Entertaining to watch, but is it safe for cats? Veterinarians weigh in on cat running wheels

January 28, 2019
Anissa Fritz, contributing writer

Vetted, Vetted March 2019, Volume 114, Issue 2

Hamster wheels, but for cats. We asked three experts for their thoughts on One Fast Cat exercise wheels.

Safety is always a concern, but for cats, so is obesity. One Fast Cat's exercise wheel is designed to improve felines' physical and mental health without having them go outside. The wheel is designed for cats that do not exceed 25 lbs. According to One Fast Cat's website, this product is best fit for trainable cats with moderate to high energy levels.

We went ahead and asked three veterinarians to watch the video above (from One Fast Cat's website) and share their thoughts on the product's design, as well as the potential pros and cons. Here's what they said:

Behavior expert Dr. Lisa Radosta's thoughts:

The videos of the cats that I've seen using exercise wheels show cats doing it voluntarily and happily. As for whether or not they are well designed, that's going to vary by wheel. The one that you sent me looks pretty sturdy. If the cat is trained with positive reinforcement and chooses to perform this activity, it could be a great way to fight obesity and enrich the cat's life.

Pain expert Dr. Michael Petty's thoughts:

They seem safe enough, and not as bad as some of the knuckle-headed stuff cats will just do on their own. [Dr. Petty said he is considering purchasing an exercise wheel since one of his daughter's 10-month-old cats is already out of shape.]

Pain expert Dr. Robin Downing's thoughts:

I wish I'd been the one to have the creative insight to invent this amazing cat exercise equipment! Here we have, in one device, mental and physical stimulation for a species that is often overlooked for such things.

We know that in order for cats to be as safe as possible, and to live as long as possible, they really need to live indoors. We also know that cats are extremely intelligent and that they do best when they have a rich environment in which to live-lots of mental stimulation. Hence, the interest in environmental enrichment that my behaviorist colleagues continue to unravel, address and guide us to help our clients achieve.

Indoor cats don't receive the natural exercise that cats who live outdoors obtain. So, in addition to the mental doldrums in which cats may find themselves, they don't burn calories. Obesity remains the single most important preventable disease we deal with in feline patients. Fat cats will become diabetic, if left to their own devices. In addition, we can't treat obese cats like we do overweight dogs-remember the book, Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound, that's not going to work with cats! I love the idea of helping cats learn how to burn calories and build muscle by utilizing a game/toy like this one.

There is one potential problem that we have to be aware of and to speak to our clients about if we recommend a cat wheel to them.

The use of a laser pointer is a potential two-edged sword. Some cats will become very OCD when they are taught to chase a laser pointer. It is important for people training cats to use an exercise wheel to utilize different enticements in order to minimize the risk of creating an obsessive “monster.”

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