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Tips to help your indoor cat get enough exercise

The best way to keep your cat healthy and happy is to ensure they get plenty of exercise and are as mobile as their age allows. Unfortunately, sometimes indoor cats do not get the required exercise to keep their bodies in tip-top shape. This may result in them putting on excessive weight which can cause them health problems.

Why keeping your cat contained is a good idea

Keeping your cat safely contained to your property is the best living arrangement for your feline friend. At the RSPCA, we advocate that all pet cats are contained within your property’s boundaries safely. Why? Because it greatly reduces the risk of your cat:

  • Getting lost, injured or hit by a car
  • Getting into a fight and developing related injuries, abscesses or a disease like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
  • Causing a disturbance to neighbours.

But just because your cat is contained to your property, doesn’t mean they can’t get all the exercise they need to thrive, mentally and physically.

A mobile cat is a happy cat

Cats who are overweight are much more susceptible to a range of diseases and even injury. And while having pet insurance can help protect your finances for obesity-related visits to the vet, it won’t protect your cat from falling victim to painful injuries and illnesses. Some common risks for cats that aren’t mobile enough include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Heart and liver disease
  • Skin problems
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Lower urinary tract disease
  • Higher risk under general anaesthetic (e.g. during surgery).

Protect your cat’s health with enclosures

A ‘contained cat’ doesn’t necessarily mean keeping your cat indoors 24/7. Some owners like to let their cats play outside in a safe escape-proof enclosure. These are specially made fences that arch inward or have rollers fitted to the top to prevent cats gaining purchase and jumping over. They can also be used to contain curious (and acrobatic) cats. For the best-trained pets, some owners find success in letting them roam free in the backyard under direct supervision.

Some owners like to train their cat to walk on a harness and lead, as this can allow them the freedom to exercise outside without the risk of them making a great escape. This should be done with caution, beginning with early training and confining walks to short periods within the confines of non-public areas. Walking on the lead can be dangerous for cats who are easily stressed and is not suitable for many cats. Cats on harnesses should not be taken to areas where there may be dangers such as cars or dogs. Generally, outdoor enclosures or cat-proof fencing are the best options.

The bottom line is that pet cats can, and do, live their best and safest life when contained indoors at home.

4 ways to get cats to enjoy exercise

If your cat needs some motivation to get back to a healthy weight, or just to be more active in their day-to-day life, here are some simple toys and games to share with them:

  • Horizontal and vertical climbing spaces: Cats love to climb, and they particularly enjoy a view from the top. Not only does it make them feel safer but it’s an easy way to encourage them to exercise. Enrichment toys to go with their climbing spaces include cat ladders, window hammocks and cat castles/towers.
  • Hiding places: Playing hide and seek is a great way for your cat to exercise. So, whether it’s playing with another cat or with humans, try to set up some empty cardboard boxes around the house with cat-sized holes cut out of them so your cat can get in and out easily.
  • Safe toys: The right toy can keep your cat amused for hours. Toys that stimulate hunting instincts, such as small motorised toys, are very popular with cats. Just make sure they are safe; so no string toys or small objects that could be swallowed and cause internal obstructions. Also, change up the toys daily to keep your cat interested.
  • Human interaction: You want your cat to be physically stimulated as well as mentally satisfied, so keep them socialised with regular play sessions throughout the day. Give them lots of attention and company, with fun activities to keep their mobility up.

Every owner wants their cat to be safe, happy and healthy. By keeping your cat safely contained you can ensure their risk of injury outside is reduced, but it’s important that they still get plenty of exercise.

For more helpful pet-care tips as well as information on pet insurance, visit RSPCA Pet Insurance today.

Image of Dr Rosemary Elliot

Dr Rosemary Elliot 

Dr Rosemary studied veterinary science at the University of Sydney after having established her career as a clinical psychologist, and has qualifications of BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Animal Welfare), MPsych (Clin), BA (Hons) as well as previously establishing her career as a clinical psychologist. Her experiences during veterinary training fostered an ambition to focus directly on animal welfare and ethics, with a particular interest in animal sentience and the human-animal bond. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Rosemary combines her psychology background and veterinary skills to contribute to and promote animal welfare, and regularly contributes quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance's Pet Care blog.