By Yahaira Cespedes
Keeping cats fit can be challenging, since they’re mostly kept indoors and they love to sleep most of the day away. Thanks to some tried and true pointers from Dr. Mae Wasson, veterinarian at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida, we have put together a list of ten ways you can help your cat to stay in shape.
Food quality is as important as quantity control when you feed your cat. Remember, cats are carnivores. Their bodies are designed to process a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. Feeding a cat solely dry food and processed treats contributes to their weight gain. For a little variety, try giving them boneless chicken, beef or fish.
If your cat is overweight, some of the best health advice you can get is from your veterinarian. Some feline breeds are just larger than others, so it's important to know what is normal for your cat. Other than the obvious hanging tummy, a veterinarian will be able to measure your cat’s fat to muscle ratio and determine if kitty needs to go on a diet. Your pet’s doctor may also do lab work to determine your feline's overall health, as well.
petMD’s Obesity in Cats … and What to Do About an Overweight Cat discusses the biggest contributor to feline obesity: diet. It might be hard to resist succumbing to feline charm and "free feeding" them, but consider this: Overweight cats live shorter lives. Obese cats suffer from heart and liver conditions, and can develop diabetes as a result of excess weight. Poor health due to overeating can be prevented by limiting their daily food intake.
It is a common misconception that cats are generally aloof. Just like any other pet, the more affection you give to your cat, the more responsive he will be. Cats also tend to respond better to repeated behavior. What does this mean? Consider this tip from Dr. Wasson:
"Take some time every day to play with your cat and you will both benefit from it. Remember, boredom is your cat's worst enemy."
"Be creative!" says Dr. Wasson. "My own cat, E.C., was fascinated by phone ring tones. My friend's daughter would hide in the house with her cell phone. When we called her phone, E.C. would find her by following the sounds. Everybody had fun!"
"Is your cat a couch potato and only motivated by food? If he/she eats dry food, take a portion of their usual meal and roll it piece by piece across the floor, causing them to chase it to get dinner," suggests Dr. Wasson.
Try putting treats into a container that your cat can bat around. If you can keep track, it is always fun to hide dry food to see if your cat will find it.
"Does your cat climb and jump? Try using a fishing pole-type toy with feathers or a stuffed toy attached to the end, which will encourage amazing acrobatic leaps and jumps," suggests Dr. Wasson. "Cat furniture with sisal rope makes a great jungle gym and promotes appropriate scratching behavior."
Does your cat enjoy the thrill of the hunt? If so, Dr. Wasson suggests that you "toss a superball (rubber bouncy ball) or foil ball across the floor, down the stairs, or up the stairs. Be sure to toss it away from the cat to get them moving. You can also throw a ping pong ball into an empty bathtub. A hockey game just might break out!"
Cats may display a mellow temperament — until you bring home a laser pointer or catnip toy, that is. Dr. Wasson also has some suggestions on that:
"Does your cat hide and pounce? Try placing a cardboard box or paper bag (no plastic bags) in the middle of the floor and throw a catnip mouse inside. Then, just sit back and watch the show. Is he/she under the coffee table? Try teasing with a peacock feather."
Agile and acrobatic, cats are naturally curious creatures. While it’s true that cats love to sleep, many people mistake their dozing for laziness. Cats are just more active at night.
"Cats are naturally playful and active (in between naps of course). You really need to watch your cat closely to get to know what he/she already enjoys doing," says Dr. Wasson.