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Exercising Your Cat

How to keep your cat happy, healthy and fit (and out of trouble)!

An unexercised and bored cat can get into trouble, become obese and have a multitude of medical and behavioral issues. Many people wouldn't think that exercise for a cat is important. A lot of people also wouldn't realize they are probably already exercising their cat in some way!

Risks of living with a bored/unexercised cat! Cats aren't the same as dogs in terms of exercise. A dog that doesn't get proper exercise and becomes destructive can eat your couch, where a cat will just scratch it to pieces. If cats do not get proper exercise, which you can include a proper diet in that mix as well, they risk becoming obese. Obesity in cats is not healthy, nor is it comfortable for them. They cannot clean themselves properly, they have trouble using the litter box, they likely won't be lap cats any longer, they may live shorter lives, and the list goes on.

The following are some basic, easy in-home exercises you can do with your cat!


  • Cut down on the treats. Instead, offer items that'll get your cat moving, like feather wands or a crinkled up paper towel that they can chase.


  • Laser pointers are something most cats can't resist. Get your cats chasing that shiny dot on the floor! Most cats never seem to get tired of the laser pointer. Tip – skip the pet supply store and pick one up for a couple bucks at the hardware store instead!


  • Vertical space is important for your cat. It helps quite a bit if they have places they can jump to, like window sills, shelves, or cat trees.


  • Make them work for their food. “Food Toys” are great for cats that tend to be lazy or very food obsessed. There are products available like Kongs (for cats) and Kong Dippers. You can elevate the food slightly as well, so your cat will have to stand on their hind legs to eat. Separating the food and water can also be useful. This way, your cat won't be able to drink and eat all at one time; they'll have to work a little bit for both. You can also move the food bowl on top of a table and back to the floor, forcing your cat to jump on and take a few bites, then have to come back down. You can also try splitting the food between multiple bowls spread throughout the house, so that the cat will have to travel to various areas to get their entire meal.


Get creative - DIY and save some cash!

You don't have to spend a ton of money on toys. The nice thing about cats is that they tend to become interested in anything that moves! Simple household items, such as paper bags (never plastic!), empty tissue paper rolls, and cardboard boxes make for great play things for a cat.

Encourage their instincts!

To encourage a cat’s hunting instinct, make them work for their treats. There are cat Kong toys that you can buy that are like puzzles so that the cat has to use their brain to get the food out. You can also make some of these toys yourself by doing things like taking a large shallow box, like a pizza box, and cutting out several 1-2 inch squares so they are big enough for a cat to stick their paw through, but not big enough for their whole head. You can then put treats and toys like balls with bells into these holes so that the cat can bat them around and chase them without immediately being able to get them out.


Remember, cats are predators by nature. They live for the hunt. Satisfy this instinct by allowing them to work on their predatory skills. An active, lean cat will remain healthy and happy for a long time!

DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY: Any advice provided by Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia ("CNKP") is for informational purposes only. The Community Help Desk is managed by volunteers of CNKP and does not necessarily represent the views of CNKP. Behavior and training advice and suggestions provided through its Help Desk are not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a professional animal trainer or qualified animal behaviorist. Any and all advice from CNKP regarding housing assistance, surrender prevention, or veterinary referrals is to be used for informational purposes only and does not substitute for the advice of a professional. CNKP expressly disclaims any and all liability, expressed or implied, with respect to the service and advice received via its Help Desk. Your reliance on the advice provided and/or content of CNKP's website or Help Desk communications is solely at your own risk.

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