We often think of cats as lazy. Once they get out of that playful kitten stage, they become, even if just in our heads, these puffs of fur that lounge around. Most of us don’t think about cat exercise as a “thing”. We don’t walk them like dogs, play frisbee in the backyard, or go for long swims at the lake.

But is that because they don’t need the workout? Do cats need exercise?

Do Cats Need Exercise?

Yes! There are several reasons why keeping your kitty active is a good idea.

On average, experts agree a healthy cat needs about 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Kittens and young cats need more – about one to two hours. If you have a pair of kittens or younger cats, they’ll generally look after their own exercise needs by playing, wrestling, and chasing each other around the house. Solitary cats, however, and those out of that kitten stage, tend to be more sedentary and may need some encouragement to get moving.

Here’s why a little feline fitness is a good idea, long and short term.

1. Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight. Obesity in cats is a growing problem, with an increasing number of cats overweight. And this can lead to just like humans, cat exercise helps burn calories that could lead to weight gain. This weight gain can lead to heart problems or conditions like diabetes. Also, if your cat is carrying extra weight, that puts pressure on the joints, which can cause joint problems.

2. Supports Joint and Muscle Health. When the muscles and joints don’t get enough movement, that’s when you’ll see joint problems later in life. Daily movement ensures good muscle and bone health and coordination when cats stalk, chase, or attack stimuli.

3. Reduces Boredom and the Risk of Depression. Yes, despite their penchant for lounging all day, cats do get bored. In fact, about 40% of cats suffer from depression because of boredom. Exercise increases the release of serotonin, a natural chemical that helps stabilize the mood. Plus, cats that don’t get enough exercise may develop certain undesirable behaviours like scratching the floor and furniture. Keeping them entertained and mentally stimulated keeps them happy.

4. Strengthens Your Bond. Playtime is exercise, and playing with your cat helps to improve your relationship!

So, ho can you keep your furry feline active?

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Cat Exercise: Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats

Naturally, cats are hunters. They have a strong prey drive and respond quickly to stimuli. This is the same for cats who spend their lives indoors and those who get outside.

However, indoor and outdoor cats have some differences when it comes to exercise requirements.

  • Outdoor Cats: Cats who spend a lot of time outside naturally have more space to run, and get exposure to real-life stimuli like bugs and leaves. This increases the level of activity they tend to get all on their own, no coaxing required. Most cats who spend time traipsing through the backyard, slinking through the garden, or climbing up the deck railing get enough daily exercise.
  • Indoor Cats: Unlike outdoor cats, indoor cats have limited space and far less exposure to natural stimuli. This means you might need to do more to encourage them to get moving.

Fun Cat Exercise Ideas

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to encourage your cat to move around. Here are a few easy ideas for cat exercise:

  1. Build or buy a cat tower. Multi-tiered cat towers give your cat plenty of places to play and areas to climb for a good workout. The acrobatics are great!
  2. Toys, toys, toys. If an outdoor cat might chase a real mouse, give an indoor kitty a toy mouse to play with and toss around.
  3. Get a feather wand. Waving a feather wand around for even just a few minutes can provide mega calorie-burning magic!
  4. Kitty piñata? Cats love batting things around, so hang toys from higher places to give them the added physical benefit of having to reach to play.
  5. Give yourself a tail. Tie a piece of fabric or string to the back of your pants and get your cat to chase you (or rather, your tail) around the house.
  6. Treat puzzles. Turn mealtime into exercise time with a food puzzle your cat has to figure out to eat.

And remember, you may have to play a part – get down on the ground, toss around those toys, just play with your cat! Have fun and be healthy. Meow.