10 Ways to Encourage Cats to Exercise

Star Wars cat toys
Box O’ Star Wars


Sufficient exercise is paramount to the physical and mental well-being of cats. Here are some tips to keep those babes moving.

If your cat is overweight or aged, speak with your vet about how much exercise s/he should have and how vigorous it should be. Too much activity could be painful or too strenuous.

If your cat becomes unusually lazy or uninterested in toys, it could be a sign that something is wrong. When this happened to Dublin, it was because she had a bad tooth. Once her vet removed the tooth, all Dublin wanted was more and more playtime.

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1. Be a Part of the Play

Some days have too few hours than we need. We feel like we don’t have any playtime to spare. But it’s important to carve out some action for you and your cat. Ideally, spend 10 minutes a couple of times a day getting that cat moving. It’s easiest if you have a routine. Each day before bed, while drinking your morning coffee, or while watching your favorite show, bust out the cat toys and go to town. Before long, your cat will come to expect it, and his eagerness will motivate you.

2. Provide a Variety of Playthings

Cats bore of certain toys quickly just to love them again the next week. Combat this with an abundance of toys. Crackly, furry, squeaky, stringy, and aromatic toys all have appeal for different reasons. Cats also make favorites of some toys and never want to let them go. When you know what those are, make sure to get plenty. My boy, Oslo, loves his Star Wars crew. Check them out on Amazon here. He has the entire Petco line and kicks their butts every day. Cats also love to play with and run in and out of boxes and paper bags.

Chillin’ with Yoda and Chewie

3. Use Interactive Toys

For when you’re unavailable or not in the mood for play, there are tons of toys and puzzles that keep cats entertained and moving around. Do a search on Amazon or stroll through the pet store. You’ll find string-flingers, ball-and-track toys, treat puzzles, motorized chase toys, and lots of others. Most are reasonably priced. Experiment to find what works best for your babe.

4. Move the Food

If you feed your cat in the same place every time, he might hang around waiting for service. Instead, move the food to different spots around the house so he has to travel to get it. Always put food in a quiet, peaceful spot so your cat feels safe and comfortable during meal times.

5. Be a Cheerleader

When we cheer on cats with the zips, they zip longer and more often than when we don’t show enthusiasm. When our cats get weird, a few “woo-hoos” and a “run, buddy, run” are all it takes to keep that fire lit. When your cat tears through the house running, jumping, and bouncing off walls, cheer him on and have a good laugh.

Cats on shelf 6. Give Them Height

Cat trees and shelves encourage jumping, scratching, and playing. If you have the space, install sturdy shelving made just for your cat. With access to high places, he’ll spend more time jumping up instead of lounging on a comfy sofa or bed. Cat trees give cats another place to jump and climb. Get the tallest one you have space for/can afford. If it doesn’t come with toys that dangle, you can easily drill a few holes and put them in yourself.

7. Let Them Scratch

Keep a few scratching posts and/or boards around your home. Scratching keeps nails in check, builds muscle, and stimulates the mind and body.

8. Give Them Catnip

Oslo goes nuts when he is on the herb. No toy is safe from a serious beating. He rolls around, zips, and hunts and attacks all his babies. Not all cats react to catnip the same, but it’ll light a fire under most.

9. Learn What They Love

Cats find entertainment in the weirdest (and simplest) places. Every time I run out of paper towels, the empty cardboard roll goes to Oslo before it goes to recycle. He kicks it and rolls around with it all over the kitchen floor. He also loves playing in the clean laundry pile. Dublin loves to “help” me make the bed. She chases the sheets as I pull them straight, slithers around under the covers, and burrows under pillows. When you notice simple activities they love, encourage them and play along.

cat in laundry
Laundry day

10. Go on a Walk

Get a leash and harness specific for cats and go for a walk. Some cats will never be down with it. Others love it. It takes practice, but it’s worth it. Go here to read my detailed post about how to do it the right way.

To keep cats healthy, happy, and stimulated ensure they get daily exercise. If you’re creative, engaged, and silly, so will they be.