For cats, exercise equals play. Your cat can get her workout by engaging in either of two types of play, or a combination of both.
This type of play involves frolicking with other cats -- or with people. If you're able to keep more than one cat, you'll never have to give another thought to their exercise needs. Two or more cats will stay limber by chasing each other around the house and engaging in friendly wrestling matches. Without a feline companion, your cat will rely on you to be her playmate.
This form of play consists of chasing, batting at, and climbing into or over toys or other inanimate objects. If you join in, the object play will become social as well. Here are some common playthings that may amuse your cat and will provide valuable exercise:
- Toy fishing poles or "dancer" toys. These generally consist of a flexible rod, a string, and at the end of it, a feather or piece of fabric that bobs around, tempting the cat to chase it and bat at it.
- Small stuffed animals. These "mouse substitutes" allow your cat to exercise her prey-catching instincts. Make sure they are stuffed with something that won't harm your cat if she tears the covering with her teeth or claws. Toys stuffed with catnip are especially appealing.
- Scratching posts. Besides keeping your cat's claws in shape and off the furniture, a scratching post lets her exercise her entire upper body as she stretches her back and extends her legs to paw at the post.
- Feline furniture. "Kitty condos" and other small furnishings made especially for cats will give your pet ample opportunity to jump and climb. If you or another cat join in, they can also be the setting for a lively game of hide-and-seek or peek-a-boo. As a bonus, these may be covered in carpeting or sisal, providing an extra scratching surface for your cat.
- Boxes and bags. Like children, cats will often ignore elaborate toys and instead choose to play with the most mundane objects. Empty cardboard boxes can become favorite places to hide, climb, and play; so can empty shopping bags. For safety's sake, make sure any bag your cat plays with is big enough that she won't get stuck in it, and snip off the handles so there's no danger of strangulation.
Continued on page 3: Cat Walks