Many cats can spend up to 85% of their day snoozing, therefore if they don’t burn off the calories they consume they can easily become overweight, leaving them open to debilitating diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. So, whether your cat is overweight or not, here are the best practices to keep your feline friend fit and healthy by getting them to become more active.
EASE INTO SHAPE
Be aware that your cat’s weight loss program involves decreasing calorie intake with appropriate food and quantity as well as increasing calorie burning with exercise. These changes should be made gradually to prevent illness or injury. Follow the diet plan that your vet has set out for you; never suddenly decrease the type of amount of food as this can cause severe liver disease in cats. It is equally important that you do not let your cat become exhausted, overheated or out of breath when you start to get them to be more active.
Toss dry food kibbles to your cat, one piece at a time, to combine exercise with meal time. This will also help your cat to feel fuller by lengthening meal time. Ensure that the kibbles used are part of your cat’s measured daily intake.
So often our cats are rewarded with treats which increase their calorie intake and weight gain. Instead, give your cat attention, praise and love - all calorie free! Toys containing catnip can also be used as a reward.
Cats have a natural instinct to scratch objects with their nails. Cats allowed outdoors will use logs or trees like the big cats do, but indoor cats need artificial versions to satisfy this instinct. It is important to have at least one scratching post inside to prevent damage to furniture or carpet. A scratching post with several levels is best to promote climbing and increase activity.
TOYS AND GAMES
Your cat has similar instincts to the big wild cats. This means that they have a desire to hunt and play, so they love moving objects. Providing suitable toys around the home to allow your cat to fulfil these instincts is important to increase their time spent active rather than just napping. When you are home, let the games begin! Help your cat to burn calories by encouraging them to play. Tossing toys and wiggling a wand for them to jump around and attempt to catch can burn calories and assist weight loss. A wide array of toys are available including tunnels, Kitty Kong, balls with bells, soft toys with catnip, etc. that can be purchased. On a budget, cardboard boxes with entrance and exit cut outs make excellent play equipment too. Get creative! Your cat will thank you for it and so will their waistline.
Cats like to chew a small amount of grass regularly to aid digestion. This is normal behaviour and indoor cats should have access to either a small pot plant of grass or just a few pieces of freshly picked grass once or twice a week. Cat grass is available from garden centres which is a specific type of grass that cats enjoy. Even outdoor cats should be provided with specific ‘cat grass’.
INTERACTING WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Teaching your cat to walk on a harness is an excellent way to increase their activity level. Indoor and outdoor cats alike can benefit from this activity because of their natural inclination to explore. Being on a lead means that they can be encouraged to walk around and burn calories!