Although we don’t get the frigid winter temperatures here in Conroe, Texas, that the northern part of the country experiences, pets in our area still need indoor enrichment to ward off cabin fever. Without adequate physically and mentally stimulating enrichment, pets can develop a host of behavior and medical problems. Some of the most common issues associated with boredom and lack of enrichment include:
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive vocalization
- Inappropriate elimination
- Clingy behavior
- Feline idiopathic cystitis
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors (e.g., tail chasing and paw licking)
When your pet has no productive outlet for their energy, they will find ways to entertain themselves that typically are not approved activities. Additionally, health issues, such as feline idiopathic cystitis, can develop, triggered by stress-associated boredom and lack of enrichment. Prevent medical and behavior problems by giving your pet the invigorating activities they need to stay happy and healthy. Here are five fun enrichment ideas that will help banish your four-legged friend’s winter blues.
#1: Enroll your dog in doggy daycare
While not every dog is suited for canine companionship at doggy daycare, some dogs love romping with a four-legged playmate. Doggy daycare facilities typically divide dogs into groups with similar play styles, to ensure all their charges have a great time expending energy and socializing. Whether your pooch is a high-energy, nonstop wrestler, or more the snooze-in-the-sun type, your local doggy daycare is sure to have a play group that matches their needs.
#2: Teach your pet new tricks using positive reinforcement
No matter your pet’s age, you can still teach them new tricks. In fact, encouraging your senior pet to learn new skills can help prevent or slow cognitive dysfunction progression. And, this fun collaborative exercise is a great way to strengthen your bond with your four-legged friend. Spend 10 to 15 minutes each day brushing up and building on old skills, or teaching your pet entirely new tricks to add to their repertoire. Encourage your pet to use their brain during these training sessions by using the persuasive power of positive reinforcement. Use your pet’s favorite reward, like hot dog chunks, string cheese, or freeze-dried liver. With positive training techniques, your pet will be more apt to show off their skills.
#3: Cater to your pet’s natural instincts with species-appropriate play
Cats and dogs generally appreciate different forms of play and activities uniquely designed for their species. While dogs enjoy using their nose to sniff out special treats, cats are more likely to stalk and pounce on treats and toys. Figure out your pet’s favorite way to play, and use that to provide the most enriching activity. For example, your cat may be greatly intrigued by all things feathered. They may ignore a plush toy, but go wild for a feather wand, or a feathered toy that chirps. Determining your cat’s prey preferences is the first step in finding their most rewarding enrichment.
For dogs, you may try a variety of invigorating games, such as searching for treats, tossing a ball, playing tug-of-war, or enjoying a thorough grooming session. Spend time trying different activities, to discover the best way to enrich your pup’s life.
#4: Use food puzzles to feed your pet
For predator species—which cats and dogs are—nothing is more boring than your meals being handed to you on a silver platter. While a personal chef delivering your meals sounds wonderful, this mealtime method leaves a lot to be desired in the animal world. Ditch the food dish, and switch to feeding your pet from food puzzles, to encourage mental and physical activity. A wide variety of options is available for purchase, or you can create your own puzzle out of everyday home items. For example, cut holes in a cardboard tube large enough for kibble pieces to fit through, fill the tube, and then fold over the ends. Watch your pet roll around the tube to remove their meal, satisfying their hunger and their need for stimulating activities.
#5: Purchase interactive toys for your pet to play with when you’re not home
Instead of letting your pet lounge around waiting for you to return home and play, purchase interactive toys to instigate mental and physical exercise. Robotic mice are a great way to nudge lazy cats into their hunter selves, stalking and pouncing on their prey. These tiny toys can also be used for chasing games with small-breed dogs. Dogs with a desire to fetch may enjoy an automatic ball launcher, and once they catch on to using the device, may play alone to their heart’s content.
If your pet is displaying anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, or medical problems associated with boredom-induced stress, contact our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center team for an appointment. And, consider our Pet Resort at Stone Ridge boarding accommodations for one-on-one time, nature walks on outdoor trails, and plenty of interaction that will appropriately enrich your furry pal.
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