How Much Exercise Do Cats Need?

Cats need exercise to keep their body and mental health in tiptop shape. It is not easy to track the amount of exercise they get each day, though, because unlike dogs, we cannot simply take them out for a walk. So how much exercise do cats need? 

How Much Exercise Do Cats Need?

On average, our cats need 30 minutes of play and physical activity every day. This does not mean that our cats have to finish half an hour of physical activity in one go. This much exercise may be done on intervals, of course.

The amount of exercise required might also change depending on the cat’s age and whether our cats prefer to stay indoors or is more outdoorsy.

Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats Exercise Requirements

Our feline friends are hunters by nature. They are quick to respond to stimuli. However, indoor cats and outdoor cats have some differences when it comes to exercise requirements.

Outdoor Cats

Unlike indoor cats, felines who live outdoors are more physically active and are likely to get enough exercise daily. They have mostly every type of structure and space needed for a good workout. They are free to roam around the yard and climb up trees and fences, and scratch their claws on surfaces.

Also, they have plenty of exposure to real-life stimuli such as bugs and leaves, which encourage them to perform reality stunts.

Cat jumping on grass during daytime

Indoor Cats

On the other hand, indoor cats have limited space and less exposure to natural stimuli. Therefore, we should help encourage our cats to participate in physical activity for at least 30 minutes everyday.

With the absence of natural stimuli, we can encourage our pets to exercise using cat toys. There are many types of safe toys for cats including feathers, ropes, and balls. However, it may take some time to learn a cat’s favorite toy, which will simplify encouragement. 

Adult Cats vs. Kittens Exercise Requirements

Adult cats should exercise daily for half an hour not only to keep their body fit and healthy. Also, since cats naturally love to hunt, engaging in physical activities helps keep their hunting skills sharp. 

Cats observe their prey on first sight and master its moves in preparation for a rapid attack. Exercise and play help practice these abilities.

On the other hand, kittens sleep 18-22 hours a day, which means we can’t expect them to be as active as adult cats. Still, we should encourage kittens to do daily exercises by giving them their favorite toys. 

Importance of Exercise in Cats

  • Exercise Helps Avoid Depression: Around 40 percent of cats suffer depression due to boredom. Exercise helps avoid depression because it improves the production of serotonin. It is a natural chemical that helps stabilize the mood and improve sleep, appetite, and digestion.
  • Exercise Keeps Their Body Fit and Healthy: Exercise is also a proven way to keep their body fit and healthy. Exercise ensures good muscle and bone health and coordination necessary when they stalk, chase, or attack stimuli.
  • Exercise Helps Avoid Obesity: Like humans, cats that engage in daily exercises and physical activities are less likely to become obese. If our cats are free-feeding or they have too many carbohydrates in their diet, then it is likely they gain more weight than normal. Exercise helps burn calories which would otherwise develop into fat.
  • Exercise Improves Owner-Cat Relationship: Exercise is like playtime for cats when you participate. Playing with your feline friend improves the bond between both of you. There will be an improved connection and you will get to know your cat even more.

Best Time for Cat Exercises

Did you know that cats are most active on dusk and dawn times? They are mostly sleeping during the day, in fact, up to 20 hours sometimes. However, we can still encourage them to exercise in the daytime using toys that they find most interesting.

Otherwise, we can take advantage of the sunsets and play with our cats during these hours, when they are most energetic and playful.

Easy Exercises for Indoor Cats

Unfortunately, we can’t your cat out for walks or morning jogs in most cases. That being said, there are several, easy ways we can help your cat get enough exercise.

Bathtub and Ball Duo

With the bathtub all dried up, toss a ball inside and allow your feline friend to play freely inside. Cats do not easily get bored with a moving target, so let them bat the ball all they want.

Animal Toys

Cats are very observant and they somehow distinguish the physical appearance of real-life stimuli. We may want to consider toys that look like real animals to entice them more. Some examples are toy bugs, birds, and mice.

To make it more exciting, we can use strings to give life to the toys and make the playtime more challenging.

Kittens playing with mouse toy

Catfood Exercise

Mealtimes are very tempting to cats, especially when with wet food. Although we may also use dry food or any food preferred by our cats for this exercise. 

As soon as our cats realize we are preparing their food, they will follow us everywhere. We can take a few minutes to tease our cat so they could burn calories by walking, chasing us.

Chasing Laser Light

Cats feel very much enticed with fast-moving stimuli. We can use a laser light to tease our cats to respond. To encourage participation, play the laser light the way a mouse, bug, or real stimulus would move. 

Ribbons and Wands

We can tie a ribbon or string to one end of the wand and let our cats chase it around the house. While strings and ribbons are a cat’s favorite toy, we should be extra careful and make sure to store away after playtime. 

There have been many cases of choking in cats and one of the main reasons is the accidental swallowing of toys. Should this happen, we can do some first aid techniques or the Heimlich Maneuver, especially when the cat is unconscious. Then, bring it immediately to the vet.


Cats need exercise of at least 30 minutes each day. Outdoor cats may need less time to exercise since they have access to natural environment and various stimuli. Indoor cats, though, can still be fit and healthy with 30 minutes of indoor play.

Categories Cat

Doctor Joe Alcorn received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in 1981, and founded Care Animal Hospital in 1991 in Temecula, California. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.