Finding ways to exercise indoor cats is a challenge, especially when they reach middle age and kitten play is no longer a part of their psyche. Here are some ideas for keeping cats active:
1) Place food inside a dispenser toy. These toys have holes slightly bigger than a piece of kibble. When the cat plays with the toy, kibbles are “dispensed”. You can create a dispenser toy by making holes in a plastic bottle or purchase one at your local pet store. Brand names include Buddy Ball and Tricky Treat Ball.
2) My cat loves to chase feathers on a stick or string. These toys are sold at most pet stores. Be careful about metallic ribbons as they may damage the cat’s mouth. I had to treat a nasty laceration when the ribbon lodged between two teeth.
3) Play “follow the food bowl”. Carry your cat’s food bowl or bag of treats around the house. Shake the bowl or bag intermittently for excitement. When the cat begins to lose interest, reward it with a little snack.
4) Move the food bowl around the house. Let the cat search for their dinner. If the cat likes to hang out downstairs, put the food upstairs and vice versa. Climbing stairs is great exercise for cats.
5) Experiment with laser tag. When the cat is winded, let them catch and “kill” the dot. If a cat never catches the dot, it might develop behavioral problems. Give the cat a two minute break and start again. Keep the laser pointed away from all human or animal eyes.
6) Carry the cat into new areas of the house away from the food bowl. Make them walk back to their preferred sleeping areas.
7) While you are watching TV, play a feline version of fetch. Throw one kibble at a time down the hall or across the room. Let the cat return to you and beg before tossing the next one.
With all exercise programs, start out slowly and build up as your cat’s endurance increases. Discontinue play if the cat is winded. Please consult your veterinarian if your cat has a medical condition that might be aggravated by exercise such as heart disease or asthma.