Ways You Can Exercise Your Pet’s Mental Health from Home
We all know the importance of getting our pet enough physical activity, but we often forget about mental activity. Our pets are intelligent beings traditionally bred for specific tasks such as hunting and guarding. However, these days, they often lead more relaxed lives that don’t require much daily exercise beyond their walk or playtime. Unfortunately, this can lead to increased boredom among our pets – and bored pets can become destructive pets.
We know that your pet’s mind can be difficult to keep busy when you are spending more time indoors than ever before. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of five fun ways to help you exercise your pet’s mental health from the comfort of your own home.
Swap your traditional food bowls for puzzle feeders
Instead of simply putting your pet’s food in a bowl, serve them in a way that their brains work. An easy way to do this is by using puzzle feeders. You can take advantage of your cat’s natural hunting skills by using something like Doc & Phoebes Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder. With this award-winning bowl-less feeder, your cat can hunt, catch, and play with lots of small meals day and night, just like in the wild. Simply fill the “mice” with your pet’s normal food and hide them around the house so your cat can find them all day.
Dog parents can opt for a puzzle feeder that will take their pup’s nose to work to get to the food. The PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat mimics the way dogs forage for food in the wild, enhancing their natural foraging skills. Your dog will have fun digging through the layers of fabric to find their food or treats, and won’t worry about messing it up – it’s completely machine washable.
Play Find the Treat games with them
If your pets are motivated by treats, use this to keep their minds active during your playtime together. A good way to do this is with simple mind games like the shell game. In this game you take three cups and let your pet watch as you hide a treat under one of them. Then slowly rotate the cup placement and let your pet determine which cup the treatment is under based on their problem-solving skills and sense of smell. A similar game can be played by hiding a treat in one of your hands and getting your pet to signal which hand it is in.
Let them work independently for their goodies
If you’re looking for a way to mentally stimulate your pets with minimal effort, there are numerous toys in the market that can help you out, including the classic Kong. A time-honored favorite with cats and dogs, the Kong can keep your mind occupied for a long time. Just fill the kong with their favorite Freshpet recipe and your pet will have a ton of fun trying to fish out every last bite. You can even freeze it once it’s filled to add an extra challenge to your pet. Kongs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including a special one made for cats.
Play games that teach you new skills
Did you know that dogs can learn an average of 165 different words? This makes any play with audible commands a great choice for mental stimulation – especially if they can learn some new words in the process. A popular word-based game for dogs is the “name game”. First, give your dog’s favorite toy a specific name and use it regularly during playtime. Over time, and with plenty of positive reinforcement, your dog should be able to associate the name with the toy. Test this by placing the toy among their others and asking them to bring it to you. As soon as you have successfully selected the toy from a group, you can start the process again with a second toy. The more toys they learn, the closer they are to Chaser the Border Collie’s record, who learned the names of more than 1000 different toys!
Cats may not have the same talent for language, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn other skills. If your cat enjoys playing with balls or other stuffed animals, you can try teaching them to play with them. The process is similar to teaching a dog: throw the toy a little way and say fetch. When your cat reaches the toy, lure it back to you with a treat. When they return to you say “Good Fetch” and let them drop the toy by giving them the treat. Over time, your cat will understand that when you throw a toy, when they “fetch” it and bring it back to you, it will be a delicious treat.
Encourage brain-cracked solo play with interactive toys
There are a number of interactive toys that you can use to exercise your pet both mentally and physically. The Blackhole Catch The tail toy lets your cat chase and chase a “tail” while it moves under a blanket. The three speed settings keep the toy behavior unpredictable, keeping your cat busy forever. The iFetch automatic ball thrower allows dogs to play to their heart’s content, but it also keeps the brain active. Not only through the excitement of chasing the ball, but also when they learn to reload the toy on their own.
We hope this list provides some inspiration on how to exercise your pet’s mental health from the comfort of your own home. Do you have any other ideas? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!