Cats dont have to worry about getting into their bikinis this summer but they often find themselves carrying a little extra weight as the better weather approaches. Many cats, like us, are less enthusiastic about going outdoors in the cold, wet weather and they retreat to the comfort of a warm bed under a radiator until the winter is over.

written by Vicky Halls

My work as a cat behaviour counsellor means I understand the benefits of a healthy mind and body to my cats. I know the key to a healthy fit cat is exercise combined with good quality nutrition in the right quantity. I feed my cats Iams and I can see the benefits in their shiny coats. They are alert and active and I believe that their diet of Iams is making a major contribution towards a happy, healthy lifestyle for all four of them.

Overweight cats the health implications

For some cats a lack of activity can result in weight gain and this can mean serious health implications long term for our pets if the problem is not addressed. We all want our cats to live a long and healthy life and problems can occur if they become overweight.

Cats tend to get lazier as they get fatter and the lack of exercise slows the metabolism that in turn promotes even more weight gain. Fat cats are unable to groom thoroughly as their size increases and they lose their flexibility and they start to look unkempt and miserable. Obesity in cats can contribute to heart disease, urinary tract problems, joint disease and diabetes. Its a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

Healthy mind, healthy body

Iams, like me, wants to help owners make sure their cats have a long and healthy life. Iams provides all the nutritional requirements for your pet in a healthy, balanced diet including a Light reduced calorie range to help overweight cats get back on top form. Iams knows there is a need for both healthy exercise and balanced nutrition to get back into shape, but how do you tell your cat How do you persuade a lazy moggy to get active.

You cannot encourage your cat to exercise by talking about the health benefits of aerobic activity. Most cats will make the most of sunny weather outdoors to investigate their territory, explore interesting new wildlife and new places to hide! However you can also help your cat to be happier and healthier by using simple techniques to make it fun to get fit!

Fun to get fit!

Here are a few suggestions for games that you can play with your cat that will promote exercise and activity by encouraging natural behaviour. If your cat is overweight it is best to start with gentle activity for up to five minutes. This can then be increased gradually until your cat is indulging in boisterous running, jumping and climbing action lasting half an hour at a time.

A little exercise several times a day will ensure your cat remains excited at the prospect of playtime. You will soon find that your cat will love it and keep coming back for more! Interacting with your cat in games helps to grow the close relationship between owner and pet, as you enjoy time spent together at play.

Games to get your cat fit

CATCH AND POUNCE

This game will promote predatory behaviour and your cat will run and jump and have a great deal of fun.

Attach a piece of thin string or elastic to a bamboo cane or similar rod

Attach a couple of strips of brightly coloured materials to the other end of the string or elastic

Start to agitate the strips in front of your cat

As he/she moves to grab it, quickly jerk it away

Continue to swing the object around and encourage your cat to jump in the air as well as follow it on the ground

Allow your cat to catch it from time to time as a reward!

Keep this toy in a cupboard when not in use

To prevent boredom you can change the coloured materials to alternative exciting things to catch, including:

A twisted sweet paper

Twist and shaped pipe cleaners

GRAB AND KICK (for those cats that love catnip! You can buy catnip from most good pet shops).

This game will promote both predatory and play fighting behaviour. Your cat will exercise by kicking with his or her back legs.

Place a tablespoon of dry catnip in a small self-sealed polythene bag (approx. 5cm square)

Pierce the bag several times with a skewer (or similar)

Sew together two squares of thick fabric (approx. 15cm square) and place the polythene bag inside together with some strips of the same fabric to give the bag some padding

Sew up the top to make a pouch

Rub the outside with a little dry catnip

Give the pouch to your cat for fifteen minutes a day

Your cat will rub his/her face on it and then start throwing it up in the air.

Keep the novelty factor by storing the GRAB AND KICK pouch in a sealed polythene bag when it is not being used.

Always watch your cat carefully when playing with home-made toys to prevent them getting over zealous and eating the toy!

FORAGE AND FIND

This game will promote natural foraging instincts and encourage activity to acquire food.

Divide your cats daily ration of Iams Light into small portions. Place each amount in various locations, including

On top of different high surfaces within the home to encourage climbing and jumping

Inside cardboard boxes and paper bags to encourage mental activity to obtain the food

Inside cardboard tubes or egg boxes to encourage problem-solving

Help your cat lose weight today!

Weight gain due to a less active lifestyle or seasonal changes is a potential problem for your cat. However it is not irreversible and, as you can see, there is plenty you can do to return your cat to optimum health. If you start today by encouraging increased activity in combination with Iams Light formula you are well on the way to helping your cat Shape up for Summer!

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