Winter can be a challenging time for humans and pets alike. Between the cold, snow, and ice posing potential hazards, it’s easy for you and your cat or dog to succumb to cabin fever from being cooped up inside for too long.
Spring cannot come fast enough! But until it does, we’ve compiled a thorough list of ways to keep your pets active and cure their cabin fever through creative methods of indoor play.
Challenge Your Pet’s Nose
- Dogs and cats have incredibly powerful scenting abilities, so exercises that require your pal to use his/her nose are especially stimulating.
- Make your pets work for their dinner by creating an obstacle course they must get through to find their food. Hide their meals in a box, or, better yet, put it in a food puzzle; they make versions for dogs and cats.
- If your dog has a lot of energy, we would suggest chucking your dog bowls all together and only feeding from food puzzles. If you’re using Kongs, try freezing them, since it’ll take much longer for your dogs to work out their meal, burning more mental and physical energy in the process.
- You can put that food to work for you by making your dog or cat hunt for it with his nose. Instead of dumping the food in his bowl, consider hiding small piles of food in the house then release him to “kibble hunt.” Initially, make the piles very easy to find. As your pet gets better at this game, practice hiding the food in more difficult spots.
Play a Game with Your Pet
Hide-and-seek is a wonderful way to get your pet up and moving and mentally engaged. You can hide a treat or her favorite toy, but it’s better to make her come find you. Start by throwing a treat to get her to go away from you, and then hide in another part of the house. This game can really tire your pup out as she rushes around searching, and it’s good for reinforcing the “come” command.
Tips for Dogs
- Targeting – Being indoors gives you a great opportunity to practice target training your dog. Teach him/her to touch their nose to the back of your hand on command; this will make them focus on a target. It’s a great exercise because it gives you an activity you can do together. And once your pup has learned how to do this, you can use it whenever you want him/her to stop what they’re doing and focus. For example, if you’re out walking and your four-legged friend becomes excited upon seeing another dog, you can use targeting to redirect his/her attention. Plus, your dog can’t bark when it’s touching its nose to your hand!
- Tug and Fetch – Tug and fetch are classic dog games that do not require a lot of room. Hallways tend to be great for fetch games, and tug can be played virtually anywhere.
- Stair Master – Throw a tennis ball up or down the stairs for your pet to chase.
- Doggie Play Dates – If your dog has a favorite playmate or friend, consider scheduling a play date. Before your dog’s pal arrives, be sure to puppy proof and pick up all breakables and valuables. As you know, dog play can get quite rowdy!
- Puppy Push Ups – Sit, down, sit, down, sit, down; it’s the easiest “trick” in the book! This activity helps burn off a little energy, even if your dog only knows two commands.
Tips for Cats
- Cat Toy Rotation – Rotate your cat’s favorite toys in and out of his/her toy box, and try hiding toys around the house for your cat to find over time.
- Laser Pointers or Remote Control Mice – The best part about these is they provide a huge amount of exercise. Your cat has no idea that as he or she is stalking and running after that little dot or toy mouse all over the room, they’re burning off a lot of calories and getting a fair bit of exercise. It’s also entertaining for you – the cat owner.
- Unleash the Hunter – Cats who fend for themselves may eat up to a dozen times a day – more nibbles than full meals, but it’s still a lot of time spent on the hunt. For this reason, the best toys for cats are ones that mimic prey and engage hunting-related behavior. Balls can be fun to bat around, but the same old ball just lying there gets dull in a hurry. Feathery and fur-like toys on “fishing poles” encourage stalking, leaping, and pouncing – especially right before mealtime, when your cat is hungry anyway.
- Training Your Cat – Believe it or not, you can train cats. A quick YouTube search for “clicker training cats” will provide plenty of resources and how-to videos. And why not train your cat? Just as for dogs, clicker training helps make your cat’s life interesting and fun. And if you get ambitious, you can train your cat to walk on leash, so he/she can go outside with you.
- Cat Trees – No, they don’t have to be commercial cat trees, and if you have some carpentry skills and design sense, you probably don’t want them to be. The real point is to provide some places to rest, hide, and look out windows from different heights. As everybody knows who’s ever lost a vase to their kitty, cats are climbers. They’re also unusual in being not only predators but (because they’re small) also prey. Hence the appeal of elevated hidey-holes.
Have We Sparked Some Creative Ideas?
We hope so. With a little extra effort and an open mind to new forms of play, your dog or cat can remain as active during a cold winter of bad weather as possible –curing their cabin fever.
And who knows…you may just cure your own at the same time!
If you have any questions in regards to the health and wellbeing of your pet, please don’t hesitate to contact Delavan Lakes Vet Clinic, or give us a call at 262.728.8622.