Exercise for Cats

By Dr Eloise Bright 5 Min Read

You’re not likely to take your cat out for a jog or a long walk. But cats need exercise. We share out tips for keeping your feline friend in tip-top shape.

Dog owners have lots of options for exercising their pets. But if you’re a cat owner, you know that there are fewer options for keeping your pet in the peak of condition.

But it’s important that cats get exercise. There are many health problems associated with obesity in cats, just as there are for dogs. And if you own a cat, there’s a pretty good chance that your cat really needs some exercise. According to ABC News, about 1 out of every 3 cats in Australia is overweight.

Time for some kitty calisthenics!

Experts recommend that you engage your cat in some form of physical play for 10 or 15 minutes several times each day. The ease with which you can do that will depend upon your cat’s age and temperament. Younger cats tend to be more playful than older cats, and some cats just have more of a playful nature than others.

Here are some tips for helping your cat get some playful exercise.


Cats are born predators. Stalking and hunting are instinctual. You can use your cat’s predatory nature to engage it in playful fun. Here are some tempting targets that few kitties can resist:

  • Toy mice. You can buy battery-powered, motorized mice, or you can use a string tied to a simple plastic toy mouse to provide provocative life-like movements.
  • Feathered toys. Everyone knows that cats love to stalk and catch birds. You can buy feathered toys that are bird replicas. Attach a string and make the toy move like a wounded bird, and no self-respecting kitty will be able to resist.
  • A simple piece of string. A length of yarn, a shoestring, a piece of ribbon – all are great for provoking your cat into an attack. If your cat’s too cool to pounce on a string that YOU are obviously controlling, try jerking and twitching a length of string while hidden behind a door, with the string running underneath the door.
  • Spot on. Use a small flashlight to shine a spot of light on the floor, and watch your cat try to catch it as you move the spot of light around in jerky movements. A small dot of light from a laser pointer might be even more irresistible to your cat. (Be sure not to shine the light in your cat’s eyes.)


Empty boxes and paper sacks can be great fun for kitty playtime. Cats are naturally curious, and love to investigate small spaces and enclosures. Stack a few empty boxes or lay out some paper bags, and watch your cat get some good exercise crawling through and around its ‘cat caves.’

(Do not use plastic bags; they pose a risk of accidental suffocation.)

A scratching post offers the dual benefit of offering your cat an outlet for its instinctual need to scratch and providing some exercise. A cat tree also provides exercise and, like a scratching post, helps to wear down the points of your cat’s claws.


Did you know that you could buy an exercise wheel for your cat? It’s the same concept as the little exercise wheels used for hamsters, but specifically designed for cats.

Some cats, though, are more inclined to use an exercise wheel than others. If your cat eagerly chases spots of light or strings across the floor, then it’s probably a particularly good candidate for an exercise wheel.

Exercise wheels are a great way to get your cat lots of exercise, but expect to invest a bit of time and patience in training your cat to use the wheel.


No matter what toys or enticements are involved, playing with your cat offers great fun for the both of you.

And the sugar-on-top is that the exercise your cat gets from playtime will help to ensure that it will be around for many more years of fun – a pretty good deal for the both of you.

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Dr Eloise is a Clinical Lead at Love That Pet and one of our resident pet care experts. She also curates the select range of vet recommended and approved products which feature on our site.
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