Although dogs and cats are some of our society’s favorite domestic companions, they still retain needs and behaviours from their ancestral times as free-roaming creatures. Wild canids and felines live extremely active lifestyles, and spend most of their time roaming and scavenging for food, which keeps them physically fit and mentally alert. Their survival depends on their ability to sustain high levels of intense activity while also using their keen intellect to problem solve.
Pet owners have eliminated the need for our pets to hunt for their food, but in many ways that’s created a whole set of other problems for our furry family members; in fact, most cats and dogs today suffer from a lack of enrichment and exercise, often leaving them bored, overweight, and hyperactive. To truly keep your feline friend fit or your canine companion content, let’s look at some ways to enrich your pet’s life on a daily basis.
Working for food.
Both cats and dogs can benefit from putting a little more effort into eating, which not only keeps them active but gives their brain a workout, too. Use hollow food balls to feed meals, puzzle toys, or kibble ‘hide and seek’ games around the house to get your four-legged friend to use their hunting instincts.
Many dogs love new places and new activities, so change up your daily walking route, visit a new dog park, or network to find some new doggie friends for them to play with. Cats love being outside to check out the sights and smell new smells – just make sure that you take them out with a safe and secure harness, or look into building an outdoor cat enclosure.
Games and Training.
Teaching your pet something new will benefit both of you! For dogs, use positive training methods like clicker to teach new tricks or behaviors (this works for many cats, too). Your pup might enjoy games like ‘find the treat’ or ‘hide and seek’ around the house or the yard, and many feline friends have enjoyed learning how to sit, come and even ‘shake a paw!’
Change up their habitat.
Just as a wild animal prefers to constantly seek out new places, our pet will prefer changing up their space too! Without moving your furniture or remodelling your home, there are ways that you can change up your cat or dog’s living space to make it more exciting for them. Use tunnels and obstacles like boxes that your pet has to go over, under, around or through in order to get to their favorite treat or toy. For cats, place shelves or benches at window height or up on walls to create a vertical playground for them to climb on and survey the view from.
With activities that vary from agility to flyball, from dock diving to scent trials, there’s something out there to peak every dog lover’s interest, depending on their pup’s breed, age, and ability. For your furry feline friend, don’t be discouraged! Though smaller in number than their canine colleagues, cat agility competitors are growing in number, and sanctioned agility trials are available for your kitty to participate in as well.
It’s not necessary to quit your day job in order to keep your fluffy friend feeling good, but by making some regular changes in your pet’s daily routine and including lots of attention and interactive time, you can strengthen your bond with your four-legged family member and keep them feeling good, too!