Don’t Let the Cold Winter Weather Drive Your Pets Nuts
Explore these fun and creative indoor activities!
Laser Pointer Pounce Games
Encouraging your kitty to chase and pounce on the red dot from a pet-safe laser pointer can be a really fun way to promote activity. Try making the dot ‘hide’ under furniture or inside boxes, scooting the dot slowly and erratically along baseboards and even up a wall. Your cat will enjoy chasing this elusive ‘prey’ and give its natural prey drive a good work out while making you smile at her antics.
Be sure to keep these sessions short, and change up play with other toys, to keep kitty from becoming compulsive about the pointer, or bored of it. Some dogs enjoy laser pointers, too, and it can be a real blast watching your dog tear after the little red dot. Even big cats love laser pointers!
Healthy Treat Scavenger Hunt
Training your cat or dog to hunt for treats around your home can be fun to watch, and also provide much-needed mental stimulation for pets. Try it first with commercial or organic treats that have a bit of smell to them, to make it easier for Fluffy or Fido to find the hidden goodies. You can change over to frozen peas or pre-cooked carrot slices for dogs, to keep the calorie count low. Be sure not to substitute too many treats for actual physical activity. If your pet is anxious or begging for treats, try training exercises or games, instead.
Food Puzzles for Mental Stimulation
There are many different kinds of commercially available interactive dog puzzle and challenge games which can provide both physical activity and mental stimulation, while entertaining pet owners as well. A popular video from 2014 features Bella, a Belgian Malinois, working at solving the puzzle of getting her kibbles from a challenge toy her owner created. Watch the video here!
Go Fishing with Kitty
Store-bought or homemade fishing-type poles can be a real joy to play with. Most cats can’t resist chasing a toy that seems to run and dance away from them, as you reel it in! You can make your own using something with some flexibility, like a short horse-lunging whip. However, be careful with toys that might have strings, yarn, ribbons, feathers or plastic eyes or ornaments on them. Your cat could chew these off and swallow them. Remove anything that could be a hazard if swallowed and always monitor your cat’s playtime with new toys.
Positive Training Reinforcement
The forced downtime of winter weather is a wonderful time to teach new tricks or or to reinforce good behaviors. Use short training sessions of ten minutes or so, keep these activities positive, and cherish the sessions as great opportunities to bond with your pet.
Play the Right Way!
You should encourage your pets to enjoy some active playtime for at least 5 minutes 3 times a day, but this is only a general rule. Puppies and kittens can benefit from longer play times. With any play or exercise regimen, ensure that your vet has checked if your pet is healthy enough for increased exercise. And be sure to reduce intensity and duration of exercise or playtime if your pet seems sore after playtime, or the next day.
High Energy Pooch? Try These Energy-Burning Ideas!
- Some dog owners train their dogs to walk on full-size treadmills in bad weather. This method requires intensive supervision. Be sure to go over your exercise ideas with your veterinarian prior to starting a new exercise regimen with your dog.
- If your dog enjoys a good long jog or run, consider hiring a professional, insured dog jogger, if you have to work or are unable to run with your pet yourself. A dog jogger can take your Fido for a spin through the park or neighborhood as needed, providing great exercise for your dog, while you enjoy the warm indoors.
- Quality, highly-rated doggie day care centers that provide playtime for dogs can be a great resource. Even 1-2 visits a week can help burn through a lot of energy, and can be great resources for cardiovascular health, weight loss or management, and socialization. Some dog day care facilities also offer indoor swimming, which can be very beneficial for senior pets or dogs with arthritis or other health conditions that could benefit from the low-impact movement and exercise swimming provides.
The more you can do to keep your pets healthy, fit, socialized, and engaged with you and other pets, the more your pets will benefit from improved health and mental and physical agility, which are especially crucial as pets age.
Be creative finding ways to make your pet happy in cold or inclement weather, have fun and enjoy your time with your pet!