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Exercises for the Cat in Your Life

Here are my favorite recommendations for getting the overweight feline in your life up and moving.
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Most pets in the U.S. today are overweight or obese. According to the most recent information from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), over half of U.S. dogs are overweight, and almost 60 percent of cats are as well.

Obesity is its own disease, and it's also the root cause of several other painful, debilitating diseases including hip dysplasia, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, respiratory problems, kidney disease, and a significant reduction in both quantity and quality of life.

While most dog guardians can think of several ways to help their pet get physically fit, people who share their lives with a corpulent cat often have no idea how to get beefy Bella to follow a workout routine. Here are my favorite recommendations for getting the overweight feline in your life up and moving.

Diet and Exercise Tips for Fat Cats

• First things first. In order to slim down an overweight cat, you must feed a portion controlled, balanced, species-appropriate diet. Not only will a better diet help with weight loss, it will make your feline companion much healthier overall. For detailed information on how to make the switch: Valuable Tips for Helping Your Heavy Cat.

• Next, make sure your kitty has at least one thing to climb on in your home, like a multi-level cat tree or tower. If he's willing to use it, he'll get some good stretching, scratching and climbing time in each day - even when you're not around.

• It's important to keep in mind that your cat has a very limited attention span. Consider investing in a laser toy. Many kitties will maniacally dive around chasing the beams or dots from these toys.

• You'll also want to invest in a few interactive cat toys. To pick the best ones, consider things from your pet's point of view. She's a hunter, so when choosing toys and activities to engage her, think in terms of appealing to her natural instincts to stalk and bring down prey.

• Also keep some low-tech interactive toys on hand, like a piece of string you drag across the floor, ping-pong balls, or bits of paper rolled into balls. Any lightweight object that can be made to move fast and in unexpected directions will entice almost any cat to chase after it. Your cat will tell you when he's had enough, and you shouldn't expect one game with one toy to go on for very long. Cats in the wild stalk prey for only a few minutes at a time and then move on.

• A little scheme I came up with for my own cats is to use mealtime as another opportunity to exercise them. I put their food in bowls, but rather than put the bowls down for them right away, I walk around the house with them. Of course, the kitties follow right along. After a few minutes of walking around the house, I begin stopping from time to time to hand out small bits of food from the bowls. Then we continue our march through the house and up and down the stairs. I can keep my cats moving for about 20 minutes this way because they are fixated on those bowls of food. They run along beside me, weave around my ankles, scoot ahead of me, turn and run back, stretch up toward their bowls, hop around on their back feet, and get a fairly good little workout before I put the bowls on the floor and let them finish eating.

• Now this idea might be kind of "out there" for some of you, but have you ever considered feline agility? Believe it or not, agility competitions for cats do exist! Of course, many kitties want nothing to do with these events, but I think feline agility competitions can give us some good ideas for activities we can try at home to get our own cats moving. This series of short videos from the Cat Fanciers' Association offers some great tips on how to get your cat involved in agility training -- either around your house or in actual competition. The videos also provide lots of ideas for what types of obstacles make sense for kitties and how to find them around your house, or make them, and also where to buy them.

I hope I've given you a bit of inspiration to help your own kitty lose weight and get physically fit. A little effort on your part can go a very long way toward slimming down your pet and vastly improving the quality and quantity of her life.

Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.