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Take Your Feline From Flabby to Fit

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Our pets are born athletes, and it's up to us to provide them with opportunities to exercise and be physically active. Healthy animals in the wild are incredibly muscular and fit because they live the lifestyle they were designed for.

Regular aerobic activity provides huge benefits for our furry companions, including:

• Helps to maintain a healthy weight.
• Keeps muscles supple and strong.
• Promotes organ health, including the heart, as well as the overall structural integrity of your pet's body.
• Cures boredom and the undesirable behaviors that go along with it.

For the vast majority of dog owners, the only thing standing between their pet and regular exercise is their own commitment to get it done. Indoor cats, on the other hand, are often not as easy to keep fit as their canine counterparts.

Helping Kitties Exercise Is a Special Challenge

Feeding a portion-controlled, balanced, species-appropriate diet will go a long way toward keeping your favorite feline from getting fat. But even cats at a healthy weight need to be physically active on a regular basis.

It's helpful to provide your cat with something to climb on, like a multi-level cat tree or tower. At least you'll know he's been stretching, clawing and working his climbing muscles whenever you see him gazing down at you from atop his tree.

Consider investing in a laser toy, since many kitties will happily exhaust themselves chasing the beams or dots. There are also a wide variety of interactive kitty toys available on the market, one or several of which may help you help your cat stay well-exercised.

In order for a toy to be effective as an exercise tool, first you need to think like your predatory pet. She's a hunter, so when choosing toys and activities to engage her in, think about appealing to her natural instincts to stalk and bring down prey.

When choosing toys, you don't necessarily have to go high tech. Dragging a piece of string across the floor is enough to entice many cats to chase after it. Ping pong balls are another feline favorite, along with bits of paper rolled into balls, and pretty much any light object that can be made to move fast and in unexpected directions.

Using Mealtime to Exercise Your Cat

Like many of you, I work all day most days, so I have to get creative when it comes to keeping my own pets physically fit. So I try to work a little exercise into normal, everyday activities, like for example at feeding time.

Now, this is a slightly sneaky thing I do with my cats, but remember, it's for a good cause.

My kitties eat twice a day, in the morning and evening. When I have the food in their dishes, rather than plunk them immediately on the floor, I walk around the house with them -- with the cats in tow. They follow along behind me like a small furry parade.

After a few minutes of this, I begin stopping at certain intervals to give them small bits of raw food from the dishes. Then we continue our march.

Believe it or not, I can keep my cats moving for 20 minutes this way because they're sure at any second I'll finally lower those dishes to the floor and let them at it. They march, meow, weave around my ankles, run ahead of me then turn and run back, stretch up toward their dishes, hop a bit on their back feet, and get a fairly decent little workout before they eat. Most recently, we've added stairs to the equation, for even more of a work out.

After about 20 minutes, I put the dishes on the floor and they finish their meals.

Have You Considered Agility Training for Your Cat?

But believe it or not, feline agility competitions really do exist. And while convincing your cat to actually compete might be out of the question, I think there are some great ideas we can borrow from these events to help our own kitties stay physically active.

Feline agility competitions are modeled after dog competitions. Cats run through a scaled down, feline-friendly obstacle course which includes hurdles, tunnels, hoops and poles. Cat owners use a feather or other type of wand to persuade their pets to make their way through each of the obstacles on the course in as little time as possible.

I think feline agility competitions give us some good ideas for activities we can try at home to get our house cats moving. Most of the cat owners who train their pets to compete make their own agility equipment -- like this homemade ramp.

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.

For more by Dr. Karen Becker, click here.

For more on pet health, click here.

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