Monday, May 6, 2013

Physical Fitness and your Pet

I was speaking with a group of dedicated cat shelter volunteers last week about conditions that make cats less adoptable ... and I was utterly shocked to learn that obesity isn't one of them.

"No," I was told. "People consider fat cats to be cute, and so they usually fly out of the shelter."
Really? Rehoming a cat is as easy as fattening him up a bit? There's something really wrong with this, I thought.

Most cats do this all day while waiting for you to get home.
© Supertramp | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images

Not that I'm not thrilled that certain types of cats are easily adoptable. But what about all the potential health issues that accompany said fat cats?

There are a ton of them, and they run the gamut from arthritis to kidney disease to heart disease. 

Fat cats might be cute, but they aren't healthy. Nor are they necessarily happy either, carrying all that excess weight around.

Pet obesity is at an all-time high, with dog obesity increasing by over 37% since 2007, and cat obesity by a whopping 90%.

Techincally, that qualifies as an epidemic.

As we've mentioned here before in December's article on the Obesity Epidemic, this is mainly due to overfeeding. But since May is National Physical Fitness month - and because here in the U.S. spring has (finally!) arrived, bringing with it lots of opportunities for outdoor activities - we thought it would be a good idea to talk about the other part of the healthy weight equation: exercise.

Cats and dogs face the same weight loss challenges we humans face - the simple equation of calories in vs. calories out.  Which means that a sedentary pet, trapped indoors while the human is at work all day, is going to need that dedicated workout time just as much as you do.

© Razvanjp | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images
It's a bit easier for dogs, especially if you like to walk or run in your spare time. Consider adding your dog into that routine, and both of you can get fit together.

Discovery's blog has a few other interesting ways you can mix it up with your dog for a fun and effective toning routine.

They suggest things like the Squat Tease, an exercise where you face your dog holding one of his favorite toys. Squat down, tap him lightly with it, then raise the toy above your head as you come out of the squat. Your pup will leap for the toy and you both will get a great quad and glute workout.

Click here to read about other exercises such as the Dogstacle Course and Fetch Racing.

Anyone up for a game of ball? © Kamchatka
Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images
For cats, it's really no different. They love chasing their prey of choice as much as any dog.

The challenge is on the human side of the equation: setting aside time on a daily basis to wave that Neko wand toy or Da Bird long enough for your cat to get in a good cardio workout.

Maxwell will beg for it each evening - and I've been "too busy" enough evenings that Faraday has figured out how to open the drawer and help himself!

But don't think that's the only game in town for your cat.

Ryker and I used to play kitty tag throughout the house, and he used to love it when I'd sneak up on him, make a chuffing noise and run off. He'd take off after me and we'd end up running circles around each other, both panting at the end of the game.

Currently, Faraday loves to demonstrate how much faster he is than his puny humans. We call this game "Ready...GO!" but it's basically the equivalent of a kitty StairMaster.

We'll call him while standing at the bottom of a flight of stairs, and crouch as if we were at a starting line.

Faraday will come running, then wait eagerly for us to call "Ready...GO!" Off he tears up the stairs, leaving us behind to figuratively eat his dirt.

And I've been working with both of the boys to get them comfortable with a harness for outdoor walkabouts.

[Faraday feels like a "big boy" now that he gets to go outside and investigate all the cool smells! Well, except for the fact that the harness is a rather unmanly pink. Check out his disgusted look.]

For kitties in shelter situations, the weight loss issue becomes even more of a challenge.

Those kitties consigned to kennels simply don't get much exercise, and volunteers who engage them in playtime not only help burn calories but provide them with much needed mental and social stimulation as well.

At our shelter, a generous volunteer even donated a "kitty treadmill" that certain cats just love.

And we love seeing them make the thing spin madly around as they race on it, too! Take a look at the "wheel" in use, below:

However you choose to exercise your pet doesn't really matter. The important thing is simply that you commit to doing it. As pet owners, it's the responsible and caring thing to do.

Excuse me...Maxwell's looking at me pitifully. He seems to think there's a wand toy calling his name....!


  1. We agree keeping active is important and is so much easier for us dogs. Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Wez gonna get Alfie a tread mill he'z too fat..bol, I go for long runs so I'm super fit..Love the roses yesterday, they are my favorite :) xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  3. The kitty treadmill is way way cool....! Sam's been on harness/leash since we adopted him from the shelter - too many wild things in our woods so he's on the leash OR with one of us at all times. Sam now goes to GET his leash when he wants to go outside. Cats are amazing and they really CAN adapt (in spite of us thinking they're too stubborn to) to almost anything. Bless 'em!

    Pam (and Sam)

  4. My human does not consider fat cats to be cute at all! She is very careful to make sure Binga and Boodie do not overeat. As a result, neither of them have any obesity-related health issues, and they are both well over 10 years old.

  5. What a great posting. Thank you for talking about this!

  6. Wow, I hadn't heard that before about chubby cats being more adoptable. I definitely have friends who speak affectionately about their cats weight problems as if it's cute and harmless.

  7. Pursonally, WE think that running around outside, chasing treats at dinnertime, running up an down the cat trees and chasing tossed rattley mousies SHOULD be about all the exercize we need.

    There could be more treats to catch though.

  8. We play zoomies. I'll start running through the condo and TW will start chasing me. I know it's all in fun but sometimes I'll end up with a fluffy tail. heh heh.

  9. I love to play kitty tag with my human too! It's so much fun!

  10. We like to chase each other as well as the laser mousy (at least most of us). Guess that's what keeps us all in pretty good shape. e'd like yo learn that trick to open drawers. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette


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