These days, it’s pretty common for pet parents to keep cats indoors. After all, we want the best for our pets. And, often, domesticated felines just don’t have the instincts and experience required to fend off other animals or survive harsh elements in the wild.
However, indoor cats aren’t immune to all threats. If your furry friend sleeps all day and doesn’t get enough exercise, cat obesity can become a real problem. Unfortunately, unhealthy weight often leads to a host of other health issues in cats, like diabetes, metabolic abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, joint problems, and even psychological issues causing cats to destroy furniture and not use their litter box.
According to a 2020 Veterinary Emerging Topics Report, 44 percent of domestic cats in the United States were obese. There’s no doubt that physical and mental stimulation can play a big role in helping cats maintain or reach a healthy weight and sustain overall health. But how can pet parents encourage healthier behaviors…especially if your cat (like most) tends to have a mind of their own?
Here’s one solution that has plenty of parents pumped — the cat exercise wheel, which is essentially a treadmill for cats.
What is a Cat Exercise Wheel?
Dogs are accustomed to — and often excited for — daily walks. But good luck finding a cat willing to endure the hassle of a leash and harness, much less a mandatory walking regimen. That’s why a cat spinning wheel is a great way to help your fur baby get exercise indoors to stay mentally sharp and physically healthy.
Cat wheels are typically constructed of wood or PVC and may feature materials and enhancements cats love, like sisal for scratching and carpet for napping. At their most basic, cat wheels are relatively simple — a round structure that allows for cats to run inside like a hamster wheel (only bigger). However, some options are loaded with extras, like obstacle courses or secret nooks for cats to explore.
Cat Exercise Wheels: Pros and Cons
Many cat parents get interested in exercise wheels in the hopes that they’ll help improve or maintain overall health and fitness for felines stuck indoors day in and day out. However, manufacturers claim cat exercise wheels provide a wide variety of full body and mind benefits, including:
- Stress relief
- Calm and relaxation
- Weight control
Sounds great, right? However, here are some other things to keep in mind if you’re considering investing in an exercise wheel for your cat:
- Some cats may never warm up to the idea of using a cat wheel. (We know they’re fickle creatures, after all.
- Cat wheels are pretty pricey. Be prepared to spend over $200 for a high-quality, well-built wheel.
- They can also take up a lot of space. Do you have room in your home for a piece of equipment you hope your cat will use on a daily basis?
Best Cat Exercise Wheels
Before you take a look at our favorite cat wheels, remember to consider these factors when shopping for the ideal wheel for your furry friend:
- Size: Before you shop, measure the area where you plan to keep your exercise wheel so you know how much room you have to work with.
- Safety: If you have small children in your home, is there a place you can keep the wheel that’s off-limits to kids?
- Assembly: Cat wheels range in both size and complexity. And even the simplest models don’t just pop out of the box, ready to use. Be sure to pick a cat wheel that you’re confident you can put together, or be prepared to get help from someone with more know-how.
All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Best Overall Cat Exercise Wheel
Our Pick: One Fast Cat Cat Exercise Wheel
Well-constructed from durable materials, the One Fast Cat Cat Exercise Wheel is sturdy enough to withstand whatever your cat can dish up, yet lightweight enough to easily move around your home. It’s easy to assemble, easy to clean, and designed to entertain your pet while promoting good health. Whether your cat prefers to run on the wheel or simply play, it’s equipped with a traction pad made from a closed-cell EVA foam to prevent claws from catching. Simply swap in a new EVA foam pad at the first sign of wear and tear.
- Comes in a variety of colors and patterns: black, cheetah, snow leopard, and cool gray
- Constructed from recycled plastics
- Easy to clean — simply hose down outside or wipe clean with a wet towel
- Comes with a free Roller Blade Wheel Cover
- Fully assembled wheel measures 47″ L x 10.75” W x 48″ H
Things to Consider:
- When it’s time to replace the traction pad, it can be purchased from One Fast Cat for $20.
Best Wide-Based Cat Exercise Wheel
Our Pick: JOUDOO Cat Treadmill
While most cat exercise wheels we found measured less than 12 inches in width, JOUDOO’s wide-based cat treadmill boasts a runway width of over 15 inches. Not only does the wider footprint make this exercise wheel extra sturdy, but it also gives your cat (or cats) plenty of room to play, promenade, and run. You can also choose between two different wheel diameters — one that’s nearly 36 inches and another that is a little over 40 inches.
