By Ashley Gallagher, DVM
Cold weather and short days make it is easy for both us and our pets to get a bit lazy in wintertime. Nevertheless, it's important to stay active to maintain a healthy body condition and optimal health, even when the outdoor temperature drops. Here are a few tips to help you and your cat stay busy this winter.
Your cat can easily become overweight if all he does is eat a big meal and then go sleep all day. You can avoid this by hiding small portions of food around the house in bowls or in feeding toys. A cat’s metabolism works best when he eats multiple small meals a day. Feeding in this manner will also increase his daily physical activity and hone his hunting instinct. Additionally, studies have shown that animals enjoy their food more when they have to work for it.
Play a game of hide and seek with a catnip toy or his favorite treats. Start easy by showing him the toy and then placing it in a location he can see. When he gets the toy give him a treat and start again. As he begins to understand the game you can make the toy more difficult to find.
There are a wide variety of cat toys — from feathers to balls to pretty much anything dangling from a string — that can get your cat off of the couch and moving around. Find one that you two really enjoy and make her bounce and pounce around.
Just like dogs, cats can learn tricks like come, sit, fetch and stay too. Start with a treat that your cat loves and practice for 15 minutes a day. You may need to break up the treat in small pieces to control calories and limit weight gain. Once your cat performs the desired action you should reward him within 1-2 seconds so he will associate the treat with the command.
Pick up a cat tree for your kitty to increase the vertical space in the house. Cats love climbing up to higher spaces so they better observe their environment. Cat trees give kitty new nooks to explore and places to relax in. They are usually made out of material that encourages your cat to scratch so he isn’t ruining the furniture.
Any changes in your cat’s activity can lead to weight gain or weight loss. Monitor his body condition score closely (Try petMD's Healthy Weight Calculator) and consult your veterinarian about dietary changes if you notice a fluctuation in weight.