Most cats have a mind of their own, so getting them to exercise on your schedule can be difficult. The key is getting them to think it’s their idea.
Playing games is one strategy that works with most cats. There are games they can play by themselves, such as playing with ping-pong balls, a ball of yarn or catnip toys. If you are going to use a catnip toy, replace it when your cat loses interest. They do lose their scent after a while. If you cat likes a ball of yarn, just make sure he doesn’t like it too much. Some cats like to eat it.
You also might want to provide your cat with a cardboard box. She might hide things inside, or hide herself inside. If you have two cats, you might even discover them playing hide and seek. Just be sure the box is fairly sturdy, that your cat can climb out after she climbs in and that she isn’t chewing it as well as playing in it.
Some cats enjoy playing with a catnip toy or cat goodie in an old cardboard tube. Your cat will play with it until she is rewarded with the goodie.
You can also try putting a little fuzzy thing on a string and dangle it in front of your cat. He’ll know it’s not a mouse, but he might be willing to pretend it is. This can keep your cat amused and active for at least some period of time. Dangle it in the air, or drag it along the ground. Also, you could try a feather or other object your cat can bat at. Just make sure you move your hand away quickly so you don’t get scratched.
A ball of rolled up tin foil also might entice your cat to play. Just be sure it is rolled up tightly enough so that she doesn’t chew on it and swallow parts of it.
If your cat is always sniffing your leather shoes or nuzzling your down coat, consider a toy made out of real animal fur. A rabbit foot, a stuffed bird with real feathers, leather shoe laces all can be sources of entertainment and exercise.
If your cat sniffs your lips when you put on lipstick or Chapstick, he might be into the smell of petroleum-based stuff, as odd as that might sound. Take your blade off an old razor and see if he wants to play with the old razor.
Some cats like to rustle under newspapers or climb into your briefcase. She might like pretending to be a hunter looking for prey. A large paper bag might keep her amused for a while. Put some toys inside, making it even more fun.
Here are some more toy ideas: sturdy corks (check them for excessive wear on a regular basis), empty wrapping paper rolls with a long piece of colorful string attached, empty lipstick containers, old tennis balls, fabric stuffed with old nylons.
If possible, provide places for your cat to climb inside. Scratching posts and climbing frames provide opportunities for exercise and stimulation.
Will she play fetch?
Probably not. At least she won’t play fetch like a dog. But she might do a cat-like version of the game. As you might expect, it will have to be done on her terms.
Pick a small toy that your cat really likes, something small, light and throwable. Call your cat’s name. She might pretend she doesn’t know it, but she does. Throw the toy up and down a bit, catch it yourself. Play with it. Jiggle it. Have some fun with it.
Is your cat watching? If so, keep going. If not, give it up.
Keep the toy visible, sit in a chair and toss the toy so that it lands near your cat. Let her play with it. Just as she is about to get bored, call her while you are still seated. If your cat looks, go to the toy, pick it up and return to your chair.
From your chair, do the throwing routine again. Do it for about ten minutes or so, twice a day.
Some cats will get the idea and start bringing it back to you. Then you can vary your throws. Throw it behind obstacles and make her hunt for it.
Not every cat will be into this, but some will. And, even if yours isn’t, think of all the exercise you will get trying to teach her.