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Easy (and Cheap) Ways to Exercise Your Cat

It's probably one of those old wives' tales that cats sleep 20 hours a day (mine sure don't), but what else has a housecat to do anyway? Sometimes we force them to live up, or down, to our expectations. The truth is, cats need a fair amount of exercise to maintain their health, too.

The easiest way to make sure your cat gets enough exercise is to simply play with her!

Take advantage of what your cat likes to do. If she likes chasing something, as most cats do, make your own "fishing pole" cat toy, using found objects around the house. Start by finding a "stick."

It could be an old spring tension curtain rod you no longer use, about 18-24 inches long, or an actual stick or branch from your yard. Plastic works best, as it's sturdy, light weight, won't wear out as quickly, and is pretty hard to break. To one end of this "stick" attach a strong piece of string or very light rope, about 24-36 inches long. Then tie something to the loose end that will serve as an interesting toy for the cat... perhaps a crocheted ball with a bell inside it, or a tuft of feathers, or the cut-off toe of an old sock, into which a little catnip has been sewn.

Now you can exercise your cat while you sit down. Just swish the toy around and watch kitty chase it! Or, if you could use a little exercise yourself, get up outta that chair and move around so you're giving kitty more territory to run through.

If you don't have the materials or ability to make this toy, they are available at most pet stores. And if you can't get to the store, simply walk through your home and let kitty follow you!

Generally, they like to be where you are and will follow your movements through the house. They just won't be very athletic about it, so this might be the best way to offer "low impact" exercise to an older cat so they don't spend all day just sleeping out of boredom.

If you have two cats, tie a very light leash to one's collar and let the other one chase her as she drags it behind her. Then switch, so they can take turns. This gives them plenty of exercise while you can sit in a chair and work on your belly muscles from laughing!

Cats are very curious, as everyone knows, so you can use that interest as the motivation for another low impact exercise: hide-n-seek. Simply hide something inside something and let kitty figure out how to find and then extract it.

You can make your own "hidey toy" with found materials, too, such as a shoe box that you've taped shut. Put a toy inside that makes some noise, such as a crochet ball with a bell inside it. Or, you can put cat treats into the box. Cut holes, about 2 inches wide, in the top and maybe one or two sides of the box, and let kitty work it out.

This toy is a good way to help kitty be active while you're absent, perhaps at work all day. It provides some physical activity and some mental stimulation.

Other easy toys include wadded up balls of paper, paper towel rolls cut into 2-4 inch lengths, and again, the good old crocheted yarn balls. Hang one by a very strong string from a doorknob for self-motivated playtime.

And never leave string, yarn, or string style toys around the house when you're not there. If kitty were to choke on one while you're gone, you might not get back in time to prevent a tragedy.

Another "home alone" style play activity is a homemade jungle gym, made of boxes. Just stack them about 3-4 high and kitty will have them all toppled within minutes. Then she'll be darting in and around them for hours, if she gets excited about it. Beware, however... some cats really love chewing up cardboard, so don't be surprised to find a room full of cardboard shreddies when you get back.

You can either smile and vacuum up the mess, knowing your kitty had a great time, or you can take this game off your list. Hey, at least it's not the couch, right?

Dr. RJ Peters helps cat owners find answers to questions and problems at The Problem Cat.

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