Best Cat Exercises to Keep Your Cat Active and Healthy

14 Minute Read
Updated August 10, 2022

Is your cat lazy? Most cats get less daily exercise than they should. While not all cats are naturally active, encouraging them with some fun and simple cat exercises can help them stay healthy.

A typical cat will sleep around 12 to 15 hours per day. In fact, studies have shown that older cats can sleep up to 20 hours per day. Such a sedentary lifestyle often leads to weight gain and other health problems, which is why many pet owners make cat exercise a daily goal.

In this blog, we’ll help you understand your cat’s schedule, some basic cat exercises and how to encourage your cat to stay active. 

Do Cats Need Exercise?

It’s normal for cats to sleep a lot. Even in between cat naps, you may find that your cat’s favourite past times include sitting in a window to catch some rays, cuddling with their favourite humans, and eating. 

All of these inactive behaviours can lead to weight gain, muscle depletion, hip and joint issues and more. Without daily exercise, your cat’s health can deteriorate over time and even shorten her life span.

With the right routines and encouragement, you can help to replace some of your cat’s lazier habits with some healthier, active ones. 

How Much Exercise Do Cats Need?

Now you know that your cat does need exercise, you need to determine how much cat exercise is appropriate for your kitty. Every cat is different, and their physical routine can be affected by health, age, and lifestyle. 

A good rule of thumb is to try to incorporate 30 minutes of moderate activity every day. This can include running, jumping, climbing, and chasing, just to name a few. This baseline recommendation may be too much for some cats that are just starting out or maybe too little for cats that are naturally more active, so plan to adjust as needed. 

When learning how long you should play with your cat, just let your furry friend take charge. Your cat will play only for as long as the animal feels engaged. Most cats have notoriously short attention spans and will only show interest in a toy for a fleeting time before wandering off in search of food or a nap.

Understanding Your Cat’s Schedule 

Cats are commonly thought to be nocturnal, but they are actually crepuscular, meaning they are the most active at sundown and sunup.

The easiest way to introduce more activity in your cat’s routine is to plan cat exercise around their peak active hours. Of course, we don’t expect you to wake up at the crack of dawn to play with your cat, but you should plan your cat’s activities in the morning and the evening. 


Why is My Cat Lazy?


If your cat is prone to being a lazy couch potato, it can be a challenge to get them off their cat butts and chase a toy. If you are struggling to get your cat to be more active, then there may be an underlying cause. Here are some common reasons that cats are lazy:

Is Your Cat Overweight?

If your cat has been carrying around an extra pound or two, then he might be less inclined to move around. Overweight cats are less active, which can lead to further weight gain. It’s a vicious cycle. 

Slowly increasing activity with light exercise will help your fat cat increase stamina and get used to short daily activities. 

Is Your Cat in Pain?

Cats hide their pain well. It’s a natural wild instinct, but one that can lead to inactivity and further injury. Reaching out to your vet for a check-up can rule out any injury or weight and age-related chronic pain. 

Do Cats Get Bored? 

If your cat is sleeping more than usual, then the feline might feel bored. Yes, cats get bored. In fact, they require mental stimulation combined with short stretches of cat exercise to stay mentally and physically sharp. 

Find out more about preventing cat boredom to prevent lazy and destructive behaviours in Is Your Cat Bored? 

How to Get Your Cat To Exercise More

Unlike dogs who take daily walks and are naturally very playful, cats are independent. They will default to lazy behaviours if they are not offered a variety of stimulants in their environment. Your cat will need some encouragement to stay active, so be prepared to dedicate some time and effort into your cat’s exercise routine. 

Here are a few ideas for getting your cat to be more energetic:

Encourage Solo Play

Since your feline may prefer active hours that don’t fit into your daily routine, you’ll want to provide options for them to keep themselves active and occupied when they are alone.

Solo play is great for overweight, lazy, loud, destructive, or aggressive cats. Choose a variety of solo cat toys to encourage your kitty to play alone. 

Catnip Toys


Many cats are attracted to the scent of catnip, so toys stuffed with catnip may help encourage them to play. Some of our favourite catnip toys include the Kong Cozy Kickeroo and the Mad Cat Burrito Kicker. These toys are big enough for your cat to wrestle around with and lightweight enough to be tossed around. 

Automatic Laser Cat Toys


The Petsafe FroliCat Bolt Automatic Laser encourages jumping, pouncing, and running. Simply place the laser toy in an accessible area of your home and turn it on. The toy creates a sporadic laser that moves around the room to catch your kitty’s attention.

