If your cat is piling on the pounds or has become a little sedentary, it can be difficult to know how best to help them to get fitter, or encourage them to become more active. Cats famously sleep for the larger part of their day, and they are certainly not generally associated with being overly keen to exercise, other than when hunting or playing with something that is simulating hunting behaviour and appealing to their instinctive prey drives.
However, it is by no means impossible to coax your cat into getting more exercise, and you can usually achieve this by means of play and games that catch your cat’s attention, and make them feel like the superior predators that they all are in their minds! If you are looking for some tips on how to get your sleepy moggy moving or how to help them to stay active, read on for our tips.
Your first response to this idea might be “sleeping!” shortly followed by “eating!” but even the most sedentary of cats will have at least one weak spot concerning something active or exciting that they cannot resist. Think back to when your cat was a kitten, or their younger days, and try to recall what they used to enjoy doing then; be it hunting, playing hide and seek, or playing on an activity centre or scratching post, and look to these ideas for inspiration to get your cat moving.
Catnip is a totally safe, natural plant that will send even the most serious of cats doo lally, as it has a psychoactive affect on the brain that cats enjoy. The effects are short lived and soon wear off after the source of the catnip has been removed.
Just the smell of catnip can be enough to catch your cat’s attention, so think about adding catnip to your cat’s toys and favourite furniture, as this may well incite them to play! You can even buy products such as catnip bubbles, which you blow through a wand for your cat to chase, often with hilarious results.
Cats are renowned for liking cardboard boxes; something about the material itself and the small, enclosed space within them is highly appealing to cats. Many cat owners will be all too familiar with the concept of buying their cat an expensive toy, bed or scratching post, only to find that their cats are much more interested in playing with the box that contained it!
Cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes are cheap and easy to obtain, so try to get a selection of boxes and leave them around the house with the lids open for your cat to explore. Bonus points for adding shredded paper or a toy to the bottom of the boxes, to encourage your cats to explore rather than curl up and go to sleep!
Cats often like to play with things that make a rustling noise or have an interesting texture, such as crinkled paper bags (never plastic) corrugated cardboard or stiff fabrics that are designed to rustle. Cats often enjoy pouncing on and scratching surfaces such as these, and they will often interest your cat enough to get them exploring and active.
Have you ever spotted your cat having a funny five minutes? They may suddenly start zooming around the house, or batting at you and then running off. Perhaps they bounce up to you and then shoot off to hide behind the curtains or the sofa, before repeating the whole process- if so, your cat is trying to encourage you to play, so don’t ignore them! Get up and “chase” after your cat, playing peek-a-boo with them until they flump out.
Take care not to scare your cat or be too enthusiastic about things, or they may not want to play another time!
One of the best ways to get cats moving is to appeal to their natural hunting instincts with simulated play, and there are a huge range of ways in which you can do this! Toys to chase and catch your cat’s attention are always popular, running from a simple piece of string to a small fabric toy that your cat can carry around in their mouths.
You are much more likely to be able to catch and hold you cat’s attention if you are playing interactively with them, so try to get your cat interested in joining in with play with you.
Laser pointers aimed at a wall (take care to ensure that the laser light does not point into your cat’s eyes) or even remote control toys that you can control from a distance are all likely to be highly appealing to your cat. You might even be able to teach your cat to fetch a toy and bring it back to you to throw if you try hard enough!