The Running Cat

Cats are great to have around, but they need exercise. If you’re not in a position to let the cat outdoors, you need to look to something else when kitty wakes up bored from her 23 hour nap. Cat playscapes are useful diversions, but this is the first time we’ve considered real exercise equipment. Let’s get our feline friends their exercise fix with a hamster-esque cat exercise wheel.

[bbarlowski]’s design is simple but very clever, and almost looks like something you’d find flat-packed at IKEA. Built of CNC-milled birch plywood, the wheel rims snap together like puzzle pieces while the floor has tabs that slot into the rims. The tension of the bent floor panels locks everything together and makes for a smart looking wheel. The video after the break shows [Kuna the Maine Coon cat] in action on the wheel, and outlines a few plans for expansion, including adding an Arduino to monitor kitty’s activity and control both an RGB LED strip for mood lighting and a cat treat dispenser for positive reinforcement of the exercise regimen.

The project mounted an unsuccessful campaign in March and they’ve made the DXF cutting files available for download. Of course if it’s too much plywood and not enough Arduino for you, just build the Arduspider to torture – err, entertain your cat.

58 thoughts on “The Running Cat

  1. ” If you’re not in a position to let the cat outdoors, ”

    You should NEVER do this unless you live in a very very rural area where kitty cant damage others property or get squished in the road. .

      1. How do you know this? It’s not just about destroying property either. It’s about crapping in my garden and kid’s sandbox. This also has the chance of spreading toxoplasma gondii. I could go on and on.

        1. The damage done by cats is no less or more than similar damage from another animal. Ever had a dog destroy your fence or dig in your garden? How about when dogs poop in your yard? Ever had woodpeckers, squirrels or rats put holes in the walls of your house? Cat pooping in your sandbox? What are you doing without a cover on your sandbox?

          If Toxoplasma Gondii from a _cat_ is your biggest concern, then you lead a very sheltered life.

          1. No, i have not had someone else’s dog do damage to my property because they are kept on leashes or in fenced yards in my area. Even if a dog did do damage to my property it wouldn’t change the fact that pets should not be aloud to roam free. Poop is also a “no” because people around here are required to pick up after their dogs and thankfully they do. Actually my reason for even bringing up feline poop is because Toxoplasma gondii can only reproduce in felines which then is spread through their feces. (yes you can get infected through other means but cats excel at spreading it) Toxoplasma gondii is not my biggest concern, it is simply one more reason why cats should not roam free. Toxoplasma gondii is also no joke when you have very small children. There are studies that show free roaming domestic cats are actually causing bird populations to decline in certain areas because domestic cats kill for sport, not for survival. As for wood peckers, squirrels, and other wild animals; The difference between pets and wild animals is that damage caused by pets is preventable by responsible ownership. So your argument of “wild animals do damage so what’s wrong with people’s pets doing damage” is invalid. Why should everyone else have to accommodate owners who decide to let their animals free? Why shouldn’t the owners take responsibility or simply not own an animal? So in short, if you have a pet and it negatively affects other people or the environment then maybe you should reconsider ownership.

          2. Nick, the worries you raise could to a much larger degree be raised about the human animal pets – children – that some people bring into their lives. Those human children also tend to move around a lot outside, make noises, spread germs, mess with stuff and even destroy stuff. Much more so than cats. Clearly the solution is for children to be inside all the time unless they live in very very rural areas where they cannot do as much damage.

          3. Ahh… you’re a Genteel. Isolated from the realities the rest of us face each day.

            You would sing a different tune when a neighbor owning dog destroys the fence between properties. Still a responsible dog owner since it is kept in *their* yard, right?

            Your argument is weak and nearsighted. My reference towards woodpeckers isn’t a nod approving of irresponsible pet owners, it’s a jab at you for not dealing with the everydays of living.

            I keep an outdoor cat that sleeps in my shed. Since having her, rats and mice don’t invade my yards, the squirrels stay out of my shed and I taught my very young children at a very early age to always wash their hands and to never touch their face while gardening and playing in their covered sandbox. The doves that have moved in last summer and nested on the roof of my shed seem quite happy sharing rent with a vicious killer >:) I also get regular visits from a peacock and crane every summer.

            Am I the only one that lets their cat out? Not at all. The entire neighborhood own at least some combination of cats, dogs and gardens. Cats can be free to roam, dogs are not. Our gardens are fenced and, yes, we still have birds, and thankfully, nobody like you living in our neighborhood. :)

          4. @kadish

            The difference is that pets never grow up to be (possibly) productive members of society, and are completely unable to contribute in any way that’s deeper than emergency aid, and even then, that doesn’t apply to cats.

            Speaking as a cat owner who mainly keeps them indoors.

      2. So your cat beat the odds, good for you (and your cat). Ignoring all the terrible things cats tend to do to local wildlife when left to roam outside, your dooming your cat to a very short life if you allow it to freely go outside. It’s proven fact that an outdoor cat (or indoor/outdoor if allowed to roam free outside) has an average life expectancy of 3-4 years or about 1/3rd-1/4th the lifespan of an indoor cat. I love my cats, so they stay indoors. They also all still have their claws and have never damaged my furniture or walls. If you understand how a cat thinks its pretty easy to keep them from tearing things apart and avoid ripping their fingernails off.

