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Helping your indoor cat get enough exercise and activity is a challenge year-round, but in the winter it can be especially tough. Cold weather and short days make your kitty want to get cozy, sleep all day and nosh on comfort food as much as you do. That makes it all the more important to help your cat stay active during the winter months.
This guide to cat exercise and cat activity will help your indoor cat stay fit and healthy in the winter and throughout the year.
1. Schedule Playtime
Cats do best with a predictable routine, says Atlantic Veterinary Hospital. Be intentional about including playtime with your cat in your schedule. Per Cat Wisdom 101, cat exercise should add up to about 30 minutes a day, so setting aside 10 to 15 minutes to play with your kitty two or three times each day will ensure they get enough activity to stay healthy. Enlist other family members to spread the playtime around. Interactive play is a fun way for the entire family to build a bond with your cat.
2. Make Meals Fun
Cats are natural-born hunters, so give them something to hunt! Dividing up their meal and hiding it in small portions around the house will engage their scenting abilities and predatory instincts, and it will boost their physical activity level far above what feeding them in a single bowl will do. While conventional wisdom says to feed cats several small meals a day, a study cited by ScienceDaily found that cats tend to be more satiated and less prone to obesity when they eat only once a day. So feed your kitty at a time when you can help them search, and encourage them to keep hunting until they've found and eaten all of their meal.
3. Get Creative
Cats are easy to entertain — you don't need to pile up expensive toys to keep your feline friend active and engaged. A cardboard box, a paper bag, a cotton swab on a string or a few pingpong balls in an empty bathtub are all easy ways to engage your cat with items around the house. On days you need to get work done, scatter a few boxes around your home office, toss in a few crumpled up pieces of paper, and let your cat enjoy batting them around and hopping from box to box while you work.
4. Set Up Places to Jump, Climb and Scale
Climbing is another cat activity that comes naturally. A cat tree, a kitty condo or cat shelves placed strategically along a wall will give your cat a healthy outlet for this instinct, providing them with opportunities to climb, jump and stretch their bodies that won't require you to be actively engaged. Place it near a window so they can perch comfortably and watch the world outside. This is also a terrific way to both help your kitty be active and provide mental enrichment when you have to leave them home alone.
5. Teach an Old Cat New Tricks
Old or young, cats can learn tricks as well as dogs. Combine treats with clicker training methods to teach your kitty to play fetch, roll over, jump through hoops and other tricks that will enrich their minds and help them get moving. Training uses a lot of treats, so be mindful of your kitty's calories. You may need to reduce the amount of food they eat to compensate for the extra, and break soft treats into tiny bites to keep from overdoing it. Work training into your scheduled playtime — it's a great way to switch things up and keep things interesting when your cat gets bored with the usual play.
These are just a few ways to help your cat stay active during the winter months and make sure they don't spend the whole season hibernating and putting on pounds. Actively engaging your cat can also help stave off behavioral issues that result from boredom, says Atlantic Veterinary Hospital. So use this guide to get creative and help your kitty stay active, fit and happy, both through the winter and all year long.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a freelance writer and blogger who has been writing in the pet health and lifestyle space since 2014. Her clients have included Hill's Pet, American Kennel Club, Chewy, and more.