Cats, like us, need exercise to shed extra weight and maintain good health. And also like us, the consequences of carrying around extra weight are serious, ranging from osteoarthritis and high blood pressure to decreased life expectancy.

Watching what your cat eats is a given – healthy diet, healthy cat, right? We know that moderate portions and healthy foods are important for them just as they are for us. But a healthy diet isn’t enough. Without the other side of the equation – proper exercise – our cats won’t be fit.

Where do you start? Approach your cat’s ‘workout regime’ with a few key points in mind. First, cats are natural hunters. Their ancestors used to stalk prey for their meals. Second, they’re also notoriously lazy. Your cat is happy to spend most of its day lounging in the sun. It’s up to you to help your cat overcome that urge. Finally, your cat doesn’t have a very long attention span. Keep that in mind when it’s time to engage them in play.

Here are a few tips to coaxing your cat toward a daily workout:

Combine Mealtime and Playtime
Play to your cat’s natural instinct to ‘stalk’ their food with simple toys that parcel out goodies as they engage in a little fun. A simple cardboard box filled with a small bit of dry food and a few holes can keep your cat active during meal time. Feeding your cat on top of their cat climbing tree is another great way to get a little extra exercise at meal time – as is feeding them at the top landing of a set of stairs.

Devote Time Every Day
Devote time every day to exercise your cat. Keep the sessions short – 10 to 15 minutes in active play. Fishing rod toys, toy mice, motorised toys and other toys can keep your cat moving. Even a flashlight can get your cat active. Just remember to let your cat catch what they are stalking occasionally or they could get bored and move along.

Use What’s Lying Around the House
Of course, scratching posts and cat trees can entice your cat to keep moving. But a few open boxes or a few empty toilet paper rolls can keep your cat moving too. Pay attention so none of it turns into a choking hazard. Remember that the best type of exercise for your cat is object play. Cats love their toys. The right type of play will not only keep their bodies fit, but their minds sharp as they pounce, tumble, hunt, paw or stalk across the living room.

Climbing to the Next Level
Most cats love to climb and any climbing activity, if undertaken regularly, will help to improve your cat’s fitness levels. The best climbing trees provide many and varied levels, scratching and climbing options. Scratching is a great way to expend energy – so look for a climbing tree that includes a post which allows your cat to scratch at full stretch.

If you can provide sturdy and safe shelving for your cat to climb up, then do so. There are also plenty of pieces of cat furniture available in pet stores that can help you to help your cat get elevated.

Adjust With Your Cat’s Age
Younger cats may initiate playtime and will likely stay engaged longer than older cats. Older cats – or overweight cats – may not have the endurance to stick with it. But remember that any time you can spend benefits your pet.

Tips to Take Away

A healthy diet isn’t enough – cats, like people, also need exercise.
Use your cat’s instinct to stalk to coax him or her to exercise.
Make 10 to 15 minutes a day to actively engage in play with your cat.
Don’t push your cat too hard – know when to stop (no panting).