While laser toys are usually very affecting at keeping your cats attention, they can also cause some anxiety in cats. This is because it’s an unwinnable game. They will never catch the red dot, so it can be very frustrating. 

Learn if a laser pointer is right for your cat in Are Laser Pointers Bad for Cats?

Cat Track Toys


Another great option for solo playtime is cat track toys. Catit Senses offers several circuit track cat toys that all interlink so you can constantly change things up to hold your cat’s interest and curiosity. With the Catit Senses 2.0 Super Circuit, wave and speed circuits are generated to encourage stalking and chasing behaviour. 

The Catit Senses Fireball 2.0 is a lighted LED ball that you can stuff with treats or catnip. If you are trying to figure out how to get a fat cat to exercise, then this is a must-have toy because kitty will have to figure out the lighted ball to claim the tasty morsels it holds. 

Hanging Cat Toys


You’ll encounter a wide assortment of hanging cat toys that will cling to windows or hang from a doorknob. Check out the Kong Window Cling Teaser, which is loaded with an abundance of catnip and even makes little crinkly noises to entice the kitty to continue playing when batted or chewed. It affixes to your window with a suction cup so you can change the toy’s location whenever needed. 

Motion Activation


When encouraging your cat to exercise, you’ll want to take a look at motion-activated toys such as the Catit Groovy Fish, which immediately starts to squirm and flop whenever it suspects your cat is near. 

Your kitty will swear it's a live fish placed on the ground just for the cat’s enjoyment. The best thing about this toy is that it is fully interactive, and you don’t have to be present for kitty exercise. 

Play Together

Some cats just aren’t that into toys, but if you play with the cat toys with them, they may find the games more fun. Your participation can encourage longer periods of activity than if your cat were alone. It can also help to strengthen your bond with your cat. 

Some cats love games like fetch, so small tossable toys like cat balls are light enough for your cat to chase and bat around, and some cats will even bring them back. 

Cat wands and teasers are also great options to get your cat excited. The wands usually have feathers, ribbon, or small stuffed cat toys that your cat can chase, jump at, or tackle. Wand toys often encourage more intense activity, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.

Cat Trees and Climbing


Climbing is a full-body cat workout. Things like furniture and stairs are a great tool in your home to help up your cat's exercise intensity, especially when using a wand or teaser. If you prefer to keep your cat off your furniture, then it's time to invest in some cat furniture. 

Cat trees and cat furniture give your cat a safe and fun place to play, climb, scratch, and nap. To encourage activities like jumping and climbing, look for a multi-story cat tree that is at least 3 ft tall. Use toys and wands to get your cat to climb up and down the tree for a more intense cat workout. 

Leash Train Your Cat

When a dog starts getting a little chunky, you can take the pooch for a walk, but can you leash train a cat? The answer is - Yes!  

Daily walks help your cat exercise and expand their world with exciting visuals. The great outdoors is like a whole new world to your cat, with exciting sounds and smells bombarding the senses. 

Your cat will probably become excited and want to immediately investigate the unfamiliar environment. Walking your cat on a leash is great for mental stimulation and gives your furry friend a healthy workout. 

 So how do you train your cat to walk on a leash? Check out How to Leash Train Your Cat in 10 Easy Steps.

Teach Your Cat Tricks

Cats are highly intelligent and can quickly learn tricks, just like a dog. Although most felines have an independent streak and prove more challenging to teach, with patience and persistence, you can convince your feline to learn a few fun tricks that promote cat exercise. 

Benefits of teaching your cat tricks include:  

    • Encourages exercise 
    • Helps with bonding
    • Promotes alert behaviour
    • Alleviates depression
    • Stimulates mental abilities

Tips on teaching cat tricks: 

    • Train your cat frequently (several times a day).
    • Repetition helps your cat learn quicker
    • Use treats to train
    • Keep training sessions short
    • Train in a distraction-free environment
    • Use a clicker to capture your cat’s attention

While teaching your cat tricks isn’t exactly a workout, it can be a useful tool in keeping your cat engaged. The tricks can be worked into your playtime routines to encourage longer play sessions throughout the day. 

3 Easy Tricks to Teach Your Cat

Start by training your cat basic tricks like sitting. You’ll teach the sit trick the same as you would with a dog.