- We love, love, love that this superwide wheel’s runway can accommodate multiple cats (if your kitties don’t necessarily like to take turns)
- Made of natural wood and environmentally friendly materials
- Can accommodate up to 175 pounds of weight
- Runs quietly
- To clean, wipe wood with damp cloth and vacuum removable carpet treat
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
Things to Consider:
- Tread material is described as velvet, which some cats may not prefer
- Though reviewers praised the quality, some complained the wheel was hard to assemble, taking up to four hours to complete
Best Cat Wheel Built Into a Tree
Our Pick: Penn-Plax Wheeled 35-in Sisal Cat Tree
Whether you’re in the market for a cat tree or an exercise wheel, you’re in luck! This 2-in-1 Penn-Plax product contains the best of both worlds. Your cat can get plenty of steps in on the compact 20-inch wheel, then jump, leap, and climb to their heart’s content on the three-level tree. The sturdy structure features sisal scratching posts and roomy platforms for perching or snoozing. It’s the perfect spinning, scratching, and climbing playground, designed to keep your cat active and entertained.
- 2-in-1 design will keep your cat mentally and physically entertained for hours
- Features removable plush resting pads for comfort and easy cleaning
- Wheel is lined with sisal and carpet providing a secure surface for running and scratching
- Priced similar to many other wheels, providing more bang for your buck
Things to Consider:
- Structure measures 31.5” L x 15.8” W x 35” H
- Wheel is only 20” in diameter, which may be too small for some cats
Best Looking Cat Exercise Wheel
Of course, you want your cat’s exercise wheel to function properly, first and foremost. But that doesn’t mean it has to be an eyesore. The stylish design of this PawHut wheel is so appealing, it can elevate the aesthetic of any room. Constructed of natural materials, the sturdy base features a unique cut-out design. The 29.5-inch wheel is covered in sisal on the outside (for scratching) and soft carpet on the inside (for comfort and traction).
- Sturdily constructed from natural materials in neutral hues
- Sleek, chic design complements any decor
- Reviewers praised the construction, design, and silent operation.
- Overall Dimensions are 29.5″ L x 13″ W x 36.5″ H
Things to Consider
- Assembly required, though several reviewers said it took only a few minutes
- This product is only recommended for cats up to 9 pounds
Luxury Splurge Cat Exercise Wheel
Most cat wheels are comparable to a piece of home exercise equipment. This premium, high-end exercise wheel is equivalent to installing a private home gym for your pampered kitty! If you can stomach the price tag, the design of this cat wheel is unlike any we’ve seen. It’s skillfully constructed out of natural birch wood and designed to cater to all your cat’s exercise, entertainment, rest, and feeding needs. In addition to a wheel lined with soft fleece scratching mat, the structure features a three-level jumping platform in the rear, a feeding station complete with food and water bowls, and a cut-out nook for resting. Plus, the wheel rotates upon four active wheels made of wear-resistant polymers for quiet operation, plus six limit wheels to provide maximum stability. Overall, the ultimate cat wonderland for spinning, scratching, eating, drinking, playing, resting, and climbing!
- Super-premium design, crafted from high-quality materials
- Features stations for climbing, resting, and eating, as well as spinning
- Detachable treadmill runner available in gray or brown
- Designed with advanced materials for super-smooth, noiseless operation
- Medium size (for cats up to 8.8 lbs) is 52” L x 14.6” W x 36.2” H with a 29.5” wheel
- Large size (for cats over 8.8 lbs) is 63.8” L x 14.6” W x 45.9” H with a 33.5” wheel
Things to Consider
- This is undoubtedly a splurge but if you have the budget and you (and your kitty) love luxury, this is the option for you.
Cat Exercise Wheel Training and Safety Tips
Let’s be realistic. There’s a good chance not all kitties will want to jump right onto an exercise wheel the minute you’re done assembling it. You will probably have to train your feline to understand how the cat wheel works before they deign to use it regularly.
To get started, try placing your cat’s favorite “chasing” toy in the wheel, or lure your cat to the wheel using that toy. Once they’re “on board,” you may have to gently, slowly move the wheel for your cat long enough for them to understand it spins.
It’s also a good idea to give your cat a few treats — either when they finally climb inside the wheel, or after they use it — to provide stimulation and positive reinforcement. Just be mindful of how much snacking your cat is doing when you’re providing these rewards. The wheel is supposed to help you create healthier habits, after all.
You should also keep in mind that while cat wheels are fairly safe for cats (and even some dogs), they may not be safe for small children.
Lastly, have some patience. Just because your cat doesn’t take to the wheel quickly, doesn’t mean they won’t love it long-term. It may take a few tries before they accept it. But once they do, they’re sure to love it!