two cats leaping into the air

How To Exercise A Cat – 11 Great Ideas

Do you remember Garfield – that iconic, striped fat, orange tomcat that always sits in front of the TV and does nothing but eat lasagna?

You might think he’s the ideal image of a cute indoor cat – but an overweight and lazy feline can face a multitude of health risks.

While it is certainly not cruel to keep your cat indoors, they will need exercise lest they end up overweight, sluggish, or worse, unhealthy.

The good news is that there are many ways to exercise an indoor cat and keep your feline friend from becoming a real-life version of Garfield.

Even veterinarians recommend these indoor cat exercises to ensure that your cat stays healthy until its old age.

1. Use a Cat Tower

Cat towers come in many heights and designs. A three-tiered cat tower is common in pet supply stores and makes for a good exercise for your cat. Your beloved kitty can jump, climb, run, and scratch on the tower while looking for treats, too!

These can save your upholstery from getting scratched and damaged. Choose a cat tower with many perches, scratching surfaces, and hideaways. It should also be made of soft faux fur and sturdy plywood. A rope can be an additional accessory.

2. Try Some Homemade Cat Toys

Cats are snobbish by nature compared to dogs, but they definitely won’t say no to a ball of yarn, balled-up pipe cleaners, or ping-pong balls. They even play with plastic bottle caps (just be careful they don’t eat them!). Just make sure the toys are not small enough to be swallowed.

For the budget-conscious, homemade toys are the best alternative. Examples of these toys are catnip yarn balls, toilet paper roll cat toy, a makeshift cat transit system, a cardboard palace or your could even make a cat toy from your old socks.

Throw the toy at a certain distance, or hold the yarn up and play catch with your kitty.

3. Exercise Using a Cat Laser Pointer

laser pointers can provide good exercise and entertainment for your cat. However, make sure that you don’t shine the laser dot directly into your cat’s eyes as it could cause retina damage. Laser pointers are best used in moderation because they can cause your cat to become frustrated with never being able to catch the red dot!

You can certainly use the laser beam as a springboard to set your feline companion into action, but this should be followed up with another toy so your cat won’t get fixated on the red dot.

PetSafe Stimulating Exercise Laser Cat Toy, Adjustable
  • Automatic: ideal for busy or on the go owners, the Bolt will provide exciting Interactive fun that your Cats will love at the push of a button. Note: You must tilt the mirror to make the laser move in multiple directions
  • Dual play modes: Fresh, exciting Laser patterns can be automatically generated for playful pets; alternatively, the laser can be manually aimed for a more hands-on playing experience

4. “Magic” Cat Wands

Wands are also one of the most enjoyable toys for cats as they provide interactive play. Attach a mouse, feather, or any other diversion at the end of the wand, and swish it around your cat. It makes for a fabulous exercise (your cat won’t ever get tired!), whose challenge you can modify from time to time. For example, you can run the wand up the stairs, hover it on the cat tower, or just wiggle it up and down the sofa.

FYNIGO Cat Feather Toys,Interactive Cat Toys for Indoor...
  • 【2023 Latest Upgraded Set】2023 upgraded set, the retractable fishing rod has been upgraded from the original one to two, which can be used as a spare rod, or two people can play at the same time
  • 【Newly Upgraded Accessories Set】The upgraded cat toys set includes 9 pcs feather teaser refills, contains 5 of the most popular worms and 4 natural feather refills. We also removed the eyes of the original worm to prevent the cat from accidentally swallowing it. All of the refills have bells on it, which can increase cats' interest

5. Exercise Wheels

How to exercise an indoor cat? Give your cat a taste of a human workout by making it run on a cat exercise wheel. You could choose from various types of exercise wheels and treadmills. Some exercise wheels are simple mechanisms: two rollerblade wheels and a base to keep the exercise wheel in place. Another type integrates the wheel and a cat tower, which includes food storage, scratching posts, and litter for the cats. Exercise wheels may also be customized and handcrafted to give them a unique feel. Meanwhile, you can also create a DIY cat wheel from a bicycle wheel—it’s artsy and cost-effective, no less!

No products found.

6. Get Them A Friend To Exercise With

A cat can be solitary most of the time, but it may also want a feline companion to play with. Cats love wrestling and running around, so having two or three cats in the house can provide each of them the exercise they need. Even just a pair can already give both pets plenty of exercise and you may even not need fancy cat towers anymore.

7. Obstacle Courses

An elaborate obstacle course is perfect for your cats, basically because they have to climb, run, or just jump high over boxes, books, and pillows. You could create them anytime, but it’s more fun if your home has been designed that way.

Instead of having flaps at the bottom of the kitchen door, you could make cats enter and exit on a windowsill (cats can jump from a certain height, so don’t worry about them not being able to get down), you could even incorporate a cat tunnel into your course.

