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by Dorian Wagner
It's common knowledge that dogs should go for walks, play fetch and exercise, but did you know that your cat should be squeezing in fitness time too?
A study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 53 percent of cats are overweight or obese -- a statistic that puts the number of pudgy cats at about 50 million. Constant access to food, along with the fact that the average cat sleeps for 13-14 hours a day -- some up to 20 hours -- is the ultimate recipe for unhealthiness.
To help your cat stay trim and healthy, keep it active by making sure it gets plenty of exercise. It may take some commitment on your part, but the bonus perk is that you also get to spend quality time with your favorite pet.
When you're buying toys for your cat, choose interactive ones. Wand toys with feathers on strings, for example, are especially good for bringing out the kitten in your cat. Many cats also like to chase smaller toys, so throwing felt mice or crinkly mylar balls can also get them moving.
You can also take advantage of cats' love of chasing and stalking by hiding behind furniture until your pet sneaks up and pounces on you. Once your cat is running around, a little extra chasing around the house -- all in good fun, of course -- can really give your cat a great burst of exercise.
If you don't have time to dedicate to playing with your cat, there are electronic toys that can keep it engaged on its own. The Bolt is a classic battery-operated laser toy that will move a little red dot that cats love to chase all along the wall or floor, wherever you point it, for a period of 15 minutes before shutting off on its own.
Other popular electronic toys are the Undercover Mouse, which is like a mouse skittering under a blanket; the Twitch, which is made of feathers and balls on strings that attach to any smooth surface and swing around on their own; and the Fling-ama-String, which hangs on a doorknob and just flings a string up and down for your cat's jumping enjoyment.
Aim for two 10-minute sessions of solid play with your cat each day. Cats that aren't used to playing might need a little coaxing and several toys before you find one that excites them, but the payoff of a healthier, more active cat is well worth the time.
Plus, just like it does with people, exercise burns calories and builds muscle -- all of which will make your cat slimmer and trimmer and less likely to develop weight-caused diseases, like diabetes, in the future.
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Pets | Cats: How to Exercise Your Cat