Tubby kitty troubles.
August 17, 2011 9:22 PM   Subscribe

What can we do to get our largish cat to be more active?

Ember is skinny. Mars, not so much. He weighs 13.4 pounds. He's got a large frame, but we'd still like to trim a pound or two off of him. We're pretty confident that his food intake is good, as his weight gain has leveled off, so we're concentrating on getting him to be more active.

Does anyone have good tips? The vet said to use a laser pointer, but we feel it's kind of mean since it just teases them and there's no satisfaction of "the kill" since the dot just disappears.

posted by Fister Roboto to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
This is advice I seem to leave in every cat+laser point question but drop a cat treat* on the floor when your cat is looking in another direction and end the game with the dot on the treat. The cat is always so surprised and pleased to discover it actually caught something.

*Shaved dry bonito moistened and squished into a ball would be a good high protein treat target.
posted by jamaro at 9:26 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

My Waffles just loves his Cat Dancer. It's just a wire with some rolled up cardboard on the end, but he really enjoys it a lot.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:27 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep food dishes somewhere high so he has to jump to eat.
posted by k8t at 9:28 PM on August 17, 2011

Our cat loves this stick we bought at the pet store -- it has a fake mouse at the end of it. We move it around, imitating a mouse's movements, she chases it back and forth all over the floor, then she believes she "kills" the mouse when she grabs it in the front paws and scratches it to pieces with the back paws. She loooooooves it. :)
posted by minx at 9:40 PM on August 17, 2011

Yeah, when we want the cat to play laser pointer, we always just end the game at (or intermittently land on) one of her favourite toys, so that she "catches" that.

Also, if you can teach her to come when called, two of you can stand at opposite ends of the house and yell "come" over and over. It's kind of hilarious, but you probably will need to reward her every few goes or she'll get tired of it.
posted by lollusc at 9:54 PM on August 17, 2011

Is Mars into catnip? Maybe a Hot Cats toy?
posted by thomas j wise at 10:05 PM on August 17, 2011

Mine love the feline flyer toy. Just be srue to put away after play to conserve the feathers and keep them from hurting themselves with the string/
posted by oneear at 10:14 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I heard on a pet call-in radio show once that a simple way to introduce more exercise into a cat's daily life is to keep their food dish and litter box on different levels of your home. For example, a food dish on some kind of perch that he has to climb/jump up to, and a litter box down in the basement so has to take the stairs both ways.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:00 PM on August 17, 2011

Different cats like different kinds of toys, but interactive toys are usually the best. I've come up with four toy/critter analogues:

bird: anything feathery that they can chase, whether on a string or thrown. Some cats really dig feathers (see if you can find natural/undyed ones)

bug: small things that move quickly. My favorite way to simulate this is with a slender piece of bamboo with two leaves still attached, or with a small wad of paper tied on. The "cat dancer" toy is also like this. The small thing moving quickly is super attractive to some cats.

mouse: this can be as simple as a ball rolling on the floor, a toy mouse (the ones with real fur usually work well, but some cats like fake fur), or a soft toy that you throw or drag around on a string.

snake: This is especially hard to resist for almost all the cats I've tried it with. My favorite version of this is a piece of willow branch, but any stick (even the handle of some commercial string toys, with the string bunched and hidden in your hand), or a shoelace (get dark ones if your floor is light-colored), can work really well. The key is the motion: some people just wave toys around in the air, but, especially if you have a more sedentary cat, they'll really love chasing it as it "runs" along the floor.

The point of identifying these four groups is that your cat may prefer one over the others, so try different toys. Also, cats actually learn how to play, so be patient if he doesn't seem very clueful at first. Finally, if your other cat is more active, you definitely need to keep him in a separate room when you play with the slower cat, otherwise he'll just give up and let the slower cat do all the playing.

A few more points:

You probably know this, but don't leave strings or string toys laying around. Not only is it dangerous for the cat (a little Googling will expand on that), but cats love novelty.

There is a small book called "Clicker Training for Cats" which I highly recommend. Most cats love interacting with their people, they love being able to control your giving them treats, and usually mine purr and purr after a training session. If your cat doesn't much like treats, it can be difficult to train him -- but yours looks like he likes treats :)

Be careful about making him jump a lot if he's really overweight - they do have delicate little frames.

Ping-pong balls are cheap and sometimes very fun. I've also enjoyed putting a ping-pong ball inside a clear plastic deli container - some cats find it really mysterious.
posted by amtho at 11:17 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

That should be: "otherwise he'll just give up and let the faster cat do all the playing."
posted by amtho at 11:19 PM on August 17, 2011

As former mother of a 21 pound cat, I'm amazed at how they can still pull out the magic ninja cat moves when they want to. (Humphrey lived a long and happy life, btw. He was an enormous bastard when I got him from the pound at age 5. His size made children cry and grown ups swear.)

I second laser pointer. Also, when I was buzzing around home cleaning or doing not much, I'd tie a piece of string to my belt loop with a scrunched up piece of paper tied to the other end near floor level and he'd chase that around (tragic, I know.)

Some toys will work for your cat, some won't. Current cat loves screwed up balls of aluminium foil, last cat was scared of foil. Current cat loses his tiny mind for a particular kind of mouse toy, last cat lost it for string.

Every cat I've known will lose it for a feather. You can get them at fabric or craft stores. Tie it to the end of a string, or let it float down from height and let kitty chase, swat and then groom it.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 12:07 AM on August 18, 2011

Oh, a couple more games that ours likes:
1. ping pong ball(s) in the bathtub.
2. exploding kitty. This is where she hides under or behind something, and we drag a toy past it so she can hear or sort of see it. Then she explodes from underneath her hiding place all claws and teeth, and terrifies the toy into submission. She immediately creeps back into the hiding place, and the game begins again.

Worth a try.
posted by lollusc at 4:56 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I asked a similar question and received some great advice. Check it out.
posted by patheral at 6:38 AM on August 18, 2011

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