Can Your Cat Help You Get in Shape?

Cat playing fetch
Games like fetch and chase can help get you and your cat in shape.

It's easy for dog owners to get regular exercise with their pooches; the typical young pup is almost always ready for a run or fetch session. But cats? They’re not exactly known as cooperative workout partners. Dangle a toy your kitty’s way, and if she’s not in the mood, she won't budge. Still, cat guardians don't have to be permanently sidelined to the couch.

The trick to turning your feline into your fitness buddy is to tap into her prey drive. That way, she'll think all the moving around the two of you are doing is about hunting, not burning calories and stretching muscles, explains Jill Archibald, feline agility coordinator for The Cat Fanciers' Association. Talk with your vet to make sure your cat is ready for a ramped-up exercise routine and then enlist your cat to help you get moving around the house.

Play Chase With a Feather Teaser

Pick a time when your cat is naturally more energized — early in the a.m. is good. Then grab a wand with feathers dangling off the end. Go with one that has a mix of bright colors; the more contrast there is, the more eye-catching it is for her, Archibald says. “Don't just starting running with it and expect her to follow; lure her into a chase by placing the feathers on the floor near her and weaving them around slowly in her line of vision.” When she goes to pounce, pull it away; it'll charge her hunting instinct. Start running in circles or up and down a hallway, teasing her with the feathers for 10 to 15 minutes. You'll break a sweat, and she'll probably feel like queen of the jungle.

Have Her Fetch a Ball or Toy

Fetch isn’t just for dogs. The game takes advantage of your cat’s penchant for “catching” prey and dropping it at your feet, a show of appreciation for her favorite human. Tease her with her favorite toy to get her excited, and then hurl or slide it across the floor. Your throwing arm gets a workout, and she gets to bring the toy back to you and gift you with her catch. Win-win!

Create an Agility Course

Pet stores sell nylon tunnels and plastic hoops you can place around a room in your home, or make your own agility course on the cheap by cutting holes in paper bags for your feline to run through and stacking cardboard boxes she can jump over or climb onto safely. Get her started by acquainting her with it, one section at a time. “Put a treat at the other end of the tunnel first, for example, and she’ll go up or through it to get the treat,” Archibald says. “Eventually she’ll get used to it and will know what to do as soon as she sees the treat, so move on to the next activity, like climbing or jumping.” Pretty soon, she’ll be whizzing through each part and having a blast, with you running alongside her.

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!