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Exercise for Couch Potato Cats

By Lambeth Hochwald
Pet Health Articles
Many is the cat owner who comes home to find the
resident feline sprawled out on the couch -- in exactly the
same place it was several hours before. If this sounds
familiar, then your cat is probably in need of a little feline
Physical fitness.
Exercise is beneficial to your cat in several ways. For one, it can alleviate the boredom
that sometimes leads to bouts of bad behavior, says Nancy Peterson, an issues specialist
at The Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C. A little workout might
ward off situations that involve chewing the legs of your dining room chairs, swinging on
curtains, playing with your clothing, and so on.

Regular exercise can also keep your pet healthy and prevent disease. According to
Peterson, heavier cats face a higher risk of developing heart problems and feline
diabetes. And the more your cat exercises, the greater its muscle strength and flexibility,
says James R. Richards, a veterinarian and director of the Cornell Feline Health Center at
the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. "A lot of cats live
indoors these days, which is beneficial for their health in terms of keeping them away
from infectious agents outdoors. But we have a lot of bored, fat, couch potato cats out
there. The high point of their day is when they jump off the couch and head to the
feeding dish."

Consider it your job to keep your cat interested in some sort of exercise, says Jean
Duddy, DVM, a veterinarian who specializes in internal medicine at Angell Animal Medical
Center in Boston. "If your cat tends to be sedentary and you don't change that pattern, it
will remain sedentary," she says. "Keep at it even when your cat walks away."

Experiment with different toys until you find some that capture your cat's interest and
excitement. Some felines love interactive wand-like gadgets that prompt them to leap in
the air, while other cats prefer to sit in hiding and pounce on objects, says Peterson.
"Even older cats can be enticed to play with most wand toys," Peterson says. "But
regardless of age, what's most important is to make exercise a routine part of the day. An
adult cat will benefit from at least twice-a-day play sessions, preferably at set times." To
keep things fun, rotate the toys on a weekly basis so that boredom doesn't set in.  

Finally, if your cat is already overweight, be sure to speak to your veterinarian before
jump-starting a regular exercise routine. Your vet can rule out any underlying medical
issues that should be treated, or considered, in advance.

Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City-based writer and editor who adores a sweet, loyal,
adopted little dog named Ginger.