If you’re looking for an awesome way to stimulate your indoor kitty mentally and physically, let me introduce you to the Athlecat cat exercise wheel! Think “hamster wheel for cats,” except a whole lot safer (Seriously though, never put your cat in a hamster wheel. I feel that should go without saying but you never know these days). Read on for my in-depth review!
Athlecat Cat Exercise Wheel Review
Making sure our indoor cats get enough exercise is one of biggest struggles that we kitty parents face. After 25+ years of cat “parenting,” I definitely rank it in my top 3 concerns after litter box woes and picky eating habits.
Honestly, cat exercise wheels were never even on my radar until recently. First, I thought they’d be dangerous. Cats aren’t hamsters, after all. I also wasn’t really sure my cats would even use one. But (and consider this a disclosure) Athlecat was kind enough to send us the Athlecat cat exercise wheel to review, since we’re affiliates with them. After reading about their safety features, I volunteered to let my kitties (Alex, Zoe, and Leia) test it out.
Now, before we go any further, I just want to make one thing clear. Yes, I received a complementary wheel. Yes, we used affiliate links in this post. However, I NEVER recommend anything that I haven’t or wouldn’t use myself. I also never write reviews until I feel like I’ve spent enough time really testing something out. Just ask Athlecat. They’ve been waiting months for this review because I wanted to make sure my cats actually liked it AND that it held up well.
Got it? Good. Let’s get started!
Which Cats Would Benefit Most from an Exercise Wheel?
Before we jump into the features, pros and cons of the Athlecat Cat Exercise Wheel, we should probably make sure that a cat exercise wheel is even right for your feline friends. Generally, cat wheels are ideal for:
- Energetic cats and kittens with a surplus of energy.
- Indoor cats who need a good workout.
- “Chonky” kitties who need to drop a few pounds (but see note below).
Cats that SHOULD NOT Use an Exercise Wheel
While exercise wheels can be a fantastic addition to many cats’ lives, it’s important to understand that they might not be suitable for every kitty. Here are some scenarios where you should exercise caution and consider alternatives:
- Older cats with reduced mobility or joint issues
- Cats recovering from injuries or surgeries. Consult with your vet for appropriate rehabilitation exercises and guidelines.
- Extremely timid or anxious cats who might find the motion of an exercise wheel intimidating and stressful.
- Overweight cats with mobility issues. While exercise wheels can aid in weight management, severely overweight cats with mobility issues may struggle to use them safely. Talk to your vet first.
- Cats with certain medical conditions, such as heart problems or respiratory issues, should avoid strenuous exercise.
- Highly uncoordinated cats that struggle with balance and coordination.
Remember that each cat is unique, and what works well for one may not be suitable for another. If you’re unsure whether your cat should use an exercise wheel, talk to your vet. They can provide guidance based on your cat’s individual health, age, and temperament.
Now, let’s delve into the Athlecat™ Cat Wheel‘s features and the stand-out benefits it brings to your cat’s life.
Athlecat Cat Exercise Wheel Features
You can read an overview of the Athlecat features on their website, so I am going to keep this part relatively short. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like when a reviewer just rehashes the same exact info that I can read for myself on a brand’s website.
Here’s a quick rundown of the main features. I’ll go over my favorites in more detail in a moment.
- High-quality wood construction
- Locking-slide key (so you can lock the wheel when you’re not around to supervise)
- Removable “Magic Scratch” Carpet
- TPE silent rolling wheels
- Pre-installed wheel segments for “hassle-free assembly” (see drawbacks, though).
- Includes a free toy to help train your cat to use the wheel (this was actually Zoe’s favorite part, she confiscated it before I could even finish putting the wheel together).
- Comes with a “toolbox” filled with all of the parts, including extra screws, dowels, and other easy-to-loose pieces
How big is the Athlecat Wheel?
We’ll discuss this a bit more below, but for those who want a quick answer, the internal wheel diameter is 40 inch (104cm), the overall size is 44″Hx 44″W x 11″D, and the package is 24”x18”x10”.
Pros and Cons
Let’s do a quickie peek at all of the pros and cons, then I’ll go over the ones that matter the most to me after.
- Superior safety features
- Durable construction
- Nearly silent operation
- Fast & free shipping in the US
- EVERY single bit, bobble, and part you need (including a really nice screwdriver) PLUS spare parts for all key components.
- A fair price for what you get
- Challenging to assemble
- It’s HUGE, so it takes up a lot of space in your home
- While the price is fair, it’s not exactly cheap.
- Takes time to train your cats to use it, and some cats may never use it.
