Fun and Engaging Ways to Keep Your Cat Active and Healthy
I’ve always shared a special bond with any feline friend I meet. Ever since I was young and helped bottle nurse a litter of kittens, I encouraged this relationship. This furry friend has a unique way of communicating its demands vocally or through body language. The trick is to learn to listen.
The good news is that cats respond. Keeping a cat busy with mental and physical stimulation is an easy task for pet owners. There are dozens of cat food puzzles and cat exercises available that keep your cat busy, but there is more to keeping a cat healthy.
Importance of Keeping Your Kitty Engaged in Healthy Activities
An engaged cat is a healthier cat. Experts suggest that we still don’t fully understand cats, their signals, and their behavior, and they suggest we are at least 15 years behind in this study compared to what we invested in understanding another furry family member.
Benefits of regular play and exercise for cats
Indoor cats and older cats are prone to develop lazy habits. That’s on us--the pet parent. It’s our job to provide indoor cat activities that keep our felines fit and lean. Obesity in cats is also on the rise, partly because we spoil them with high-calorie treats, sometimes out of guilt.
Without regular exercise and fun activities, cats can experience muscle atrophy and develop joint and hip problems. Those are the same problems sedentary people experience, and obesity leads to diabetes.
Fun Ways to Keep Your Cat Active and Healthy
Understanding how cats behave in the wild or with other felines is a good tip to keep your cat happy. They engage in play fighting, climbing, stalking, and chasing. The good news is that cat toys don’t have to cost much. Cats love empty boxes, strings, paper bags, rolls, and moving objects, especially if bits of fur or feathers are attached and interactive play.
Use puzzle feeders to make mealtime challenging
Puzzle feeders are ideal for cats who enjoy their treats. Food puzzles not only encourage movement but they remind cats of their hunting instinct. Puzzles are fun activities that reward the cat and encourage exercise. It’s also fun to watch as your pudgy felines hunts for their food.
Did you know cats don’t thrive on a vegetarian diet? Felines are meat eaters or obligate carnivores, and a cat's health depends on it. It’s important that a cat’s diet contains meat from dry kibble, canned food, raw food, or a combination.
Cats simply can’t produce nutrients independently and have a shorter digestive tract than plant eaters.
Maintain your cat’s hygiene for good health
Cats are usually easy to litter train, but they don’t like stinky litter boxes. World Animal Foundation suggests the usage of automatic litter boxes for cats as they provide convenient and efficient waste management. These products help in saving time and effort while maintaining a clean and odor-free environment for both cats and their owners.
Despite what litter method you settle on, encourage good hygiene by keeping the litter box clean.
Good hygiene also means:
- Grooming or brushing on a regular schedule
- Refreshing the water supply
- Providing access to a scratching post or carpet
- Checking for ear mites, ticks, fleas
- Placing a pad next to their litter to walk off any debris
Bathing cats isn’t necessary; if you try, good luck!
Walk and exercise on a daily basis
I’ve never leash trained a cat, but I see it more frequently. Make sure you use a good harness that the cat can’t escape and condition your cat at an early age to wear the harness and to be walked. Cats are like Houdin and can wiggle their way out. Felines have a unique body structure that allows them to compress their ribcage, and their clavicles float so they can climb into small spaces.
Be prepared with your outdoor pet; it’s likely a slow walk as the cat sniffs its territory.
Cat’s rest and sleep patterns
Cats are good sleepers and require 12 to 18 hours of cat nap time. When they age, that time increases. It’s not unusual for housecats to curl up in hidden or sunny spots on a window ledge and sleep their time away.
Because they sleep so much, it’s essential to take advantage of their waking hours and engage them in activities that initiate play and exercise. Know their waking schedule and plan fun activities around their needs.
Stimulate their innate hunting instincts
I’ve said it in other articles: cats are formidable predators. Sleek and agile, cats enjoy stalking anything from electronic toys to feathers mounted on flexible rods, pieces of string, and even shadows or rays of light. These toys are a great way to keep your indoor cat happy.
Set up bird feeders outside a window. But only if you have an indoor cat. Catios, fenced enclosures are also great for providing cat enrichment activities.
Remember, when playing with a boisterous cat, get your fingers out of the way, or they become part of the game. There’s no shame in wearing gloves to get into serious cat-and-mouse games. You will lose.
Playing hide and seek
Who knew? Cats are fantastic at hide and seek, and it’s such a hoot watching them stalk you or vice versa. Playing with your cat encourages bonding and stimulates a cat’s natural behavior. If you have ever watched kittens interact, you know they’re excellent at this game and have the patience to leap onto unsuspecting passersby from behind sofas or out from a cardboard box.
Always look up to your cat’s mental stimulation needs
Not every cat is created equal. Some cats are timid, while others are outgoing and adventuresome, even when born into the same litter. It means we need to pay close attention to their individual needs.
Using products like boxes, cat trees, paper bags, and other toys like puzzle games to draw out your cat’s personality and stimulate them into being playful and active is a good cat exercise.
Cats also like to view their world from above. It makes them feel safe. Climbing a cat tree stimulates them into action, and climbing up and down is a form of exercise. You can build a cat tower or shop for one that suits your home.
Tip: Did you know many cats dislike being approached and petted from above? It makes them feel vulnerable and threatened. Sink to their level.
Cat app and cat toys
I haven’t seen a cat app in use, but unsurprisingly, cats with sensitive paws can activate the swiping action and engage with what’s on the screen. You can find cat apps on Android and Apple and enjoy the fun as a bored cat engages with the motion on the screen.
The pet industry is growing substantially and is already worth $1.8 billion. The collection of available cat accessories is astonishing in any pet store. Many people supply their cats with catnip toys. This non-addictive plant stimulates most cats; some get a boost, and others chill out.
Furry fake mice, rod toys, electronically activated toys, household items, cat wheels, and anything that moves, even bubbles, keep a cat moving.
Tip: Instead of gathering your cat’s toys and putting them in a heap or basket (which looks like a collection of dead animals to a cat), hide them sporadically throughout the house (it’s what they do).
Teach them new tricks
Cats have a reputation as being difficult to train, which most cat owners might disagree with. Cats can do extraordinary feats though they may not learn at the same level as their canine counterparts. Cats can learn many tricks by using reward treats or the click method.
Tip: Keep training sessions from one minute to a maximum of five. They lose interest after that.
Cats learn and respond to their name. Overall it’s best to choose a simple two-syllable name, engage in fun activities, and teach them cat tricks like fetch.
Find a companion animal for your cat
Some cats like to be loners, but they're also social and form bonds with other animals; who knows, maybe it’s desperation when they bond with a dog because they are lonely.
If you notice unusual behavior changes in your cat, like sleeping, grooming, or eating, it’s time to investigate the root cause. Sometimes it’s a health indicator; sometimes, they need a furry friend.
If you’re new to cat ownership, here are a few basics for their care. Cats are fun, mainly easy to care for, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have needs. Keep your cat entertained; they’ll reward you with gifts, their soft paws in our palm, and soulful green eyes that say, I love you.