        —cat owner and foster “parent” for many dozens of kittens and cats. (if you have the room and the time consider being a foster home for a local rescue or shelter. It’s rewarding and you get to have kittens around all the time! Though I can’t promise that an endless stream of kittens won’t take a toll on your furniture, lol)

    1. You get articles likes this where people are uber protective of the animal, then you get the remote control insects which people thing is absolutely fine.

      Cats are classified as free agents locally, so it seems a little cruel to lock ’em in (de-claw etc….) if you live anywhere other than a city.

      1. Cats should never be “declawed”, even if they only live indoors.

        “Declawing” has little to do with claws and is incredibly cruel — it’s the equivalent of removing each finger at the last knuckle in humans. Trim your cat’s claws instead or get some of those colorful claw caps.

        1. I just have some not-so-good looking furniture :-) and complete cats. I would never let my two cats get thier toes amputeted.

          I was already very reluctant to get them neutered, but this had been done at last, at their age of 1 1/2 years. Two males living in a flat with no possibility to go out (urban area)… They started to fight more and more and wanted (crying) to go out every evening.
          Interestingly they never started to “mark”.

          I would let them go out if I had a garden. The cats at my parents went out all the time, as they wanted and got both 16 yr old. So they had a healthy live, as I think. Occasionally the caught a bird and more often a mouse – but tht’s live.

    2. Nonsense. My cat has gone outside every day for 8 years. Most cats aren’t stupid, they’ll avoid cars and come home safe every night. Keeping an animal indoors permanently when it wants to go outside is cruel. Would you get a dog and never walk it or let it play in the park? I don’t think so.

          1. As opposed to letting your kids roam free? Kids cause vandalism, spread disease, and are a general nuisance. Plus the younger ones are just as squishy under tires.

          2. Why does everyone keep making kids and pets equivalent?
            Most pets are only useful as emotional aid, and cats definitely aren’t one of the ones that can provide utility.

            Kids actually grow up to be people, and putting people on a leash is wrong because you’re taking advantage of another human being who has just as much sentience as you do, and you’re treating them like an animal incapable of understanding words.

            Cat owner.

          3. Amen.
            Harold : get a young dog. You will see that it is very much the same than a child. Running everywhere, drooling and putting everything in its mouth. Doesn’t understand the word “NO”, poop and pee everywhere. It even takes more time to get a clean child than a clean dog.

          4. Kids are in no way the equivalent of a pet. One costs you a huge amount of money for care, feeding, and grooming; is often used as a crutch or patch in a relationship; can be incredibly annoying and disruptive; can damage expensive furniture; can ruin a relationship; and is incapable of meaningful conversation or rational thought. The other is a pet.

        1. Why not get rid of the family pet altogether. It’s only there to give children better empathy and compassion anyway. Get rid of the cat and let the kids grow up to key your car, steal your possessions while your not home, paint graffiti on your fence because that’s the better outcome because some people don’t like cats.

      1. Cats want to go outside and roam unsupervised. Children want to eat cake for breakfast. Both are dependent on their guardians to look out for their best interests.

        Not to mention that cats are responsible for precipitous decline in a number of bird species. Letting non-native predators roam free has an ecological impact? Who’d have guessed!

        1. But the cat will become depressed and obese if it stays inside all day every day. I am looking out for his best interests by letting him be a cat instead of a sedentary blob of fluff. He’s never killed a bird, but he has decimated the local chipmunk population, which I guess is unfortunate if you like chipmunks. He also kills a five-pound rabbit every once in a while, which I don’t like.

      2. I’d also like to point out how much of stretch you’re making with that assumption. You probably don’t see any road kill cats (i do) because there are far fewer cats roaming free in your area than any other single type of animal. So the lack of squished cats is probably due to statistical chance rather than intelligence.

  2. A while back scientists set up hamster wheels in the forest, with cameras pointed at them to record what creatures, if any, interacted with the wheel. They found that a number of animals ran in the wheels, with mice being unsurprisingly the most frequent users. The second most wheel-inclined? Slugs. Goooo figure.

  3. I don’t think either of my cats would be interested in this. They don’t really run, so much as wander aimlessly, and chase insects and small animals(the few that show up when they’re outside, anyway).

    1. If you start training them I can guarantee that any cat will start running on the wheel. Just by putting them on it and incentivizing with food – the trick is you put the cat on the wheel and show him some treats and pull back when he wants to eat it so we has to do at least on step to get to the food. It worked like a charm on my Maine Coon, doesn’t get off the wheel now. Oh, and we let him roam around on the outside yet he still sometime preffers his indoor running sessions especially when its raining and wet outside.

  4. Interesting idea, but from an outsiders standpoint, would it not be better to make the wheel larger? It seems to be just as big that the cat kinda fits inside, i would imagine having a larger wheel would be more comfortable for the cat to run in? The flashy RGB-LEDs seem really pointless tho, cats can’t see colors anyway, so “mood light” in RGB colors is quite a strech here… I would prefer the mod that logs the cats running performance (so you can check for health issues if the performance drops) and use a dynamo/generator to harvest some energy. Let the cat charge up a battery pack that you can use to charge up your phone or other small devices when needed…

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