your cat engaged. They love to pounce on the red dot and will chase it relentlessly, which brings us to an important tip: end each laser pointer play session by giving your cat a toy they can actually get their paws on. Otherwise, your cat will be left unsatisfied because they never “caught their prey.” Be careful with where you point the laser from a safety point of view, for example don’t point it at windows or your cat’s eyes, and keep play sessions with a laser short and sweet.


6. Invest in a Cat Tree

Cat trees give your cat a place they can call their own. They offer places for your cat to be up high so that they feel safe, an inherited trait passed down from their wild ancestors for protection against predators. Cat trees can be quite exquisite, offering hammocks, toys to bat at, scratchers, sisal ropes, and even condos for napping after a play session.

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7. Buy a Cat Exercise Wheel

Smoky cat running on exercise wheel or training apparatus
Image Credit: Vershinin89, Shutterstock

Exercise wheels are not just for mice and hamsters; many cats love them too! These wheels look like oversized mouse wheels and serve the same purpose: getting your pet active. Look for an exercise wheel with foam, carpet, or other soft padding which allows grip but is comfy on your cat’s paws. Ensure the wheel is sturdy and well-constructed for your cat’s safety.


8. Leash Train Your Cat

Most people think more of dogs than cats when it comes to leash training; however, cats are intelligent and are perfectly capable of being trained to walk on a harness and leash. Your cat will appreciate the great outdoors safely, and it provides an excellent bonding opportunity between human and cat, as well as providing exercise and mental stimulation for your feline fur baby.

Ensure you fit the harness appropriately so your cat cannot slip out and that it’s not too snug to where it’s uncomfortable. It may take time for your cat to become comfortable, but with time and patience, your cat can learn that exploring outside on a leash is a fun experience.


9. Clicker Training

training utensil for cat and dog clicker
Image Credit: bmf-foto.de, Shutterstock

Clicker training isn’t just for dogs; cats can benefit from it, too. You can provide mental enrichment by teaching your cat to shake and sit, much like you would a canine. Clicker training offers enrichment, and it’s fun for both you and your cat. Clicker training is also useful in training your cat not to engage in undesirable activities, such as surfing the counter or chewing on unacceptable items.


10. Provide a Catio for Outdoors

Catios provide an outdoor haven for your cat, and they give you peace of mind while your cat is outside and getting some much-needed fresh air, sun, and movement. Catios are excellent for cats who live exclusively indoors but would appreciate being outside from time to time.

You can build your own catio inexpensively and with little materials, or you can buy one if you’re not a DIYer. Catios allows cats to run, play, and keep their hunting skills sharp for mental enrichment without actually putting them in any real danger.

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Conclusion

Cats need exercise just like any other mammal for optimal health. Cats tend to be more chill than dogs, but getting them moving every day is essential. Once you learn what your cat loves, whether playing interactive games, finding treats in puzzles, chasing a laser pointer, or even going for a walk, you can provide ample exercise to keep your cat healthy and happy. Playing with your cat also allows for bonding between you and your feline, making exercising your cat a win-win.


Featured Image Credit: Natalya On, Shutterstock

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