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Is your cat curious, adventurous, fearless, restless, active, and even hyperactive? If that description fits, they’re likely to take to the One Fast Cat cat exercise wheel like a souped-up Chevy to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The idea behind the cat exercise wheel is to provide cats, especially indoor cats, with vigorous exercise, keeping them entertained and at a healthy weight. Offering cats indoor exercise can be done with a variety of interactive cat toys, including laser pointers and wands, as well as with climbing towers—and cat wheels.
Our friends from Tennessee, Becky and Tony, bought their two-year-old Bombay, Austin, the One Fast Cat last Christmas. Becky explains that it took them only one session to train him. Austin gallops along happily on the wheel regularly.
My partner and I thought it might be a great idea for our five feline couch potatoes in Seattle. Read on as we get into the nitty-gritty about how you assemble a One Fast Cat exercise wheel, and how it went over with said Seattle cats.
Inventing the Cat Exercise Wheel
If you scour the internet, you’ll see that versions of the cat exercise wheel (think: a hamster wheel but for a cat) have been around for at least two decades. Many of the early ones are from the United Kingdom, and, of course, a lot of them originated in people’s garages and workshops. You can find DIY plans—well, sketches at least—on Pinterest.
One of the first companies to bring the cat wheel to market was Catswall Design, which is currently shipping the Catswall II in the UK. Made with MDF rather than plastic, it’s sturdy and heavy and ships fully assembled—so you could be looking at some delivery complications. The whizzes at Mythbusters even modified it to smooth out some elements.
The Maclaw Wheel is also a UK product; each wheel is custom made. The Go!Cat!Wheel, available online in the US, starts at a hefty $485. Several other cat wheels—including a wall-mounted wheel—have come and gone on the market.
One Fast Cat, however, has proven to have staying power. It’s a 48-inch diameter wheel made of snap-together plastic sections and lined with a soft running surface in a few different color options. The wheel is set on a base with four small turning wheels and is powered by the cat’s movement. Available directly from One Fast Cat, the wheel currently starts at $199 (which includes shipping to most U.S. locations). The company is aiming for a sweet spot in price, convenience, and durability. With more than 300 reviews on Amazon.com, it has a fairly respectable 3.5-star rating. Some cats and their people love it. Others…not so much.
As we discovered, it’s not enough to find a pretty good cat wheel. You also need the right cat.
The Ideal Cat for a Cat Exercise Wheel
One of the great challenges of making and testing a cat wheel, to say nothing about marketing and selling it, is that it requires an energetic cat. Got one? Good, I’ll wait a bit until you get her down from the top of the cabinets, and we’ll continue.
There are a few big differences between our cats and our friends’ cat Austin, who seems borderline obsessed with his wheel. He’s very curious, adventurous, and has a “high play drive,” says Becky. He responds well to praise and is very toy motivated. Those all seem to be characteristics that lend themselves to a cat who might get—and stay—interested in a cat exercise wheel.
Putting It All Together
When the surprisingly modest-sized (but heavy) box containing the cat wheel hit our doorstep, we momentarily freaked out because one side of our box had a tear in it. But it turned out all the components, carefully packed in cardboard and wrapped in plastic, were intact.
We arranged the pieces on the dining room table and set about putting them together, following the large instruction sheet.
The process went just about the way it does in the official instructional video for the current (Generation 5) One Fast Cat. The company has continued to upgrade the product, so make sure the instructional videos and reviews you check out are current.
The wheel itself went together smoothly, but we ran into a snag—specifically, with inserting two metal rods into the plastic housings at either end of the base. Registering our account and contacting One Fast Cat customer support through the website got us through the difficulty—though I was not impressed with the design of the plastic housings. If you run into problems, don’t do anything drastic. The customer support folks will get you through it!
OK, the wheel’s ready. Now let’s go get the cat.
Training Your Cat to Wheel
“Austin is endlessly curious and loves to explore,” Becky says. “If there’s an adventure to be had, he’s generally up for it.”
He loves to play, she explains. “If you get a toy out and dangle it, he’s ready to go. However, he also responds very well to praise. He visibly preens when you say, “Good Austin.” He’ll not turn down a treat, but if I wanted to motivate him, I’d use toys first, and reinforce the desired behavior with praise and pets.”
Which is exactly what Tony did when he introduced Austin to the exercise wheel last Christmas. Tony had Austin playing with a favorite wand toy next to the One Fast Cat. Gradually, Tony led him from beside the One Fast Cat onto the wheel. Soon Austin was leaping over the wheel, then climbing the wheel, and less than five minutes into the training he was running on the wheel itself.
Note Austin’s housemate Reese observing the training session on the right. “We hoped all three of our cats would use the wheel as healthy exercise,” Becky says. “So far, only Austin has shown any interest.”
For other training tips, you can check out this 14-minute YouTube video posted by One Fast Cat.
It demonstrates step-by-step training with cats who are treat motivated as well as with cats like Austin who are toy motivated.
I polled my friends, whose cats represent a range of temperaments, breeds, body types, and intelligence. They concluded that about one cat in every six will go for a cat wheel.
At our house, we were able to get our tabby Zoe on the One Fast Cat with her favorite treats (blueberries). But she simply meowed until we put the blueberries down on the wheel. She then knocked them onto the floor and ran off after them.
Life With One Fast Cat
While cats often lose interest in toys, once a cat has become attached to One Fast Cat, owners like Becky report that the interest (is it an obsession?) seems to continue.
“There is serious mileage on that wheel,” Becky says. “Austin uses it several times a day, generally for at least two or three minutes at a time. He doesn’t need an audience or anyone to motivate him. He doesn’t even need the lights on. Quite often, I will awaken to hear the wheel whirring at all hours of the night.”
It’s worth noting that the wheel is not exactly quiet. It makes a low, rumbling sound (which I think frightened Zoe when she first stepped on the wheel and it moved). Becky has put Austin’s wheel on an exercise mat to dampen the noise and speculates that putting it on a padded carpet might also reduce noise.
Still not sure if your cat is a candidate for the fast track? Check out these Instagram videos from One Fast Cat’s customers for inspiration. Even if your cat, like mine, would rather sit in laps than do laps, you can always dream.Find One Fast Cat Wheel at One Fast Cat
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Featured image via One Fast Cat