Encouraging an older cat to exercise
In older cats activity levels may decrease a lot. If they were outdoor cats with a territory they may spend less time patrolling it. If they used to hunt, they may not do so as much or even at all as they get older. They may no longer be able to climb, chase or jump as well as they used to. If left to their own devices, they may spend a lot of their time sleeping during the day. Encouraging your older cat to play can really make a difference, ensuring they live a happy and healthy life.
What are the benefits of exercise :
‘Use it or lose it’- If muscles are not used regularly they will start to waste. As animals age, there is a natural loss of muscle mass, but this can be kept in check with regular exercise and good diet. Maintaining good muscle strength is especially important in those cats suffering from osteoarthritis. Muscles act as the scaffolding around joints, helping to support them. If muscle mass is lost this scaffolding effect is lessened and joints can become more unstable and painful.
Boost circulation - Keeping your pet mobile will help to improve their circulation . This will help to ensure their internal organs and coat stay as healthy as possible.
Bladder and bowel function – Movement (along with an appropriate diet and plenty of fluid) will also help to prevent constipation, which is a very common problem in older cats.
Prevent excessive weight gain- If your cat maintains a good appetite into old age, it is likely that they will start to put on weight. As their activity levels drop, they will not require as many calories as they did previously. If the take in to many calories through food, fat deposition will start to occur. This can then put stress on joints and internal organs. Keeping your cat mobile will obviously help to maintain a healthy weight.
Stimulate the mind- Just like people, older cats benefit from mental stimulation. Playing with your pet will help to engage their mind and keep them both physically and mentally active.
Suggestions for play activities
Older cats may find certain games trickier than younger cats. They may even need to lie down when playing! Any activity should be tailored to meet your own cats needs and abilities. The length of time you spend engaging with your cat will also need to be tailored to suit them. Short bursts of gentle play may be more suitable for older cats, rather than expecting them to tolerate more energetic activities.
Cardboard boxes: What is it about cardboard boxes that cats love so much? Boxes can be adapted for older cats to make them easier to climb into- simply by flattening one of the sides. This will help to make them ‘older cat friendly’.
Puzzle feeders: Feeders that require your pet to work for their meal can be useful for older cats that are food orientated. Not only do they stimulate your pets mind, as they have to figure out how to get the food, they will also keep them active.
Soft toys: These can be useful for stimulating predatory behaviour in older cats; especially with larger toys that can be grasped between forepaws and kicked.