How to keep cats healthy and active all winter

The weather outside may be frightful, but that’s no reason for your cat to simply snooze the days away. Check out these cat exercise tips to keep them well and thriving every day.

Cats need exercise all year round – but when it’s cold and wintry outside, it’s tempting for them to slope off to the sofa for another nap. Whether your cat lives indoors permanently or is simply spending extra time there at the moment, we look at how to build more activity into their daily routine to get them moving and keep them fit.

Make playtime a regular daily event, and schedule your cat exercise sessions before their mealtimes, not afterwards. A hungry cat is likely to be far more alert, and keener to run, jump and scamper, especially when low-calorie treats are an incentive in your games. Always count treats as part of your cat’s daily calorie intake, to avoid weight gain.

Who can resist a good treasure hunt? Probably not your cat! Hide their favourite snacks high and low all round the house, encouraging them to keep on the trail by leading them to the first treat. Or build a makeshift obstacle course of cardboard boxes that your cat has to jump up over or weave their way through to reach the tasty jackpot.

Cats can rarely resist the urge to climb, so take advantage of staircases, surfaces and shelves in your home to get them moving. You could put your cat’s natural leaping skills to good use by encouraging them to chase a ping-pong ball or toy on a piece of cord up and down the stairs.

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You could also make your home more cat-friendly by clearing a shelf within leaping distance of the ground for your pet to use as a lookout – hide snacks there to pique their interest. Buying or building your own cat tree, with platforms for your pet to perch on, is also a great idea: the more levels, the better! Use different textures, such as wood or old patches of carpet, on each level, so your cat can enjoy a strenuous scratch and stretch.

Encourage your cat’s natural hunting and foraging skills, and provide them with valuable mental stimulation, by making them work for their daily food intake. Split their food allowance into several portions throughout the day, and experiment with different feeding techniques.

You could try an activity fun-board that encourages your cat to extract dry kibble with their paws. Or place the food in a cat puzzle ball so they have to push it around the room to satisfy their hunger. These feeding dispensers don’t have to be costly – you could make your own puzzle feeder out of a clean bottle with small holes punched in the side, or scatter your cat’s food into an empty egg box for them to pick out

If your cat seems to have tired of their old activity toys, don’t give up. Rotate playthings and games regularly so your cat doesn’t get stuck in a rut – or perk up their interest in existing toys by spritzing them with irresistible catnip spray.

Simple homemade toys, such as feathers on a stick, can be every bit as intriguing as the most high-tech cat gadgets. Remember, too, that the most stimulating activities are interactive. Try playing more indoor games with your cat to keep them entertained – chances are, it will brighten up both of your days.

Share your top tips for keeping your cat active all through winter on social media using the tag #PethoodStories.

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