If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen advertisements for the cat exercise wheel. If you haven’t, close your eyes and picture a hamster wheel blown up to comically large proportions; then picture a cat — primordial pouch swaying to and fro — running on the wheel in place of a hamster. It’s a comical image, but one that has real benefits for your furry friend. Here’s everything you need to know about this wacky but functional cat toy — and whether it’s worth the hefty price point.
What is a cat exercise wheel?
Exactly as the name implies, it’s a big wheel designed so that the base remains stable while the circular part moves, that your cat can run on. The wheel was created by One Fast Cat, a brand that raised funds for launching the product on the Kickstarter website.
The One Fast Cat wheel (Buy from One Fast Cat, $224) weighs 25 pounds and is 48 inches high by 47 inches wide. It’s made from sturdy plastic and is “entirely cat-driven,” which means it requires no electricity (the power source is your kitty). But One Fast Cat isn’t the only cat wheel in the game: cat wheels composed of wood, carpet, and stainless steel (Buy from Amazon, $169) and wood and sisal options (Buy from Chewy, $232.99) also exist. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even buy a cat exercise wheel/cat tree hybrid (Buy from Chewy, $239). Can’t imagine what the cat wheel looks like in action? Watch the video below to see a kitty getting their steps in.
What are the benefits of a cat exercise wheel?
The major benefit of a cat exercise wheel is the movement it encourages for indoor cats, for whom a bit of running around during a very brief play time is all the activity and stimulation they get in a day. According to the Purina Institute, studies estimate that up to 63 percent of pet cats are overweight or obese. When you consider the sedentary lifestyle of an indoor pet and how much we spoil our cats with treats, it makes sense that they end up carrying extra weight. However, Dr. Paola Cuevas, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist, points out that if cats are overweight, they’re at greater risk for developing diabetes, arthritis, and mobility issues. The wheel provides your cat with an easy exercise routine.
Cat wheels may also provide a much-needed shake-up in your cat’s routine. Dr. Janet Cutler, a Board Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and writer for Cat World, notes that in addition to potential weight loss, a cat wheel can also “give a bored or restless cat an outlet for their energy, and in turn decrease the likelihood of destructive behaviors.” The novelty of a cat wheel may be just the thing to keep your cat happy and healthy… and prevent them from scratching your furniture to shreds.
What should cat owners know before buying an exercise wheel?
Cat personalities vary greatly. While one cat may love running on the wheel, another may be more interested in the box that it shipped in. So, it’s definitely possible your cat will be indifferent to the wheel at first. Dr. Cuevas says that highly active breeds including Bengals, Abyssinians, Toygers, Egyptian Maus, Russian Blues, Savannahs, and Siamese are most likely to engage with the wheel, though she adds that “every cat can be trained to use it.” (Here’s a video showing how that works.) If your cat is highly food-motivated, for example, that can help with the training, as you can offer them treats after engaging with the wheel. You can also use a laser pointer to encourage them.
Cat exercise wheels work best in a spacious home. While there’s slight variation in the size depending on the brand, all wheels are large enough to give your cat ample space to run. This means that if you live in a smaller space, or have young children who might try to play with the wheel themselves, it’s probably not ideal. Additionally, due to their construction, cat wheels are expensive, and typically cost between $100 and $300. It’s a big purchase, so it’s important to consider your cat’s personality and activity level before you make the leap.
If you do buy an exercise wheel, make sure to supervise your cat while they use it. Dr. Cutler notes that some cats may be scared of the wheel — and while they can acclimate to it, you don’t want to force them onto the wheel for the sake of a cute video.
Ultimately, while vets agree that a cat exercise wheel can be a great source of movement and fun for your pet, there are plenty of other ways to give your cat a workout. If you don’t have room for a wheel or don’t want to spend the money, Dr. Cutler and Dr. Cuevas both recommend playing chase with your cat using a good old fashioned toy (like a feather wand). A giant cat wheel is a strange and wonderful invention — and some cats will definitely benefit from it — but you don’t necessarily need one to get your kitty moving.
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