Is your feline friend an indoor kitty? Are you worried he might not be getting enough exercise? Believe it or not, you can raise his activity level by training him to walk on a treadmill!

We have two cats, Tina and Magellen. They both really enjoy taking leisurely outdoor walks with me several times a week. But as we all know, cats are very particular about the weather and who they socialize with. For those reasons, we don’t walk outside every day, and never when it’s cold, rainy or too busy with other people.

This past winter, when the weather was particularly severe, we acquired a treadmill to keep ourselves in shape. To my surprise, Tina and Magellen became very interested while I was walking on it. I decided to try training them to use the treadmill too – with success! Here’s how I did it, and how you can do the same with your own cat.

First of all, ours is a completely manual treadmill, which means it’s not powered by electricity and does not have any cords or plugs hanging around it. It doesn’t have any on/off switches or buttons, or anything else that can hurt the cats as they investigate all the little holes, wheels, flaps, knobs and the belt itself. What I’m saying is that you will need to make sure your treadmill is totally safe because your cat will be naturally interested in this new idea.

Let him explore the machine at his own pace, under your supervision, before trying to get him to walk on it. If your cat doesn’t show any interest, try getting his favorite toy and playing with him around the treadmill. Or feed him a tasty treat on or near the treadmill while it’s not moving. Whatever gets your cat’s attention is good.

Once your cat is accustomed to the treadmill, get on yourself and walk slowly while watching his reaction and being careful not to spook him away. When I first walked on my treadmill, my cats came over to check it out so I knew the curiosity was there. When the treadmill was sitting idle, they would climb on it, stretch on it, play underneath it and even sleep on it.

If your treadmill is manual, make sure it rolls with ease, because you will have to make it move as your cat walks on it. He won’t have the push power to make it roll by himself.

To my surprise, Tina and Magellen became very interested while I was walking on it.

To get my cats on the treadmill, I used one hand to turn the bottom cylinder while attracting them onto the belt with my other hand, using a treat or a new string toy. (Now I can do it just by clicking my fingers.) It took awhile to get the cats focused on exactly what I wanted them to do, and to continue with the upward stride and movement of the treadmill (ours has an incline to it). Over time, they each finally got to the stage where they would walk straight up the treadmill and continue to walk for about 15 seconds as I rolled the cylinder. I would then pet them and get them walking another 15 seconds, gradually working up to a full minute, twice a day. Remember to praise your cat every time he does what you want him to.

Thanks to the treadmill, my husband and I and both our cats now get daily exercise and enjoy quality time together. You can too!