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Norwich Bulletin - 6/29/2008

Exercise

Did you know that cats can sleep between twenty and twenty-two hours a day? No wonder we have so many fat cats in our households. So that means we, as responsible, indoor only cat owners, must find a way to facilitate exercise for our feline companions.

We need to combine the two words, cat and exercise, together, in such a way that it will bring enjoyment to our cats as well as to us. Increasing activity is always good, whether it is for our own health of the health of our pets. So here are a few activities to try with your own kitties that should help improve your cats physical as well as mental well-being.

To start with, the number one way to accomplish activity for your cat that will always work and be ever changing, is to give your cat another cat. Two cats, once they accept each other, will run, chase, play, sleep, and groom each other while you are at work, and be perfectly happy to spend quality time with their humans in the evening. If there is really no way that you can take on a second cat, here are some other suggestions.

Get DVDís/videos made specifically for cats that feature birds, fish, bugs, rodents and other creatures that dart around and get the cat darting along with the television animals. If you want to get involved and not do too much exercise yourself, get a remote control mouse and watch your cat chase it all over the house. Even more fun is the laser light. I have cats that will search under the bed for that little dot, jump on the bed (and off and on and off) just to capture that spark of light. It is a great source of exercise and interactional fun.

Many cats love treats, and if you use the food dispensing toys that cats have to learn how to manipulate, it will give them both a mental and physical exercise to figure out.

Since many cat clubs now do agility contests where cats do the exact same type of exercise as the dogs do, you can create your own indoor version of an agility course. Use cat tunnels and boards, pvc piping to form a weave, a ladder, wooden boxes, anything you can think of that would be safe and enjoyable for your cat and you to have fun with. Use a teaser, laser of a small food reward to entice your cat to learn the course.

And, since it is in your own home, who cares if the cat follows the path you thought it should! The important thing is exercise and that the cat is having a good time. Just a note though, if you use food treats, use something the cat does not usually get and make it fairly healthy (I usually use small bits of boneless chick breast and that really gets their attention).

Teach your cats tricks. Cats are very smart and if you can give them a reason to want to do those tricks, you will be amazed at what they can learn to do on command. Climbing, jumping through hoops, walking on beams, coming and playing fetch Ė it is all possible with a little bit of patience and finding out what it is that makes your cat willing to do what you are asking. Remember, dogs will do anything their human wants them to, but a cat needs to get something out of it too.

Paper is a great game for cats - every piece of paper in my house is a toy. Crumpled paper makes for the perfect fetch game. Post-it notes, candy wrappers and store receipts too!

My husband and our cats have a special game that belongs to them alone. He will go out into our fenced in courtyard with about six tennis balls. He will roll the balls down the length of the yards and the cats will chase them, tumble with them and bat them around. Then they come running back for him to thrown the next one. When all the balls have been thrown the cats sit in front of him and lead him to the end of the yard, to throw them all back the other way. They have taught my husband how to fetch very well!

There are cat activity centers for those people who are working all day and just donít have the energy to be the initiator of cat activity every night. Also, the tall furniture you can get at cat shows with tunnels and condos make a great game of climb, as well as a scratching post.

Catnip can be an intoxicating favorite among some cats and others will be happy to go for a walk on a leash and harness. There are no boundaries here for cat/human interaction.

So use your imagination. Have fun. In fact, if you come up with a great game for you and your cats, please share it with me and I can do a column on some new activities. Spend time bonding with your feline companions. You will feel great and so will your cats.

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