Quite recently on this website we’ve discussed the importance of exercise for an indoor cat. You can try this new idea if you need a way to dispel cat boredom — a cat exercise wheel.
Consider the cat exercise wheel safe, so long as your cat wants to use it and he gets trained on how to do so, with the help of positive reinforcement. Set up the wheel and let kitty explore it. Don’t try to force him to use it. Make sure your cat’s weight fits within the limits set on the wheel. You can try rewards or treats (a few) or some catnip to entice him to check it out.
Interesting that my three chosen references did not agree on the use of a laser pointer to get the cat to try the wheel. Two of them suggested its use. The third one said not to use it, as some vets feel it could create OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in cats. You will have to make your own decision.
Though you can find wheels for other animals, the recommendation is to buy one made for cats. You might end up with a wheel designed for a lighter animal.
Included in this post you will find a video with instructions for building your own wheel, and a link to a post that has plans (including 10 pictures) showing you how to build it. You can buy a ready-made wheel, but often they will be quite expensive, so if you wish to save money, building your own might present the best option.
So, what factors should you consider when selecting a cat wheel? Here are some of the features to look for:
Make sure that the wheel has a running area wide enough for the cat to easily walk or run on it. Also, check on the internal diameter. It needs to be large enough to measure at least double the height of the cat.
2) Weight Capacity
You need to ensure that the weight capacity of the cat wheel will handle the weight of your pet without becoming unstable or damaged.
3) Running Surface
Look for durability, and also make sure it has enough cushion to be comfortable for kitty’s paws.
Importance Of Exercise For Your Cat
According to PetMD, the average house cat needs at least 10 to 15 minutes of physical activity each day in order to stimulate his natural instincts. By triggering his desire for physical activity and then providing the means for him to reach that goal, you will be helping to combat many problems:
If the cat’s body weight increases to the point where the fat percentage rises beyond the healthy level, the cat becomes more susceptible to several health problems. These include diabetes, arthritis, heart and liver disease, and breathing problems.
b) Arthritis in Cats
If your cat does not get enough exercise, his weight will increase and his muscles will not get the active use they need. These factors can contribute to painful arthritis in your fur babies.
It may keep your cat from engaging in activities, and this in turn can add to other health issues.
A lazy life can actually lead your cat to boredom and depression. He needs activities to keep such problems at bay. Lack of enough physical activity can also disrupt sleep, therefore adding more stress.
d) Negative Behavior
Pent up energy arising from a lack of physical activity can end up projected in a negative way. Here you see one reason why a cat can become aggressive. At the least, this negative behavior can include rug and furniture scratching. At worst, he might become aggressive toward you.
How Does The Wheel Work?
The concept mimics the hamster wheel or a dog treadmill. You can provide your animal with enjoyable physical activity accompanied by minimal stress. Once the cat “gets” the concept, all he has to do entails running at a comfortable pace for as long as he enjoys it.
How Safe Is It?
Though the wheel is great for lazy cats or for over-energetic cats, you may find some instances where the wheel will not be effective. It may not provide the best option for very young kittens, frail elderly cats, or cats suffering from painful arthritis.
What Are The Benefits?
Your cat will have the benefit of a simple, safe exercise machine. The machine can provide the following advantages:
1) Weight Management
Running helps your cat burn lots of calories and get rid of excess fat. For the indoor cat, it provides a safer solution than running outside.
If your cat will use the wheel for 10 to 15 minutes a day, it can help burn enough calories to prevent obesity and fat-related diseases.
2) Agility, Flexibility, Mobility
Because running engages all the important muscles in the cat’s body, using the wheel will help improve stamina, speed, and skills.
3) Mood and Behavior Management
Your cat may end up with a much-improved mood and a noticeable decrease in aggression.
He also will experience less boredom and depression. While helping him release stress, it will also strengthen the bond between you, as your interaction while he uses the wheel will give him pleasure.
What Should You Consider Before Buying?
These wheels come in different sizes, with most manufacturers offering size options. Of course, if you build a wheel, the size is up to you.
Find or build a wheel that is roomy enough for your cat to use comfortably. It should be big and sturdy enough for use by a cat weighing around 25 to 30 pounds.
Manufactured wheels offer the options of plastic, metal, wood and cardboard. Plastic has the advantage because it is lightweight. However, if your cat tends to have allergies, metal or wood might work better.
Make sure that the material lining the running surface is comfortable and safe. EVA foam seems to provide the best option.
If you are interested in building your own wheel, here are complete plans plus numerous pictures to help you out. Go to this link and look it over:
The wheel may provide quite a bit of noise, which can scare the cat away. Try to find or make a quiet one.
Possibly the cat can run too fast on the wheel and get scared. If your cat doesn’t have the weight to slow the wheel down, find one with brakes so you can adjust the speed.
How Can You Train Your Cat To Use The Wheel?
The wheel looks huge to your cat, and if the cat sees it spinning, he may not even want to go near it. Your job: Overcome this reluctance.
If your cat is active, it will be easier to train the animal quickly and easily. However, if the cat shows fear at the sight of the wheel, give it time and patience.
Try these ideas to get the cat on the wheel:
- Sprinkle the wheel with catnip
- Offer a treat whenever the cat uses the wheel
- Put a favorite toy on the wheel
As mentioned earlier, out of the three references I used, two suggested using a laser, but the third said not to use a laser, as some vets believe it might cause your cat to develop OCD. This one will have to become your decision.
For most cats, it usually takes a week of training to get him to use the wheel. Once he has discovered some pleasure from using it, he will return readily to try it again.
For the cat who has to stay indoors, the wheel can be a problem-solver.
Watch this video from YouTube to learn how to assemble your own wheel:
One of my suppliers, Tuft and Paw, features a cat wheel among their wonderful offerings. Go to the link to their site to read about their business. Their wheel is expensive, but many of the options available have the same problem. That’s why making your own might be the best way to go.
However, for an attractive, well-built wood wheel, consider Tuft and Paw ‘s Hoiru cat wheel. Use this link to go to the source and look at this one.
You can find several cat wheels available. I would suggest you open the links to my references, listed below, to look at some of their suggestions as to which manufactured wheels would work best for you.