Just because your cat has arthritis doesn't mean they are necessarily incapable of exercising. Staying active actually helps many arthritic cats that suffer from achy bones and joints. It is, however, vital you follow these five exercise tips before you begin an exercise routine with your cat.
A veterinarian will be better able to assist you in combining of exercise, diet, and medications or therapies which are targeted for your cat's individual needs. A veterinarian can also help monitor your cat's progress and identify any serious changes in health.
Light activities such as walking help strengthen muscles, keep ligaments and tendons flexible, prevent obesity and circulate blood to stiff joints. Keep them short but regular — 15-30 minutes of activities five days a week is a great start. Not a fan of walking or swimming? Your cat can also participate in short sessions of gentle play. Just remember to avoid activities in which your cat has to leap, jump, turn quickly or run. They can cause damage to your cat's joints.
A minute or two of walking or gentle playing before initiating low-impact exercise activities will help cats with arthritis move easier. It also helps reduce sprains, cramps, and muscle injuries as well as gradually increases their heart rate. If your cat is reluctant to start moving because of aching joints, try a little incentive like a small healthy treat or positive affection (petting, hugging, etc.). A positive exercise experience is a happy one.
Cool down periods are just as important as warming up for activities. As your cat completes the exercise routine or game, they may be all wound up — jumping, running, or rough-housing. This is not good and can in fact be harmful. Try to calm them down and gradually reduce their heart rate to an optimal resting place. Cooling down also reduces stiffness and soreness by assisting the removal of lactic acids in the body. Massaging during "cool downs" improves the stiffness and muscle pain associated with arthritis too.
Be sure to watch for heavy panting, pain or other signs of overexertion. If they do occur stop the activity immediately and consult a veterinarian. Pushing forward with the exercising can cause injury, especially if your pet isn't accustomed to a lot of activity.