You adore your kitty and want him to live a long, happy life. You know the importance of a healthy diet, staying up-to-date on shots, and keeping on top of ailments. You also know that play can help keep kitty in tip-top shape. Do you know why, though? Sure, it's good exercise, but what else can it do to help your little buddy live to a ripe old age? Today, we will discuss the many ways that play can help extend your cat's life, ensuring that you can spend many delightful years side by side!
Keeps Weight Down
Alongside a proper diet, exercise is an essential part of keeping kitty trim. But we all know that exercise in and of itself can be a real drag. The best way to stick to any exercise regimen is to do something that's... well, fun. That's where play comes in. For cat's dealing with existing weight problems, playtime can be a little tricky; however, by encouraging play – and thus, physical activity – you are also encouraging weight loss. The result of shedding those extra pounds is a reduction in the risk of several potentially life-threatening diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and certain types of cancer. If your kitty is already fairly fit, exercise can help keep the pounds from creeping up during his mature years, and may reduce the potential for disease in the long term.
While exercise – especially in the form of play – can potentially extend your cat's life by way of reducing disease markers, it can also increase his quality of life. Not only is playtime enjoyable, it also aids in building strength and agility, coordination, and improving sleep quality and digestion.
Helps Treat Pre-Existing Conditions
When you want to extend the life of a cat who is living with a pre-existing condition, play can be a valuable asset. In this instance it is, of course, essential to speak with your cat's vet before commencing any sort of physical activity; however, most vets will agree that getting your furry little pal up and moving can be incredibly useful for a number of illnesses.
For example, cats with certain types of arthritis may benefit from low-impact, low-to-the-ground types of play. Why? Because movement of any sort will encourage circulation, strengthen muscles, and ensure flexibility in tendons and ligaments. Diabetes is another condition that can benefit from regular, consistent exercise, as it not only reduces visceral fat, but may also be useful in controlling blood glucose levels. But, again, the key here is consistency, and the best way to ensure regularity is by finding something your feline friend will want to do every single day – like play!
If you've ever been stressed out, then you know how dreadful it can be – the shakiness, the thudding heart, the mental anguish. The worst part is that, if experienced over a long period, it has been shown to decrease life span – not to mention the reduced quality of life. Unfortunately, all of these things can also apply to your cat. Felines are sensitive little creatures, and if you want to extend your cat's life, then ensuring that his stress stays at a minimum is essential. One great way to limit his stress? You guessed it: play!
But how does that actually work? Well, play is an incredible diversion. If something is going on in the home, redirecting your cat's attention can help keep things calm. Now for a more scientific reason: in an anxiety-inducing situation, your feline's sympathetic nervous system goes into high gear. When this happens, the “fight or flight” reaction switches on, and, in a normal household setting, “flight” is rarely a viable option. So what can your kitty do? Fight. In that case, you're left with two options: let your cat take out his stress-induced rage on you, or let him wrestle with one of his toys. I think we can all agree that the toy is a better option! When you provide him a safe way to vent his frustrations, you are also reducing his stress. By reducing his stress, you then improve his chances of living a long life.
This is a bit indirect, but the knockoff effects of bonding can mean a longer, more fulfilling life. So what does that mean, exactly? During his kittenhood, your cat likely bonded with his mother. When he needed help, she assisted him; when he was hungry, she fed him; when he was lost, she found him. As he matured, she taught him how to be a cat. Between the constant care and the ongoing education, this furry little bundle not only learned all the skills he needed to live, he also developed confidence and self-esteem.
But what does all of this mean for you, and how does it help your now-adult cat? Let's start with the first part of that question. If you got your cat as a kitten, there's a pretty good chance he had reached or bypassed the 8 week mark. At that stage, he was still small enough to need the care of a mother, but big enough to have developed some sense of self. You, as a sort of surrogate parent, were required to take on the responsibility of picking up – as best you could – where his mother left off. Although bonding will occur differently between you, the human, and your kitten, you can still help the process along.
Of course, if you brought an adult or mature cat into your home, bonding will be very much the same. Although his needs will be a little different than the needs of a kitten, he will still require the same amount of care, attention, and love to help foster that sense of confidence and self-esteem. Whether you are living with a baby or a full-grown adult, play helps along this bonding process and teaches your feline all of the important skills necessary to be a vital, self-assured creature.
Now onto the second part: how does all this bonding affect his health, and thus, extend your cat's life? Well, a confident cat is less likely to be a stressed cat. Less stress means a healthier heart, urinary tract, brain, and nervous system. If you keep these organs in good repair, then you reduce the chances of your kitty developing a variety of lifespan-reducing conditions and diseases.
You already know that to extend your cat's life, you need to feed him well and give him plenty of attention. But remember, in addition to those all-important vitamin enriched treats and hours upon hours of snuggling, you also have to get in plenty of playtime!
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