I know, I know. You’re thinking you read the title wrong, but you didn’t. Yes, I’ve had a giant cat wheel for years, and it was one of the best enrichment and exercise tools I could have bought. It is indeed what you’re picturing: A giant wheel a cat runs on. But the benefit it has on their health and well-being can’t be ignored. My suggested pick is One Fast Cat.
Cat Wheel Design
Cat wheel design is so important because you want everything you buy for your cat to be good for them! One Fast Cat invested so much into the design of the wheel to make sure it was safe, easy to mail and assemble. Once you put it together, the large cat wheel rests onto a track with two sets of roller blade wheels along with wheel covers. It measures 48″ H x 46″ W x 11″ D.
I believe I read somewhere that the cat wheel’s size was specifically designed around cats’ flexible spines and shoulders. This ensured it was safe and comfortable for them to run on it. Sounds logical, right? Well, I can’t find the source anywhere (#bloggeroftheyear), so don’t quote me on it!
I pulled a few facts off the One Fast Cat website to explain the design:
Sturdy and lightweight (22 lbs.) – I’ve easily moved it from an apartment to a house, up and down steps, and from room to room. You have to carry the wheel and base separately (but it ain’t no thang!).
Made from recycled plastics – I honestly didn’t know this, but it’s pretty cool!
Run surface made from a closed-cell EVA foam – Sounds fancy, but it just means the material prevents allows cats to run naturally without claws catching (claws are used for traction when running).
Open design – Allows cat to approach from either side and never feel trapped.
Easy to clean – Take it outside and rinse it off or just wipe it down with a wet towel. As a side note, this is a foster’s dream because we’re always disinfecting things.
Reasons a Cat Wheel Is the Cat’s Meow
Weight Loss – Saying indoor cats tackle a major obesity problem isn’t a secret. It’s tough for indoor cats to stay in shape due to less space to run and ongoing access to food they don’t have to work for. A cat wheel allows them to keep it moving and combat extra pounds.
Anxiety – Some cats struggle with anxiety, depression, and stress, just like humans, making exercise a must. Movement on the cat wheel increases serotonin and dopamine production in the brain, resulting in a calmer, more relaxed cat.
Excess Energy – I’ve fostered some cats with energy through the roof. MJ was a 2-year-old male who was neutered right before I fostered him, so when I got him, I was dealing with a fully developed male with more energy than he knew what to do with. MJ would bite and scratch because he thought he was playing. Training him to use the wheel was a great way to drain all of that energy, so he was less mouthy, and a more well-behaved cat. He’s now a working cat on a farm, so his energy is put to practical use!
Boredom – Let’s face it, your cat is in the same place with the same stuff to look at every day. You know how they get the zooms? The wheel gives them a fun alternative to running up and down the steps, and gives them something else to do.
Yes, You Can Train Your Cat
Many people say, “My cat would never use that.” And while I agree a cat wheel isn’t a fit for all cats, it’s a fit for more cats than you think. I’ve trained all of my residents and many fosters to use the One Fast Cat cat wheel, and the only one who doesn’t enjoy it is my senior Don Vito, (who is in cancer remission and has mobility issues, so I’d say he gets a pass). Training is surprisingly easy, with most of my foster cats learning it within a week or two (though it can take longer – just be patient).
There are two types of cats: food-motivated cats and play-motivated cats. The process to train each type of cat is the same, it’s just the object I’m holding is different: Either a treat or a toy (teaser toys work best). Don’t forget to reward the cat with access to the treat or toy. Cats aren’t like dogs seeking your approval. If there isn’t a pay off, their interest will fade.
Liz’s Kitty Boot Camp Cat Wheel Training Process
- Introduce the wheel in a positive way. Place treat or toy on the actual wheel. The cat should eat the treat/bat the toy.
- Make the cat comfortable standing on the wheel. Slowly, I place the treat/toy farther up the wheel, just a tiny bit each time. You may have to move the toy around a bit for this, but it’s important the cat feels safe and secure standing on the wheel so it’s more natural for them to eventually walk on it.
- Get the cat to start walking. Hold the treat/toy higher up in the curve of the wheel. Lower it so it’s closer to their nose, then move it up before they take/bat it. This typically takes a few times until they feel comfortable to start walking. Usually, cats take a few steps then get off. The movement takes some adjusting.
- Help the cat build confidence to walk continuously. Hold the treat/toy up high enough that they can’t quite get it, but want to. They should walk faster to try to get to it.
- Most likely, your cat will eventually use the wheel without reinforcement. Once my cats learn how to run on the wheel, they go on it on their own. No encouragement needed – though I do try to encourage them to go it when guests are over because most people are impressed:-)
Cat Study: Miss Lucy and Her Wheel
To say a cat wheel has helped Lucy would be an understatement. A wheel is to Lucy what working out is to a person with anxiety: It’s a must. Lucy suffers from impulse control aggression, and her anxiety is always at a high level. She runs on the wheel multiple times and day, and she even will walk on it for very long periods of time (sometimes 20 minutes or more). When she gets upset, she hops on it and runs out her anxiety (clearly she is better at managing her anxiety than most people). This is so crucial to keeping her as calm and relaxed as possible. The cat wheel made Lucy a much happier and well-adjusted cat.
But Liz …
“It’s so expensive.”
Okay, look, I get it – when there isn’t a promotion, it runs around $199, and yes, that’s a lot … but here’s some food for thought. How much do you spend on …
Cable and internet a month?
A new phone? And how long will you have it? (For many, they keep their phone for 2 years or until a better one comes out.)
Coffee a month?
Your last Target run?
I’m not at all saying everyone wants to or can spend $199 on the wheel. What I am saying is it’s an investment, that will last far beyond the points I just mentioned. I’ve had my cat wheel for more than 4 years. It’s in great condition and gets used multiple times a day. Think of it like a cat tree – but even better!
Lastly, I’m Not a Sponsor
I’m not a sponsor for One Fast Cat. I just think teir cat wheel is an amazing product, and most indoor cats would benefit from having it in their environment. There’s a lot of intrigue surrounding the wheel, so I thought it made sense to write a post about it and answer a lot of the questions I get.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you want to research more or order a cat wheel from One Fast Cat, visit their website or check out their IG to see success stories. There are also other cat wheels on the market, but I don’t have experience with them.