Exercise for Cats

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 17,907
    Dr. Candy Olson, owner of Greenbriar Animal Hospital discusses how to exercise your cat.

    Candy Olson

    Dr. Candy Olson graduated from veterinary school in 1978, and has been working as a small animal veterinarian ever since. She started her own practice, Greenbriar Animal Hospital, in Fairfax, Virginia in 1993 with a goal to providing a very personal level of service, like an old fashioned family doctor’s office. The hospital has grown into a busy 2 doctor practice with a full time dog and cat groomer. The practice and Dr. Olson have received several awards for top quality service to her patients and their owners, but what she enjoys the most is fine tuning the day to day care of her patients, and helping their owners cope with medical and behavioral issues that pop up in today’s lifestyles. Dr. Olson is particularly interested in the care of geriatric pets and in pets with multiple medical and/or behavioral problems. She keeps her veterinary knowledge current by reading more than 8 veterinary journals every month, and by attending more than 80 hours of continuing education meetings each year (Virginia requires 15 hours per year). She also serves as a mentor for student veterinary technicians and high school students interested in veterinary medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, travel, and photography (photography is an extended family hobby). Some of her photos and some of her family’s photos are framed and on display at the animal hospital.

    Hi, I am Dr. Candy Olson from Greenbriar Animal Hospital. Were making a video on tips for how to care for your cat at home, and the section is on how to give your cat some exercise and playtime and things that you can do. Cats have a tendency to want to play when they want to play and not other times, and as they get older they tend to lose that. So well, there are some ways to encourage your cat to get some exercise, particularly if you live in a place that has several stories. You can put food and water and litter boxes on different levels, for example, so cat has to go up and down to get to different areas. You can get one of those -- even if you got a small place you can get one of those cat trees, the kind that has multiple levels where they have to climb up and down; doesnt seem like much, but adult cats and senior cats tend to sleep about 22 hours a day, so even a little bit of exercise helps. As far as toys themselves, some of the best toys for cats are the things that you can make at home; things like just taking a piece of paper and crunching it up like this and making a little ball and throwing, for a lot of cats will really love that. They love the way it bounces around and theyll grab it and play with it. Now, they are not likely to bring it back for you, but its a fun and easy thing for them -- everybody has got paper around. There are some other things that the cats really enjoy in general and thats a paper grocery bag; just take the paper grocery bag -- I actually go to the grocery store and ask for paper bags once every month or so, so Ive got a couple for my cat to play in. I just take them down and set the bag on its side and she runs in it and she jumps around and she hides in it and plays in it, bats it around and has a good old time and after a little while it gets a little ratty and we throw it out. That was free. Cardboard boxes are another excellent toy for cats. We get a shipment in, its in a box, anything thats so bigger than like this. Just leave the box sitting there, and your cat will come and jump in and explore in it and tip it over -- and again thats an easy and free thing. If you want to try and give your cat some purposeful exercise, a toy like this is great. This is just a bunch of ribbons. You can hang it, but this is an interactive kind of thing. You can put it on a little pole and make it like a little fishing pole, or you can just do this and actually play with your cat. Get her to chase it and run around with it. One of the important things with this kind of toy, anything that has got any long strings, whether its ribbon or string or feathers should never be left with the cat for them to play with. Cats actually have barbs on their tongue that point backwards. If they start chewing on this -- and you can see this is a well loved toy, its been chewed a lot. If they start chewing on this and its just sitting there, they can gradually swallow it and it will go down and down and down and down. Its actually a fairly emergency surgery to have to do for a cat, is to go in and remove this from the intestines because they get whats called a linear foreign body, this long linear length - linear just meaning long, and it gets stuck and it cuts into the intestines. Cats can die from this. So while its a marvelous toy, it should always be something that is, you play with the cat and then it gets put away. Being put away means that its got to be where the cat cant get at it. A lot of times these are favorite toys and weve had actually cats going to closets and drawers and that kind of thing to get the toy out and then get themselves into trouble. Another fairly inexpensive toy that cats can play with on their own is a peacock feather. You can usually buy them in pet stores for a dollar or two. You can play with them, they will drag them around. There are little short pieces that come off of them but that is something that they can play with by themselves because there is this long string effect - that is a concern there. By the way, if your cat is playing with something like this, you come home and you find it, there are pieces missing, or its gotten into some yarn or string or embroidery thread or anything like that, even the tape from an audio tape, if they have played with anything thats long like that -- and by long we mean really anything thats longer than 12 or 18 inches - doesnt have to be very long for it to be a problem. If it looks like there is a possibility that they may have swallowed some of it, youre going to want to call your veterinarian because thats a really serious thing, and they may need to be examined right away.

    As far as other toys are concerned, every cat is individual; some cats really like catnip, the other cats dont care. Sometimes they like the little furry mice that are stuffed with catnip. The problem with those is, again those are a great toy for cats, they are inexpensive, they like them, they bat them around, but you shouldnt leave them with the cat because they will eat them. They have got little beady eyes and that kind of stuff and those kind of things arent meant to be eaten. So thats a toy that you want to play with your cat or let them play with a little bit but then take it away and set it aside somewhere where its safe. If your cat is home alone, you only have one cat and you are off at work all the time and youre thinking, I really would like to have something for my cat to do when I am not there, one of the best things to get them for a little exercise and entertainment and play is a little goldfish, a little fish in a tank or something like a little gerbil or hamster or something thats going to be running around, because thats entertainment, they can look at it, they can play with it a little bit. Obviously you got be real careful to make sure that the top is secure, so that they cant fish it out, because cats being cats, theyll try that sometimes. One of the worst things that you can do is to decide to get another cat, so your cat has a playmate. Cats that are raised together, rarely play together, and often times getting another cat to keep your cat company thinking it will get more exercise and play more, actually backfires, and youll get two cats living in your home that dont particularly like each other and arent getting enough exercise. So those are some tips on exercising with your cat. Next were going to go over some information on feeding your cat.