How to exercise an indoor cat
You might decide to keep your cat indoors for many different reasons, whether it’s to keep them safe from outdoor hazards, protect native wildlife, or stop them passing on infectious diseases like FIV. It’s extra important for indoor-only cats to get plenty of exercise to keep them healthy and happy, as they’re not burning off steam running around outdoors.
There are plenty of ways you can help your indoor cat to keep active. We have put together a few suggestions.
Controlled access to the outdoors
Although your cat needs to stay inside, they can still enjoy the outdoors in a secure environment. Building a ‘catio’ (cat patio) may be a solution to give your pet access to the outdoors while still making sure they stay at home. A ‘catio’ is a secure, fenced enclosure, usually attached to an owner’s house that your cat can freely come and go from. If that’s not possible, you could also have it be a separate area that you regularly take your cat out to. It allows your cat to enjoy being outside while keeping them safe, secure and close to your house.
Another option might be to train them to walk with a harness, so you can let them enjoy the outdoors without any of the hazards. Walking a cat is quite different to walking a dog, so don’t expect to be able to take them for a jog or lead the way – it’s more like following your cat with a very loose leash as they explore and guiding or moving them away from potential hazards, with the lead as a back-up in case of emergency.
Plenty of toys and playtime
It’s really important to play with any cat as much as possible, but even more so with indoor cats. Without free access to outside to hunt and chase, they can miss out on a lot of their natural behaviours. By playing with them, you’ll be helping them to get it all out of their system and they’ll be less likely to claw your sofa or attack your socks! Make sure you regularly change and rotate your indoor cat’s toys to keep things interesting for them.
Cats hunt and chase in short bursts, so play in five or ten minute sessions with pauses for your cat to catch their breath. Plan in plenty of sessions per day. Feed your cat right after a play session to make them feel like they’ve “worked” for their food.
Lots to scratch
Cats love to scratch, whether they’re inside or outside. It’s something they need to do to keep their claws in good condition. Indoor cats may need a few extra scratching options around the house. You can get different types of cat scratchers aside from the traditional ‘scratching post’ to make it more interesting for your cat. Look for different surfaces to scratch as well – sisal, wood, cardboard and carpet are all options. Every cat will have a different preference so figure out what your cat loves to dig their claws into.
Different things to explore
You can also introduce loads of places for them to explore – you can even buy special cat furniture but many cats may even find fun in cardboard boxes.
Make sure they have different levels to play on. You can get large cat climbers or trees that also have places for them to hide and to be up high. You could even install shelves or runways on the walls for your cat to make full use of your space.
Puzzle feeders are great to combine food with exercise. It will help your indoor cat to practice their hunting and use their brain, plus they’ll get a tasty reward. Remember it’s important to not only keep your cat physically active but also mentally active to stop them getting bored.