When the activity of older cats decreases, they begin to walk slower, jump with caution and play a little less. Although this behaviour is normal for mature cats, these changes can be unsettling for their owners. One way to keep your cat awake is to stimulate her physical activity so her brain and body remain mobile and flexible. That little kitten that you brought home many years ago has become an old lady, and now you need to protect and maintain her mental and physical health.
Since cats don’t go to the gym to exercise, they need your help to stay fit. Want to know the easiest way to get them moving? Set aside time each day to play. Cats are independent creatures, and some of them may snort contemptuously at your suggestion to exercise, especially if they are elderly and have arthritis. However, if you trick your older cat into play, it will get much-needed daily activity from a few quick runs around the house.
Investment in the game
There are many smart tools out there to help your older cat move more. These gadgets are small and large, cheap and expensive, so start small, as some of them will be loved by your pet and others will simply be ignored. A trip to the pet store will give you endless possibilities, so be sure to choose toys and tools that are appropriate for your cat’s age.
Small toys and tools your cat might like:
- A wand or teaser with feathers to chase after.
- Catnip toys for cats.
- Puzzle toys with treats.
Great toys and tools your cat might like:
- Ladder or cat house.
- Scratching post.
- Cat wheel (yes, the same as for a hamster!).
Free exercises for cats
Cats love to climb, but older animals with arthritis may develop movement problems over time if not practised regularly. Move the furniture so that your cat has to jump off the floor onto the couch ottoman before lying down on the couch and taking a nap. If you already own a cat house, motivate your cat to use it by hiding healthy treats on different levels so that she has to jump to get to the snack. If you do not have a cat tree, you should consider buying one or some other similar structure that your cat can climb on.
Perhaps you have some catnip left? Maybe from a broken or torn old toy? Place it in an old sock. It’s even more fun if you sew a string to the sock so you can drag the catnip-smelling toy across the floor at a safe distance, forcing the cat to chase it.
See what else you have at home, with what your favourite can play. Maybe you have unwanted pieces of fabric to make a ball? The cat will roll and chase him around the house. However, it is best to avoid yarn, as the animal can swallow the threads or get caught on them, which will be unsafe. What about empty paper bags or cardboard boxes? Scratch your fingers along the back of the bag or box and your cat will pounce on its prey. Find a stick and rope and make a twig or “fishing rod” out of them to tease the cat. She will run and jump to catch whatever you tie to the end of the rope.
If your pet enjoys lazy afternoon watching from a warm windowsill, install a bird feeder right outside the window. Such a bird feeder will act as a TV for her, attracting more and more new (and alluring) creatures in her field of vision. She will have to jump to get a better look at the hungry birds, which will gladly entertain your cat in exchange for food.
Do you have multiple cats? They will play with each other more willingly than alone with herself. Divide the toys between the cats, and one of them will move, looking at the other.
An older cat also needs exercise to stimulate brain activity. One way to keep an animal’s brain sharp is to play with food. To do this, hide small treats around the house instead of a large lunch. Encourage your pet to go in search by strategically placing treats at high and low points and forcing him to move to get to them. A treat dispenser is another way to get an animal to use its brain to get food. This dispenser will only dispense a treat after the cat has solved a puzzle or task. Do not forget about the need to give out additional food or treats in the correct portions so that your pet gets optimal nutrition.
Choose nutritious food
Nutrition plays an important role in maintaining the health and wellness of older cats. You should consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s diet. Make sure the food and treats you give your cat are appropriate for his physical and mental needs.
If your cat loves puzzle toys, you will need to store extra treats at home.
One final tip – you shouldn’t delay introducing these feline exercises into your pet’s daily routine. The sooner your young cat starts an active life, the happier and healthier she will be for years to come.