If you happen to naturally keep stacks of books beside you, you can give your cats a healthy exercise by chasing them –or them chasing a toy—as they get through the obstacle course. At any rate, make sure the vertical spaces you create are safe.

8. Hockey Rinks

Hockey rinks are another way to give your cats a fun and interactive play. You could put a ball in a big cardboard box to create your makeshift hockey rink. The ball should fly off the walls and your cat should chase it in return.

9. Try Some Catnip

Catnip toys can be great for some cats, but remember that some cats won’t respond to them. On the other hand, cats may get aggressive or go bonkers once they’ve smelled catnip. An option is to create a catnip-looking toy from yarn or crocheted material.

YEOWWW Very Strong Organic Catnip Cat Toys (1x Pollock...
  • With this Yeowww bundle you will receive 1x Fish Pollock (28cm) and 3x Stinkies (7.5cm) in length
  • Yeowww Cat Toys are made of heavy-duty material and colored using only natural vegetable or soy-based colors. 

This way, your cat won’t get sedated, or worse, crazy, even when they play with the catnip for extended hours.

10. Food & Water Workout

Perhaps a lazy indoor cat needs a tried-and-tested motivation: food and water. You may want to strategically place its food and water in places where it will have to walk or run first. You could also separate its food and water bowls to give your cat a bit of exercise in between meals. Food trails might just work, too.

Although it is in the nature of cats to sleep a lot, this isn’t enough excuse for them not to move. Help them exercise indoors so they can remain healthy, active, and entertained. We hope you and your cat enjoy trying out some of these exercise ideas!

11. Try Cat TV

If your cat has a high prey drive then cat TV can be a great way of stimulating them.

Cat’s with high prey drives tend to be the type of cats who spend a lot of time chattering at birds through the window.

If your cat has a high prey drive then they may be interested in watching some cat TV. Shows that feature birds, mice or balls moving across the screen can all be very stimulating to cats, causing them to focus intently looking for movement.

Be aware some cats may pounce and swipe at the screen so make sure your TV is well secured before trying this.

If normal TV doesn’t work there are also countless videos for cats on YouTube as well as apps for cats that allow them to catch fish and mice.

How Much Exercise Do Cats Need?

Some daily exercise and a healthy dose of interactive play may save your cat from certain health risks. Cats need consistency to be healthy and for the exercise to actually manifest any benefits. However, even veterinarians have various takes on exactly how much exercise you should subject your pet to. The only logical baseline would be your cat’s weight.

This means an overweight cat should be given more exercise than a regular cat. The starting point could be 10 minutes each day, but you could add a few more minutes in the succeeding days. In general, having a total of 30 minutes of exercise is good enough to keep your cats healthy.

Since cats are normally energetic and active in short periods of time, having three minutes of playtime a couple of times a day would be ideal. Some exercises and interactive play may be scheduled in the morning, and the rest could be done in the evening.

There should be no problem in engaging kittens to play, as they usually initiate it. Kittens also have a surprising amount of energy to continue playing even after 15 plus minutes. Older and overweight cats, in contrast, are harder to coax. Most adult cats would just lounge around and sleep, so they need a lot of distractions and enjoyable exercise.

Compared to outdoor cats, indoor cats don’t get the required exercise they should really get. Cats love to hunt, so you can give indoor cats the same feel and atmosphere as a cat’s natural habitat outside. You can set up makeshift trees for them to climb, or obstacles for them to tackle. Be sensitive around your cat. If he starts to get sluggish or bored and begins seeking your attention, get his toys and start playing with him. Make sure that interactive play lasts for not less than 10 minutes.

How To Exercise a Fat Cat?

picture of a fat ginger cat lying down relaxing
The first thing to consider is the intensity of the activity your cat will go through; he should have at least one object to climb or jump onto. A cat should be able to stretch, scratch, and run daily. Because fat cats may feel they are dragging their bodies when they walk, making them run all of a sudden could prove to be challenging.

It would be best to start with low-tech interactive toys. Gather your ping-pong balls, yarn, feathers, and any lightweight object that could move fast. These are good distractions for your pet. If he gets interested in the toy, make sure you hold the object high, or you throw it at some distance, to compel the cat to exert a little more effort.

Another good exercise for obese cats would be making them walk up and down the stairs, or creating an elaborate cat tower for them to climb. Obesity often translates to laziness, so forcing your cat to run on the treadmill might scare him off instead of coaxing him to exercise. You can lure the cat with food as you make him walk or run. Taking your cat to an agility competition is also a helpful and effective exercise.

As an Amazon Associate I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. This helps us run the site, so thanks for your support!