Athlecat Cat Wheel Top Benefits
As promised, let’s look at the features that really matter most to me.
Superior Safety Features
As I mentioned earlier, safety was my #1 concern about trying a cat exercise wheel. Cats aren’t hamsters, and the wrong wheel could cause catastrophic spinal injuries. Actually, I think the same is true for hamsters as well, but you know what I mean.
Athlecat really took their time in designing their cat exercise wheel. Everything from the materials to the construction process to the size is designed to ensure that your kitty has both a safe and fun experience. They even added a slide-key so that you can lock the wheel in place when you’re not around to supervise.
The removable Magic Scratch Carpet serves a dual purpose—it keeps your cat active and engaged while also providing a safe, scratchable surface. Even Alex and Zoe, who don’t yet use the wheel as intended, love using it as a scratching post.
I’m actually pretty surprised by the quality of the “magic” carpet. I’ve had the wheel assembled for over a month now and it’s still in perfect shape. It attaches with Velcro so I imagine it’ll be pretty easy to replace down the road.
Relatively Silent Operation:
The Athlecat features “four TPE silent rolling wheels” that operate smoothly. While I wouldn’t say that it’s 100% silent (especially when Leia gets going on it), it really is a lot quieter than I thought it would be.
Physical Fitness & Weight Management:
So, while this isn’t a “feature,” it’s probably one of the top (and most obvious) benefits of the Athlecat. It really helps your kitty get some much-needed exercise. It’s kind of like a cat treadmill, but cooler!
Exercise is important for all cats, but it’s especially vital for kitties that are packing a few extra pounds. For these kitties, a good cat exercise wheel can be an essential tool in their weight management journey.
Pent-up Energy Release
If you’ve ever witnessed your cat’s unpredictable bursts of energy, aka ‘the zoomies,’ you’ll appreciate the Athlecat even more. It provides a safe outlet for these high-energy moments, sparing your furniture and curtains from their enthusiastic play.
Again, this isn’t really a feature per se, but it’s definitely a benefit for both you and your cats. Leia in LOVES running like crazy on the Athlecat wheel, and I just love watching her do it.
Check out my video below to see it in action. Well, sort of. She actually gets it going really fast, but she stops as soon as I grab my phone to record her. I’ll keep trying to get a better video for you. For now, you’ll just have to take my word that she loves it. Oh, and please ignore my messy living room. My dog likes to leave her toys all over the house. 😀
Overall, the Athlecat is actually a lot cooler than I expected it to be. Sure, it’s a smidge on the pricey side (but again, still a very reasonable cost for what you get). But there are two major drawbacks, at least in my opinion.
The Athlecat website ensures “a hassle-free assembly process,” but I found it anything BUT hassle-free. It took me just under 2 hours to assemble the entire thing by myself, and at one point I actually cried (in all fairness, I get frustrated when assembling things and almost always end up crying, which is why I rarely bought my son LEGO kits when he was little).
The main structure itself wasn’t too hard to put together, but it was time-consuming. Each segment connects to the next one with a metal plate on each side. Each metal plate has 4 screws, for a grand total of 48. Not the fastest process, but I didn’t cry at all during this part.
The hard part, though, was attaching the wheel to the base. This is where the tears came into play. The included directions weren’t clear, so I had to go online to find a video. Even then, I found it challenging to do by myself. I think that if I had someone helping me it would probably be a lot easier, though.
As I mentioned earlier, this baby is HUGE. It stands 44” high, 44” wide, and 11” deep. I guess, all things considered, it has a smaller footprint than a large cat tree. But if you have a small home, it may be challenging to find a good spot for it.
That said, there’s a reason that it’s as large as it is: safety. Athlecat focused on creating a wheel that’s actually safe for your cat to use versus just going for something cheap and compact. Smaller wheels can be incredibly dangerous to your cat’s spine. That focus on safety far outweighs the other cons, in my opinion.
The other drawback that I mentioned earlier isn’t so much an Athlecat problem as a “my cat” problem. Of my three kitties, only one will actually run on the wheel. Alex and Zoe mostly just use it as a scratching post and napping spot. But Leia absolutely loves it, and she’s the one who needs it the most since she’s still a very high-energy baby.
While some cats may hop right on and start running the moment you install the last piece, yours may be more like Alex and Zoe. Just make sure you have reasonable expectations before buying.
Conclusion (Is Athlecat Worth Trying?)
Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by the Athlecat Cat Exercise Wheel, especially since Leia started using it. Seeing her race around on it brings me so much joy. In a world where joy is often hard to come by, I’d say that alone makes it worth trying.
Just make sure you manage your expectations and have a little patience.
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