What’s The Best Exercise For Cats With (or Without) Asthma?

Sparrow Bike Ride - Exercise Toys Cats

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.

Goofball Sparrow - Exercise For Cats

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.


Sparrow Playing Ball - Exercise For Cats


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.
  • Sparrow Beaten By Balls - Exercise For CatsKnow 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…

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  1. Hello Shirley, it is very obvious you are a cat lover! Great images of a happy cat.
    I am a little surprise that a cat would not automatically stop playing once it has become breathless and even starts to pant. They are such smart little creatures. I would not have thought about ‘dim the light’ either, as I was brought up seeing them hunting in bright sunshine, equally as well as at nights.

    You have given some good tips on engaging an ill cat in play, with good sense. I can see why you would not endorse laser pointers. Reading what you have written, neither would I. Who would want to do something that could harm their pet’s eyes? An enjoyable and helpful post. Thank you.

    1. Hi EJ, yeah I’m a little surprised, too. Sometimes Sparrow gets so caught up in the game that he forgets about breathing properly. I guess he’s too young and feisty to worry about responsible things like that. Speaking of smart creatures and Sparrow, he did not fall for the laser pointer game AT ALL when a friend brought one over. He knows a trick when he sees one. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Shirley, another great piece from you.

    My cats drive me mad sometimes, wanting to play and chasing each other about.

    I try to play with them once a day, along with some gentle grooming 2-3 times a week, which they also think is play, they try to attack the brush after about a minute.

    They also have a few toys, their favourites are mini-snakes, which they fling about like crazy and they also love balls, but their absolute favourite, is paper balls and a kitchen roll tube, and sometimes I find the kitchen roll, in shreds all over the floor because I forgot to move it.

    One of my cats also climbs the tree outside my house and sits on the fence, watching the world go by and will often run around the garden before bursting in through the catflap and scaring the heck out of the other cat and myself.

    Best wishes


    1. Hey Neil, nice to see you back here again! Sounds like you have quite a barrel of laughs on your hands with those two cats. My Sparrow loves paper, too…I have to be careful about what I leave laying around because if he finds it, there will be puncture marks in it. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I am a dog person but unfortunately because of the rules in my townhouse complex, we are forbidden from keeping them.

    They do however allow cats here. I recently starting to take a liking to these creatures by watching our neighbours cats. They are so interesting and it always amazes me to see them in action.

    Anyway, about a month ago, we decided to get a kitten. To say that I am fond of this little guy is an understatement.

    Thanks for a great article. You have given me some really to the point tips on how to entertain my cat and keep him fit at the same time.

    I will also keep out for any signs of asthma and act accordingly.


    1. Hi Roopesh, I’m a dog person too! I’ve been trying to convince Sparrow he’s a dog since he was born, but he’s not playing along. Worst puppy EVER. Kittens are kinda irresistible though, they’re so much fun. I’m glad you’re finding value in my stuff, thanks for stopping by.

  4. Hi Sparrow,

    Great post! We have an old cat called, George, who prefers to sleep and eat most of the time, but still really enjoys going outside and playing around like he’s a kitten! I’m very keen on cats being able to go outside, I hate to think of them being cooped up indoors!



    1. Ah, the great inside cat/outside cat debate. I wrote about it here, you should check it out. There are heaps of ways to keep an inside cat entertained, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it for the safety of your pet, I reckon. Sparrow is an inside guy, we don’t have much of a choice living in a top floor apartment, but the advantage of that is there are treetops outside all of the windows. He loves to sit on the window sills and chat to the birds in the trees. Thanks for stopping by, Sean!

  5. Making the toy act like a frightened critter is my favourite. My cat Harvey loves this game! Apart from that, he seems to go about his only daily business without needing much from us. Great article!

  6. Excellent article and so well-written! Sparrow must be proud. 😉

    What do you think of the Cat Exercise Wheel that has come out? Have you seen them?

    1. Thank you! I have seen them, I’m doing a bit of research at the moment. Not sure if I will get one for Sparrow, I think he’s a bit too human to fall for it. Plus he has plenty of space to run when I chase him around the house.

  7. Hi Shirley,
    I have two kitties and one large black Lab. The cats are about 3 years old; one is very active. He has a personality as big as the room, and he gets into EVERYTHING! The other one, his sister, is not as active and she is kind of fat. You gave some great advice; some of the tips i knew, but others I did not. I’m going to try the ones i didn’t know. Thanks for sharing. And your furry friend is adorable!

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Your boy cat sounds like my Sparrow – there’s no stopping him, he has to stick his little face into everything. I’m glad you found some value in my post. Thanks for stopping by!

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