Dogs and cats were born to be athletes, workers and powerful hunters, but through thousands of years of evolution we have turned them into couch potatoes. How do we inject more activity, fun and playtime back into our pet’s lives? There are fun and easy ways to play with your pet that mimic natural behaviours and give them the exercise they need. And the good news is that keeping your pet healthy, happy and out of trouble with daily exercise is a lot of fun!
Jump for joy!
Cats and most dogs love to jump, so incorporate jumping games into your daily exercise. You can do this outside on your walks by having your dog jump up onto ledges or over small gaps. At home you can set up broom sticks and sturdy boxes for your dog to jump on or over. Just make sure that it is not higher than your dog’s elbows as this can cause strain on your dog’s joints. Training treats are perfect to entice jumping, or try bouncing a ball.
Cat trees make excellent jumping style play opportunities. Use treats to lure you cat up onto the post then jump back down. Reward this behavior with that treat. If the tree is close to your sofa, bed or pet safe counter/ledge try having them jump to these places. You will be surprised and amazed at how high your cat can jump!
This game promotes natural stalking behaviour in both cats and dogs. In the house hide behind a sofa, bed, desk, even in the shower and let your pet try to find you. To start, use a squeaker toy to help your dog track you down. The more you play this game, the less you will need to do for your pet to find you. Outside, even hiding behind a little tree will excite your dog when they run over to find you.
Cats are very crafty, so be alert. When you are playing hide and seek do not be surprised to suddenly be jumped on! When you are found, jump up and your cat will run off giving you a chance to find your next hiding place. Cats love this game, but if you are having trouble getting them interested try using a toy to get their attention. A feather or furry critter wiggling at the side of the sofa will do wonders.
Fetch is a great game to play with your dog to wear them out. Dogs love to run, but you may not. Chuckit! Products are perfect for all games of fetch. They offer everything from the classic ball throw, water toys and even fetch toys for inside the house. Remember: a tired dog, is a happy and well-behaved dog!
Fetch may seem like a dog-centric game, but did you know you can also teach your cat to fetch? Try these easy steps with your cat:
- Select a toy that your cat loves, or even one they do not get all the time but love (like hair elastics – just make sure to monitor them with these types of items). Using a loved but usually restricted toy will instantly pique their interest in the game.
- Throw the toy. Most cats can’t resist chasing and attacking it, but bring it back? Not usually.
- Retrieve the toy from your cat.
- Go back to where you originally threw it from and lure the cat back over (a treat will help with this process).
- Repeat these steps until you see your cat catching on. Bear in mind, this may not happen the first time you play.
- Next step is to teach them to carry it back. Have the cat carry the toy as you lead them back over to the starting point.
- Play fetch! Cats are smart creatures so they will begin to see that there is something in this for them. You can also reward with treats upon completion of them bringing it back. (If the cat doesn’t readily carry the toy back to you, call their name, praise, and encourage them. If they still don’t seem ready to bring it back keep trying the above steps until they do)
Need to occupy your pet, but are a little busy?
Don’t feel bad! There are toys made for this. Food puzzles and interactive toys will exercise your pet’s brain and reinforce positive behavior. These types of toys are great for when you are leaving them alone or have guests. Kong toys are perfect for occupying dogs. They can be stuffed with almost anything and even frozen with goodies in the summer. This toy will exercise their brain and also promote positive chewing.
Cats are born hunters, so give them the opportunity to work for their food or treats. Petsafe’s Slim Cat Ball can be chased and batted around and then reward for all that hard work with food!
By Michelle Edmundston