Q: I have my kitty on a weight-loss diet and I am using food that my vet recommended but is there any way to get her to exercise?
A: Cat’s can sometimes be harder than people when it comes to starting an exercise program. I do have some helpful tips that you can try.
Use a puzzle activity toy to feed your cat. There are many varieties available commercially at pet stores and online. Pick out one or two and feed your cat exclusively from them. They have simple ones that are dishes that have a little maze pattern in the bottom. These work best with dry kibble but can also be used for canned food.
There are also toys that are like a ball or an egg shape and the ball is unscrewed and the kibble placed inside. There are one or two small holes that the kibble can fall through as the toy is batted around. The cat has to bat and chase to get the food. There are toys that the cat has to stick her paw into to grab at the treat.
Many varieties and complexities of toys are available. Start with an easy one and get her harder puzzles to solve as she learns to work for her food.
Try a climbing perch. It looks like a mini cat jungle gym. There are freestanding units or wall-mounted varieties. They are usually carpeted and come in all sizes and shapes. They even have the climbing shelves that attach over a door for renters who have a small amount of space or can’t attach things to walls.
Play with your cat. Use a feather wand toy and encourage her to run and jump by waving the wand all around. You can also use a laser light to get your cat to chase the light. Try moving it up and down stairs or up and down her jungle gym.
Buy a cat harness and teach your cat to wear it and then slowly try taking her outside to walk. Don’t expect her to walk with you like a dog in the beginning, just follow her wherever she decides to go. Explore clicker training and use it to help teach her to walk with you.
Change it up. Don’t dump a lot of new toys on your cat in one day. Try one new toy a week or pick up an old toy she is bored with and put it away and bring out a different toy. Try to have only one toy out at a time.
Catnip is an herb known to many kitty owners. It can encourage many cats to get playful and frisky. Many cat toys contain catnip but you can buy fresh or dried catnip and use it to entice your cat to play with new items.
Try some of the battery-operated mice. Many cats love to run after and chase these little toys.
Recycle some of the items you have in your house. Turn cardboard boxes into cat caves and tunnels. Give your cat the inside roll from the toilet paper to bat around. Put a few pieces of her kibble inside then tape the ends closed. Next make a small hole so that a piece falls out after she rolls it around. You can also crumble paper and make little soccer balls for her to swat.
Purchase or make a “catio.” A catio is an outdoor enclosure that you can use freestanding or attach to a door or window. It makes a small enclosure outside so that your cat can enjoy roaming around outside protected from other cats or predators.
Good luck with your new exercise program.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.