Start fitness young
The best time to set good health habits is when your cat is young. By their second birthday, cats tend to slow down to a more leisurely pace and can become lazy and overweight. An overweight young cat is more likely to remain too heavy as they grow older, making them prone to weight-related problems such as arthritis or diabetes.
Regular physical activity can help your cat to maintain good health. So the more space and opportunity you give your young cat to enjoy playful exercise, the better.
You won’t overtire your cat if you play with him or her, as they will simply scamper off when they have had enough.
Benefits of an active life
‘Physical activity is vital to develop your cat’s muscle and tendon tone, and strengthen their bones and joints. Lots of movement also provides a kind of natural massage to the internal organs too, and increases cardiovascular function for healthy heart and lungs,’ says vet Brian Faulkner.
Physical activity also:
- Helps prevent your cat from becoming bored (and tempted to take out their frustration on your soft furnishings).
- Stimulates and focuses their senses.
- Taps into their natural urge to chase and hunt.
Bonding on the go
Very young kittens play happily with their siblings but by about eight weeks they are keen to start predatory play with inanimate objects.
Finding games to play with your young cat is an ideal way to bond, and anything that involves chasing, pouncing and sudden bursts of activity will be fun and physically beneficial.
Make sure your cat also has good access to an environment where he or she can jump and climb at will, such as a cat gym that you can construct yourself.
Remember that if you use your fingers or toes for your cat to chase when he or she is young, they may consider these fair game and attack you unexpectedly. To avoid being scratched, it’s better to use cat toys or inanimate objects.
Let’s play – cat games to try
- Attach a feather, ribbon or small bell to a line on a pole and dangle it around for your cat to paw-fight and pounce on. Do let them eventually catch their false prey.
- Gently throw scrunched-up paper or a couple of ping-pong balls for your cat to dart after and chase. For a more vigorous workout, try placing lots of them in a basket and then scatter over the floor.
- Empty cardboard boxes and large paper bags left on the ground are great fun to stalk, play hide-and-seek and generally chase round and round.
- Dangle something light and flexible your cat can jump up to – great for stretching and using their agility – and provide a scratching post for a self-workout of stretch and scratch. With luck, this will distract them from causing claw damage elsewhere.