Vet 101: How Much Exercise Do Cats Need Daily?

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Kitty Boot camp-lol-cats-exercise

We’re honored to have a distinguished guest blogger today for Vet 101. Dr. Letrisa Miller is an award-winning veterinarian with more than ten years experience as a feline-only practitioner. To learn more or to visit Dr. Miller’s Website, kindly scroll down to the end.

It’s no secret that feline obesity rates have risen in the U.S. Part of the problem is a lack of exercise, but just how much exercise does a house cat need every day? Our Cat Wisdom 101 cats get plenty of exercise being supervised indoor/outdoor cats with enriched play, but most cats in the U.S. are indoor only cats. I’m convinced as a holistic behaviorist, exercise from engaged play is critical for the physical and emotional well being for cats. We owe it to our cats not to be couch potatoes.

I asked Dr. Miller about the need for cats to get exercise.

“It’s generally agreed that most indoor cats do not get enough. There is a recent study of the activity of outdoor cats and the size of the cat’s territories was surprisingly large. This study showed that unowned cats were much more active than owned cats, leading some to think that our pet cats are under exercised.

My personal opinion is that cats should spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day engaged in moderate exercise. Some cats will need less and some more, but 30 minutes is a good starting point. As to how to accomplish this, well… There is no easy answer and everyone and every cat will have different things that they like to do. It’s up to us to find out their favorites. Some like to chase feathers, some like the ingenious toy called the cat dancer or Da Bird, some like to go on walks, other like laser pointers or other interactive toys.

There is a great website that puts a lot of different knowledge sources together to try to help us take better care of our cats. It is one of the Ohio State University veterinary school web pages and is called “The Indoor Pet Initiative”. It has great ways to exercise your cat even when you aren’t home. Providing lots of vertical space like climbing trees is one of the best ways to ensure that your cats get enough exercise on a daily basis.
Begin to think practically how to increase activity levels in your home with you feline companions. Hopefully this will lead to happier, less stressed and healthier cats.”

Letrisa Miller DVM
Dr. Letrisa Miller

Letrisa Miller with her cat Romeo. He adopted her after he was found with a broken pelvis and a paralyzed tail under a bush. No one claimed him so he went home with her. Sadly he is no longer living but Letrissa currently has four cats, all orphans.

Dr. Miller is recognized authority on feline medicine and surgery, Dr. Miller has been interviewed for articles in Cat Fancy, Purina Pro Club Update, and other specialty cat publications, and from 2006 through 2011 was a board member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). A founding fellow of the International Association of Cat Doctors, she became president of that organization in January 2012.

Long interested in research, Dr. Miller has published several scientific papers and for many years was chair of the AAFP’s research committee. In 2010 she represented the AAFP at the founding of the Cat Health Network, a joint initiative of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation, Winn Feline Foundation, and AAFP. She has also been an investigator for an FDA clinical drug trial to gain approval and labeling of a drug for use in cats. Dr. Miller currently owns Connecticut Feline Medicine and Surgery, a full service facility for cats. For more than ten years she owned a cat clinic in Norman,Oklahoma. After selling this practice in 2011, she and her husband relocated to Connecticut to be near her husband’s family. Visit her website at CFMS


  • Bonnie Faulkner

    We have seven cats (and six dogs). All but two are rescues. Our youngest cat was a rescue and he was only abou four months old when he arrived (the day of the eclipse). Since our next youngest cat is 5+, the rest had become less and less apathetic about play. Now the kitten has appointed himself Director of Recreationl Activites and there is seldom a peaceful moment till the other cats pin him down, call a halt and start a bathing themselves to regain their composure. Then nap time for everybody. He has also been able to provide our oldest cat with incentive to EAT MORE! He’s exactly what she needed …. competition for food!

  • Brian

    Yes, that really was a great post. We do get lots of playtime exercise, but it is a shame that exercise and diet often pop up at the same time!

  • Kathy Thompson

    Thanks to Dr. Miller for the great information! My two are indoor outdoor even tho Izzy doesn’t leave the yard and seem to get plenty of exercise. I try to play with both of them with toys whenever possible as well.
    Keep the great guests coming Layla!
    Snuggers Skeeter and Izzy >^..^<

  • Julia Williams

    Great post! It is so important to not only make time to play with indoor kitties but to provide things like cat trees and ramps that they can get some exercise on. Like humans, every little bit helps! My cats are not very playful no matter what toy I try to entice them with, so it is a challenge. They are at good weights, though, so I guess I’m doing ok.

  • Daisy

    I wanted to give my cat vertical space so I installed shelves on the walls and a corner shelf. I carpeted them also. He could care less. The only time he goes up is if there is a treat. Guess he was a bush dweller…..

    • boomermuse

      You make a good point. If someone isn’t sure their cat prefers heights, try using existing furniture or boxes to create height before investing in shelves etc. Keep in mind even cats who don’t like heights will enjoy a perch at window sill height for looking outside.

  • Cheysuli

    So long as she doesn’t put me on the treadmill…. Oh and on a good day, with the string toy swinging in front of the television for an hour, I’ll play the whole time and go upstairs for about 10 minutes of da bird…

  • Tamago

    When I lived in Japan long time ago, it was quite usual for kitties to go outside. They got lots of exercise. Now my boys are indoor kitties, I need to make sure they get enough exercise. One of them plays a lot but the other does not so much. I’m trying variety of toys to encourage him. Thank you for the information. I will go check the link!

  • Kathryn

    Such great info. Our boys… well, they chase each other and the toys. I’d say it adds up to 30 minutes out of a day. But yeah, they’d get hours if they were outdoor cats. But not safe in a crowded town.

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