How To Exercise an Indoor Cat:11 Ways

In a prior article, we listed a number of benefits from regular playing with your cat. Most of these benefits are because playing with your four legged fur baby is just play to us humans but is cat exercise to your kitty. With regular physical activity, your cat’s health improves and boredom related behavior problems fade away. Exercise does wonders for pet obesity prevention. The good news is that there are many ways to keep an indoor cat active.

In this article, you’ll 11 ways to exercise your indoor cat.

Orange and white kitten with a small red and yellow toy ball sitting in a cat bed.
Don’t you want to play with me?

How to exercise an indoor cat?

Why is exercise important to indoor cats? If you think about a cat’s life if they were an outdoor cat, they spend much of their day hunting for prey and evading predators so they don’t become prey. Outdoor cats are constantly on the move where an indoor cat needs reasons to exercise. They don’t have to hunt for their food, they don’t have to evade predators (unless they consider the vacuum cleaner a predator).

11 Ways to exercise an indoor cat

  • Interactive play is when you the cat owner directs an interactive cat toy while playing with your kitty. It is the most beneficial activity for any cat. The hardest part is to commit the time to play with your pet cat several times a day, every day. Several times a day you ask? Yes, it’s very valuable for your cat physically (exercise) and mentally (stimulation). But if you find this too time consuming, you can play with your cat for only a few minutes every day. You don’t need to schedule this time. Ideally it should even be a very short play session before every meal. Your cat will love it as this helps satisfy their natural hunt and eat instincts. Learn more about interactive toys here with our article on How to play with a cat.
  • Solo play toys are a great supplement for interactive play, but are frequently underestimated. They are not replacements for interactive play with you and your cat. There are two popular types. The first type are small objects that can be tossed all over the place, like fake mice and rattling or bouncy balls. The second type are toys that are attached to springs or strings and can be pawed by your indoor cat. Quite often, cats jump around and paw objects that are not toys at all, such as a plastic spoon. If the object is safe, there is no reason to discourage this kind of playing. One great thing about solo play toys are that they can be left on the floor at all times to catch your cat’s attention throughout the day.
  • Electronic cat toys are adored by busy people. These toys are usually battery operated and they move without human touch. They can hold your cat’s attention for prolonged periods of time. There are many options available, but notable examples are Panic Mouse 360 and Petsafe Flik Toy. Watch the video below to see how it works. Note, though, leaving the toy on unattended for hours is not a good idea. To be safe, you may want to switch it off before leaving your home.
  • Remote controlled cat toys cat toys are also operated by batteries, but are controlled by humans. These toys not only move randomly, but can be directed to mimic movements of real prey. It’s quite similar to interactive play, but many a cat owner would agree it’s also fun for the cat owner. You can use remote controlled cat toys (e.g. RunawayRascal), but can also try a medium-sized remote controlled car if your cat is not afraid of it (we did and our cats loved them, but we haven’t tried remote controlled helicopters, yet). Are you tired of begging your kids to play with the cat? Give them a remote controlled cat toy a try.
  • Food hunting provides exercise that your cat will enjoy. For an outdoor cat, food doesn’t magically appear on plates. Outdoor cats have to hunt it down. It usually accounts for the majority of exercise cats get. You could hide small amounts of food throughout the house and let your cat hunt it with or without your guidance. Another option is to let your cat play with a food dispenser toy such as a Catit Treat Ball. It releases treats as your cat plays with it. You could try puzzle feeders which require your cat to solve the puzzle to receive a treat. IMPORTANT: Remember to subtract what you feed in these sessions from your cat’s daily food to prevent obesity.
  • Leash walking is not only good for dogs. By patiently training your beloved pet, you can teach your cat to accept and even enjoy walking on a leash. Remember, cats are not dogs. You can’t train your cat to heel. Just let your cat take the lead when walking. If your cat seems too stressed when walking on a leash, maybe it’s not worth it. Maybe providing safe and supervised outdoor access is a better approach. For more details, you can read our article on how to train a cat to walk on a leash.
  • Cat agility and other training gives your cat not only exercise, but mental stimulation as well. This not only helps your cat stay fit and stimulated mentally, but it’s lots of fun for both of you. You can watch the video below if you think cat can’t be trained. You can try to teach tricks to your cat and eventually create an agility course in your garden or living room. Your imagination is the only limit as cats can be trained to do almost anything.
  • Vertical territory is very important for your kitty. It’s even more important than how big your home is. Sometimes people think that their house is too small to accommodate a cat. That is not true. Cats can live in a single room if it is appropriately set up. To do this, your pet will need vertical space to climb and perch. This includes cat shelves, cat furniture, window sills, a cat tree, and a cat tower. Try to make these locations so your cat can jump from one to another. Use additional shelves and cat towers as necessary. When you play with your cat, invite them to run and jump on these structures. For more information, please see our article Best cat wall shelf.
  • Things to entertain your cat can be both indoors and outdoors and is another way to keep your cat active, especially at times when you’re not around. You could hang a bird feeder outside your window. This will make your cat jump up on the window sill every day, and that’s a huge benefit to your pet’s health. A fish tank could be greatly entertaining. On the other hand, getting a bird cage to entertain your feline friend is not a wise idea. Your cat will love it, but the bird will feel unnecessary stressed. We recently had a patient in our clinic with a Persian cat that killed a pet bird despite the owner’s effort to keep both animals separated. The owner was claimed because their cat exhibited no hunting behaviors before.
  • A cat wheel is very similar to a squirrel wheel. It’s just slightly larger. Of course, not all cats will enjoy the activity but with positive reinforcement, toys, and treats, you can teach your cat to appreciate this activity. You won’t be able to get them off the cat wheel and your cat will exert a lot of energy in this activity. Watch the video below to see how it works. The biggest disadvantage though, is the price.
  • Adopting another cat can be the best investment to keep your cat active, but it can also make your current cat’s life unpleasant. Cats are social animals but can be extremely territorial as well. Adopting a second cat does not solve your problem of “I don’t have time to play with my cat. Let’s adopt them a playmate.” because both cats will require your attention. If you do most of the above and are ready to make an informed decision to find a playmate, be sure to introduce the new companion to your current cat on neutral territory. Having a playmate for your cat can be a great thing, but don’t rush into it. For details on how to do this, please read our article How to introduce a new cat to your existing cats.

The best thing about exercising with your cat is that once you get into it, you will discover more playtime ways to exercise and entertain your cat while having fun together.

Now that you have 11 ways to exercise and mentally stimulate your cat, you’ll find many undesirable habits fade. This will go a long way towards a happy life for you and your cat. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.

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