The best exercise for cats

We might think of cats as sleeping a lot – which they do – but they can also be quite active. They prefer short bursts of exercise with plenty of naps in between. It’s really important for our cats to stay active to help keep them healthy well into their golden years.

In the wild, a lot of a cat’s exercise would come from hunting. They love to chase and pounce, so playing with your cat is a great way to exercise them. Even though they do spend a lot of time resting, it’s really important to keep your cat active to stop them gaining weight (which can cause lots of other health problems!).

Another important reasons to keep your cat active is to stop them getting bored. A bored cat can become depressed or may eat more and put on weight.

If your cat’s looking more flabby than feline, check out our information on obesity on our Pet Health Hub:

How much exercise do cats need?

Cat hiding ready to pounce

There’s no exact amount of exercise your cat should be getting every day, but generally speaking at least two sessions of playtime a day of around 15-20 minutes each should help to keep them active.

If you’re playing with your cat and they’ve had enough, they’re likely to just stop playing or even walk off. This is fine – cats are designed to exercise in short bursts and aren’t made for hours of exercise in one go!

Remember it’s as much about stopping your cat from getting bored and letting them express natural hunting behaviours as it is about keeping them slim. To keep your cat in shape, make sure you’re feeding them the right diet, too. Read our full advice on what to feed your cat.

 

What toys should I get for my cat?

Kitten playing with a ball

Cats love to explore, so giving them a range of cat toys and activities will help to keep them interested and active.

Remember to keep your cat’s toys clean and throw them away if they get damaged. Getting them a new toy every now and again is a perfect treat, and much better for them than food.

Most cats love playing games, especially with:

  • Things they can hit. Cats enjoy batting at light things that move easily across the floor: a ball of paper is ideal. It’s important not to give them anything they can chew up or swallow. If you’re fed up of your cat losing their toys under furniture you can put the ball or toy in a large cardboard box so that your cat can play with it in a controlled space.
  • Things they can chase. Wind-up or motorised toys, or a piece of string dragged across the floor will turn even a couch potato into a hunter!
  • Things they can jump onto. Cats love to be up high so make sure there are safe surfaces and plenty of space for them to jump on and off to help burn extra calories.
  • Things they can climb into. Anyone who owns a cat knows they can have hours of fun with a simple empty box or a tunnel!
  • Things they can scratch. Scratching keeps a cat’s claws sharp, and tones their shoulder and back muscles. A scratching-post will meet this need – and should save your furniture!

Although it’s tempting, especially with little kittens, it’s not a good idea to use your hand or fingers as ‘bait’. Your cat will think it’s OK to scratch and bite you – and it’s not, even as a game!

Stock up on vet-approved, cat friendly toys on our online store:

Top tips to encourage your cat to play

Cat lying with a toy

Sometimes our feline friends can seem a bit uninterested in toys and playing. This doesn't always mean they don't want to play; they just need to have their interest sparked! Check out our top tips for encouraging your moggy to be more active.

  1. Try different toys. Just because your cat isn't playing with a certain toy doesn't mean they don't want to play. Try different kinds of toys. Toys that are interactive for both of you are best, as you can change the speed and pace to tap into their natural chase instinct and get them excited. We have plenty available on our Pet Store.
  2. Play at hunting time. Cats are naturally more active at the beginning and end of the day as this is when they'd hunt in the wild. Try playing with your cat at prime hunting time to get them active and feed them after you play (not before).
  3. Keep it short. Most cats prefer to play in short sessions. They are not built for stamina and get tired after 5-15 minutes. Short bursts of play will help them to focus and stop both of you from getting bored.
  4. Keep it interesting. Try to vary playtime as much as possible. Playing with the same toy all the time can get dull so try to mix it up. Swapping between different versions of similar toys can be enough to get your cat excited again. You can even try making your own cat friendly toys at home.
  5. Use food puzzles. Some of our cats are very motivated by food. Try using treat balls and similar toys to feed some of their daily allowance. This way your cat gets a tasty treat while learning that playing can be rewarding and fun. Don't forget to reduce the amount of food you give them in their regular meals slightly so they don't put on weight.

 

Games you can play with your cat

Kitten chasing a toy

Playtime is important to keep your cat in shape, but is also a great time for the two of you to bond. Some good games you can play with your cat could be:

  • Chase – roll a cat-safe ball or scrunched up paper across the floor for them to chase after. If it stops moving, roll it again so they don’t lose interest.
  • String – a lot of cats love string! Dragging a bit of string across the floor for them to try and catch is a perfect game for a cat.
  • Pounce – using a cat-nip toy (or even making your own!) play with your cat then wait for them to hide in a box or behind a chair. Throw the toy near them and watch them leap on it.
  • Jump – cats are very skilled jumpers. Teaser toys are ideal for dragging along the floor and then flicking in the air for your cat to jump after.

We wouldn’t recommend playing with your cat with a laser pointer or digital app on a tablet. These games can be super frustrating for our cats – part of the hunt is the satisfaction of actually catching their prey. Laser pointers and digital games have nothing for your cat to physically catch, so they’re likely to just make them a bit angry rather than actually have fun.