Cats need daily exercise - along with a nutritious diet - to keep healthy and maintain an optimal body weight. Obesity in cats is a serious health issue and it can lead to a range of health problems including high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, diabetes and decreased life expectancy.
But where do you start? Here are a few tips to help you understand your cat’s daily activities and how to encourage your cat to get regular exercise.
Exercise and Play
As well as providing necessary exercise, playtime is critical to your cat’s mental health. Try devoting 15 minutes each day to playing with your cat. You can use fishing rod toys, a toy mouse, a dangling string or a tumbling ball of tissue paper cast across the floor. An open paper bag or a cardboard box makes an irresistible toy for exploration and play. Flashlights and laser pointers will also get your cat running around the house. There are also many toys available that encourage your cat to play in your absence, which can be great for cats that have owners who work long hours.
Creating a lively environment to channel your cat’s energy helps tone muscles, keeps extra weight off and potentially redirects your cat’s energy into activities that may be less destructive than some alternatives. Check out this article for some great ideas about DIY toys for cats.
As cat owners know, cats like to sleep for long periods and can sleep for up to 16 hours a day. They are crepuscular animals, meaning that they are most active during the twilight hours at dawn and at dusk.
Cats have two very different types of sleep. Deep sleep is the norm until kittens are about two months old. By then, they start alternating between deep sleep and light sleep. In light sleep, your cat is dozing in 15 to 30 minute periods, with an ear cocked and ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. Light sleep alternates with five-minute periods of deep sleep until your cat is ready to awaken.
Observing From High Up or From Under Cover
Cats naturally like either getting up high or finding low cover - they have a natural instinct to be a tree or a bush dweller. Cats like to climb up high where they can observe their surroundings. Some may prefer finding small spaces to hide and instinctively curl themselves up in tight spaces in order to protect themselves. It's a behavioural trait of cats, where cats who feel threatened or insecure will usually go and hide.
If your cat likes high vantage points, there are plenty of pieces of ‘cat furniture’ available in pet stores and online that can help you to provide your cat with an elevated vantage point. However, sometimes the best spots are free i.e. a space on top of your book case.
Cats typically fall into routines perching on the same shelves, rushing to the kitchen at feeding times, or sliding from one regular napping spot to the next. If you notice your cat’s daily behaviour changing, consult your veterinarian.
Tips to Take Away
- A regular routine of play keeps cats mentally agile and provides healthy exercise.
- Note that cats cycle from brief periods of deep sleep to longer light sleep.
- Cats who feel threatened or anxious will find a place to hide.
For More Information on Encouraging Cat Activity