You’re always looking for ways to support your pet’s well-being—you buy quality food, luxurious beds, the best supplements, and the occasional adorable—yet completely unnecessary—accessory. However, well-meaning pet owners often overlook an essential health component. In addition to basic needs like food, water, and shelter, your pet needs mental stimulation, physical exercise, and time to engage in instinctual behaviors. By providing enrichment opportunities, you’ll strengthen your bond with your pet, reduce undesirable behaviors, and improve their quality of life. Village Animal Hospital offers tips to keep your pet stimulated, mentally and physically.
#1: Engage your pet’s brain
Mental stimulation can reduce your pet’s stress level, and provide them the opportunity to control their environment. The following activities will get your pet’s wheels turning, while providing mental exercise:
- Interactive toys — Any toy that you use to play with your pet becomes interactive, but if you’re short on time, give your pet an engaging toy to play with independently. Look for toys that allow your pet to use their prey-catching instinct. Cats go crazy for anything on a spring, while dogs are content with toys that reward them with a treat.
- Games — A game of fetch engages your pet mentally and physically. For an added challenge, hide a favorite toy while your pet waits in another room, and teach them to “go find it.”
- Training — Your pet loves a job, and learning new tricks builds their skills while enhancing your bond.
#2: Let your pet work for their food
Instead of feeding your pet in a bowl, let them use their foraging instincts to track down their meals or treats.
- Puzzle feeders — Hide treats throughout the day, or put your pet’s entire meal inside, encouraging them to problem-solve and reach those tasty morsels.
- Multiple bowls around the house — Your pet will enjoy using their powerful sniffing capabilities to locate their food in various areas of the house.
- Empty muffin tin — Cover each hole with a ball, and let your pet work to uncover them and reach their kibble.
You may need to teach your pet how to search for their food, but they won’t take long to learn. These simple enrichment activities will leave your pet eagerly anticipating their meal-time “hunt.”
#3: Give your pet a new perspective
Sometimes, a simple change in environment will shake up your pet’s daily routine. Cats and dogs are naturally curious and enjoy discovering new things. Keep your pet’s days exciting with the following:
- Visiting new places — Take a new route on your dog’s daily walk, or introduce your cat to a leash and harness. A window perch, climbing tower, or enclosed catio also provide safe interaction with the outdoors.
- Rotating their toys — Rotate your pet’s toys, that should include a mix of pet-friendly chews, stuffed toys, and balls. Always supervise, to ensure your pet doesn’t swallow a squeaker or sharp piece of bone.
- Changing up your floor plan –– You don’t need to completely rearrange your house, but try adding an unfamiliar item, such as a mirror or a cardboard box, to a room, to pique your pet’s curiosity, and provide new opportunities for exploration and play.
#4: Activate your pet’s senses
Get creative, and stimulate your pet’s senses by:
- Blowing bubbles — Bubbles provide visual stimulation and exercise for pets, as they run and jump to catch the floating, poppable balls.
- Reading your pet a story — They may not appreciate the juicy plot, but your pet will love hearing your soothing, melodic voice, as you read aloud.
- Stopping and smelling … everything — Your pet uses their powerful sense of smell to learn about the world around them. On walks, resist the urge to cut short your pet’s sniffing session, and give them time and space to smell their surroundings.
Enrichment activities are essential to your pet’s well-being. Their physical health is too. Contact Village Animal Hospital for more pet enrichment ideas, and to schedule your pet’s next wellness visit, to ensure they are living their best life!