5 Cat Fitness Tips

How to keep your cat healthy and happy.

More than half the housecats in the United States are overweight or obese. And overweight cats are at a greater risk for cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and injury, as well as heart, respiratory and kidney disease. But we’ve got some great ways to help your cat be fit—not fat:

1. King of the jungle gym

Jumping onto perches and digging into scratching posts are great ways for your cat to stretch, tone and burn calories. So install cat-sized shelves on walls and windowsills. Provide a scratching post covered in a tightly woven natural fiber so your cat can tone her back and shoulders as she digs in with her claws—or paws.

2. Play partners

Encourage your cat to play at least 20 minutes a day to improve fitness. Try dragging a toy around or rolling a milk jug lid and watch the chase begin. Also consider introducing a second cat to your home. Having another playmate will help ensure your cat exercises even while you're away.

3. An adequate diet

If your vet determines that your cat is already overweight, discuss reducing your cat's portions or switching to a low-calorie food. Or make your cat work for food by using a foraging ball for feeding. Fill the ball with dry cat food—your cat will need to roll the ball for the food to come out.

4. Tackle the great outdoors

Train your cat to walk outdoors on a leash and harness—she’ll get exercise while staying safe from dangers like other animals or cars. Another option? Swimming. (Yes, really!) Contrary to popular belief, cats can be taught to swim. And this fitness-boosting activity allows an overweight cat to exercise with less strain on already-stressed joints.

5. Get competitive

Competitive play encourages your cat to watch you for cues while moving through an agility course that includes ramps, steps, poles, tunnels and hoops. Train at home and then consider entering competitions. Even if you decide to not “go pro,” this activity still fosters emotional bonds and encourages greater levels of fitness.

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