Training Your Cat to Sit 

      • Use a treat and hold it out in front of your cat’s nose. 
      • Raise your hand holding the treat up and back but keep the treat a few inches away from your cat. 
      • Draw your hand back and use the sit command. 
      • Provide the feline with the treat when the cat sits. 

A Kitty High-Five 

      • Sit your kitty in front of you.
      • Position a treat at shoulder height in front of your cat.
      • Say “high-five’ when your cat reaches his paw out to touch the hand holding the treat. 
      • Open your hand and provide the cat with the treat. 

Come Command

      • Call your cat by name or simply ‘kitty-kitty.’ 
      • Offer a treat when the cat comes.
      • Repeat the trick several times until kitty masters the ‘come’ command. 

Cats are notorious for ignoring you, so don't be surprised if your cat does not pay attention to you at first. Your best bet to make your cat pay attention and consistently perform the trick is to use a treat as a reward each time your cat comes. 

These are just a few cat tricks to encourage cat exercise. Once your cat starts to get used to the training routine, you can start to incorporate tricks that get your cat moving more. Check out our 10 Favourite Cool Cat Tricks to Teach Your Cat


Cat Exercise and Mental Stimulation


If you stimulate your cat mentally, then the cat will start to move around and exercise. A bored cat might sleep too much or become destructive. Providing cat puzzle toys to encourage thinking will entertain your kitty and promote physical fitness. 

Cats are very picky about how they play. Simply providing them with cat toys is often not enough to get your cat exercising. 

If you want to arouse your cat’s curiosity, then invest in cat puzzle toys. With a cat puzzle toy, your cat will learn how to solve a problem, exercise, and stimulate their mind. 

Puzzle toys for cat exercise provide the following benefits:

    • Relieves anxiety by providing mental stimulation that prevents boredom. 
    • Encourage your kitty to eat slowly, which helps with digestion and prevents overeating which can lead to vomiting. 
    • Provides minimal impact cat exercise, which helps with weight loss. 
    • Teaches your cat to self-soothe. 

Cat Food Puzzles 

Does your cat have weight problems? If so, then a cat food puzzle will encourage mental stimulation, exercise and weight loss. Your cat will feel excited about dinner but not overeat. 

Catit Puzzle Feeders such as the Catit Senses 2.0 Digger encourage natural foraging behaviours in your cat. The feline will use his paws to pull out a piece of food at a time.

The Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree holds an entire meal of food in a three-tiered tower. It features several holes that your cat can reach his paws into to grab the food and knock it down to the next tier. 

These are just a few of our favourite puzzle toys for cats. Hop over to Best Cat Puzzle Toys to Engage and Stimulate Your Cat.

Interactive Feeder Balls 

An interactive feeder ball encourages even more exercise and movement as your cat manipulates the ball to gain a dry snack. The cat will nudge, push, chase and bat the ball around the room.

The PetSafe SlimCat Interactive Feeder Ball holds ⅔ of a cup of dry cat food. The holes on the ball are completely adjustable, so you can increase or decrease the size to control the difficulty of the interactive ball challenge. 

The Be One Breed IntelliKatt Interactive Feeder is a deep puzzle bowl that features several layers coupled with moveable pieces. It creates a single layer, and then as your cat learns how to conquer the layer, then it can move to the next level. 

Want more options? Our Interactive Cat Toys blog has plenty of suggestions to keep your cat’s mind active. 


Take Kitten Steps


Studies have shown that 50% of all cats aged five to 11 years or older are overweight, with 30 to 35% being classified as obese. Obesity will shorten your cat’s life expectancy. With cat exercises, your furry friend can shed unwanted pounds and experience improved health and greater mental well-being. 

If your cat is used to being lazy, then you’ll need to take baby steps when introducing a new cat exercise routine. Start by finding games and toys that your cat enjoys and scheduling short 3-5 minute play sessions a few times per day. 

As your cat builds stamina, you can increase play time and slowly start working on more exciting and higher-energy games. 

Food can be a good motivator, but too many treats can counteract the benefit of the exercise. If your cat needs some tasty encouragement to get started, stick to very small treats and slowly wean replace treats with praise and toys. 

With a little patience and practice, you can enjoy a daily cat exercise routine to keep him slim and healthy without sacrificing any of his regular nap time or couch cuddles. 

Kong Cat Toys

How do you encourage your lazy cat to work out and stay healthy? Share your tips and struggles with us in the comments below!

Written by

Homes Alive Pets


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