There are many techniques you can use to engage your cat in physical activity. This is especially important in cats that predominantly live indoors since they very rarely have their exercise needs met. Try some of these techniques to give your cats the healthy happy lives they deserve.
A good technique which is especially useful in overweight cats is to hide the food in various places throughout the house. Try dividing the daily food into multiple portions and hide these throughout the house. This encourages your cat to hunt for the food rather than sitting in front of the food bowl when you come home! The more inventive you become, the more calories your cat will burn.
Your Cat’s are Predators
Most exercise techniques rely on your cat’s natural ability and desire to hunt. The task you have is to successfully engage them physically and mentally during an activity. Cats in the wild use a combination of intelligence, instinct and physical prowess to catch their prey. If you can provide an activity which engages their attention and abilities then you will have a much more eager play partner.
Prepare the Hunting Ground
When cats hunt, they use natural vegetation as hiding spots to creep up on their prey. Try and visualise the room from your cat’s eyes and think of furniture as substitute bushes and trees. Creating more cover by scattering boxes and cushions on the floor will create a better hunting environment for your cat. Agile cats can enjoy leaping during periods of exercise so create platforms at different levels and vary the play over these levels. Encouraging leaping may not be suitable for older or overweight animals so it is wise to engage these cats at a ground level initially.
The location of your hunting ground depends on your cat’s personality. Shy cats may become more interested in play if they are in quieter rooms away from noisy pets, children or TVs. Confident cats may be perfectly happy to play in noisy surroundings. Try dimming the lights in the room for a bit of variation. This could be a great stimulation for cats that prefer to hunt at night.
Choose the Prey
Some cats are very successful at leaping into the air and catching birds. Some are more skilled at ground hunting of other animals. Knowing your cat’s preferences can guide you as to which toy to select. Many cats will enjoy both methods so a variety of toys are suitable. Rotating the toys can provide both physical and mental stimulation, since different hunting techniques need to be employed for different prey. Make sure you remove the toys after playtime since your cat will soon become bored of them if they are left lying around.
Many owners find the best toys for interactive play are “wand” like toys. Thin poles onto which are attached feathers, toys or brightly coloured streamers. It may take you a few attempts to find out which type your cat prefers. These toys can simulate both birds and ground prey depending on their appearance and how you use them.
Laser lights and torches can create a beam which is easily moved to simulate ground prey and capture your cat’s attention.
A toy with feathers can simulate the sound and motion of a bird if handled correctly. Think of how a bird moves naturally in the wild to engage the interest of your cat. They will soon become bored if the toy is constantly moving in a random motion. Remember birds will land occasionally. They may make small movements as they walk, feed or look around. Subtle movements are better at mimicking natural bird behaviour.
Think of moving the toy like a mouse or other small animal which lives in a world of predators. They will scuttle between hiding places rather than just stay in the middle of the floor. Small movements of a toy can capture a cat’s interest. Try and vary the speed and direction of the movements to create a more challenging target. Allow your cat time to stalk their prey and plan their attack. This will engage them mentally as well as physically.
Don’t forget the fun!!
Exercise needs to be fun for both owner and cat. This helps to ensure that these levels of exercise and play sessions are maintained. Cats are real individuals and not all the exercising techniques are going to be suitable or possible with all. It’s important to tailor an exercise regime for your cat which is both sustainable and fun. This will reward both you and your pet on the road to peak physical fitness.