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Obesity is a common problem among domestic cats and can cause severe health problems. Two primary causes of obesity in house cats are a lack of exercise and overfeeding. Feral cats spend their days outside hunting for food and are less likely to become overweight. Indoor cats, however, spend their days relaxing and don’t have to hunt for their meals.
Since house cats don’t have to spend any energy hunting and searching for food, pet parents must engage their cats with exercise.
Pet parents may need to try a few different exercise methods before they find one that motivates their cat. Younger cats are typically more active and eager to play. On the other hand, older cats may need more convincing.
As mentioned above, the lack of hunting for food is one of the primary causes of obesity in house cats. One way pet parents can trigger their cat’s hunting instinct is to stop putting dry food in a bowl. Instead, pet parents can invest in puzzle feeders. These types of feeders require a cat to work for their food.
Some pet parents may think it’s cruel to make their cats work to get their food. However, puzzle feeders benefit cats in a multitude of ways. For one, the puzzle feeder encourages exercise. Second, these feeders trigger instinctive behaviors and stimulate the cat’s mind.
Cats prefer to be in elevated positions so they can have a bird’s-eye view of an area. Cats feel safest when they’re up high, which makes cat towers a must for the home. Pet parents should provide their cats with several cat towers throughout the home; climbing them is a great exercise for cats.
In addition to cat towers, pet parents can provide their cats with toys that encourage physical activity. It’s important for pet parents to invest in a variety of toys because cats will get bored and lose interest in the same toys. Rotating the toys and only having a few out at a time will prevent disinterest.
The following cat toys are excellent exercise toys:
Wand and feather
Activity mats for cats
If pet parents really want to get creative, they can make an agility course by incorporating cat towers, perches, and toys. However, if a pet parent has a very skittish cat, they may want to avoid toys that might scare their cat — such as electronic toys or noisemakers.
Another exercise option for pet parents is to allow their cats to explore outside. Cats can be trained to walk on harnesses and leashes. However, when trying this method, pet parents will need to be patient. Many cats, especially older cats, may be intimidated by the harness and the outside world.
Harness training can begin slowly inside the home. First, pet parents should introduce the harness and leash by setting them next to their cat and giving the cat a small reward. Next, the pet parent can attempt to put the harness on their cat. Once the harness is on, the pet parent will reward their cat.
Once the cat is used to wearing the harness, the pet parent can begin to take their cat outside. Pet parents can try to reward their cats when they go outside, but usually cats are too distracted by the new surroundings to acknowledge the reward.
Typically, the cat will be very cautious and will slowly sniff and explore their surroundings. If they get scared, the pet parent should immediately bring them back inside and remove the harness.
Every cat is different and not all cats will adapt to the harness. This training should be done gently and not be forced. By forcing the cat into a harness and making them go outside, pet parents could cause the cat a lot of unnecessary stress.
The primary cause of obesity in cats is overfeeding - leaving food out all day and not practicing portion control. An overweight cat should be on a specialized diet and pet parents will need to work closely with their vet to make sure their cat is getting the proper nutrition. If a cat is morbidly obese, they may need to be on a prescription diet.
Pet parents may also want to ask their vet about nutritional supplements for their cats.
Every cat is different, and their age, health, and abilities can help determine which exercises to try. However, establishing an exercise plan doesn’t have to be stressful for the pet parent or cat. Many of the exercise options provide the pet parents with bonding opportunities.