I’m often asked about how Sparrow goes with running around like a fool and exactly what is the best exercise for cats with asthma. Just to be clear: he does run around like a fool…but only in short bursts before he has to stop and catch his breath. It’d be kinda cute if it wasn’t so…serious.
Cats are people too. Wait…yes, they are. Kind of. What I mean is, cats need kind of the same things humans do to survive: proper nutrition, shelter, TLC and of course exercise. The same rules apply as with humans, young cats will have more energy and require more play time than older cats. Asthma cats come with the additional challenge of breathing issues, which can often turn play time into something a lot less fun than it should be. The key is to strike a balance between complete laziness and full blown asthma attack. Once you figure out what kitty likes and how to recognise his asthma symptoms, workout time will become something you both look forward to and enjoy.
But I Got a Cat Because I CBF walking a Dog!
Ha ha. Joke’s on you. Cats are way more difficult and demanding than dogs, especially in terms of exercise. Cats need to not only run but also to jump, climb, stretch and hunt. Playing is also a great way to form a bond with your asthma cat, making all the horrid stuff like medicine time and vet visits much more pleasant.
Healthy cats that are allowed outside will get plenty of exercise on their own, going about their normal daily business – running from cars, jumping over dogs, hunting rodents, climbing fences to get to the neighbour with the good food. Indoor, overweight or asthmatic cats need to be encouraged to play and live out their natural feline instincts, which can sometimes be stifled by their surroundings and health issues. Exercise helps keep the weight off, tones and strengthens the muscles and engages the mind, all of which are important for keeping your asthma cat happy and relaxed.
How Much Exercise do Cats Need?
This will depend on things such as your cat’s age and health concerns, but as a general rule be prepared to spend 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day playing with your cat. Younger cats and kittens are more likely to find their own entertainment or take the initiative and engage you in play, and will often want to continue the game long after you’re over it.
Older or more wheezy cats will often need to be encouraged to play, as they tend to lack the stamina or interest in long bouts of exercise. These special cases will still benefit from short bursts of activity during their day, but you do need to be wary of over exertion. The asthmatic need to be kept on close watch during play sessions – heavy breathing is to be expected during exercise, but if your cat starts panting, open mouth breathing or showing signs of asthma, stop immediately and switch to something low-key.
How to Play With a Cat
Ideally, you want to make play time stimulate kitty’s natural instinct to stalk, chase, pounce and catch their prey. The best toys for this are the kind consisting of something on the end of a string, which you pull away from your cat using quick starts and stops that mimic the behaviour of natural prey.
- Have a variety of toys – things on strings, balls with bells in them, catnip mice. Even household things like screwed up bits of paper and the plastic rings from juice bottles can be enough to entertain a cat.
- Make the toy act like a frightened critter – it scampers away, hides around the corner, freezes in terror and jumps when the ferocious kitty pounces.
- Dim the lights – cats like to hunt when in the dark, too.
- Let him win – don’t make it too easy, but remember that the thrill of the chase is only half the fun. The other half is sweet, sweet victory.
- Know when to quit – keep an eye on the wheezy during play sessions; stop immediately if kitty is panting, but keep interacting at a slower pace once he’s caught his breath. Otherwise, if you’ve gone 10-15 minutes and your cat has just scored a catch, you can end the session with lots of praise and treats.
- Put the toys away – if a toy is always out, it becomes boring and unrealistic to your cat. Some toys can be choking hazards and are best used only under supervision.
What About Cats and Laser Pointers?
Not everyone agrees that lasers are good toys for cats. I personally am firmly in the ‘don’t do it’ camp. Not only do lasers pose a huge danger to kitty’s eyes, they also do not give him the satisfaction of catching the dot. Although you might find it hilarious, this is an exercise in frustration for your cat, which could lead to behavioural or psychological issues. Keeping kitty happy and stable is the name of the game with asthma cats, so I can’t help but feel that this kind of play could be detrimental to your cat’s wellbeing.
Play time should be fun and rewarding for both you and your cat – it’s an excellent way to maintain good health and strengthen your relationship. You don’t have to spend a fortune or a great deal of time, but even if you do the benefits will far outweigh the investment. Your cat will thank you…and you may even thank your cat.
How do you play? What’s your favourite game? Let us know in the comments below…