When it’s cold outside, the last thing that any of us or our pets want to do is venture outside. Nonetheless, exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Besides helping our pets avoid obesity, it can also bust the boredom that leads to behavioral issues. How then do we help our pets stay active during the winter? Here are ten ideas for dogs and cats alike.
Puzzle Feeders: Encourage your pet to work for their treats and their meals by hiding their food in a puzzle feeder. This activity will both work your pet’s mind and body. Make a puzzle feeder by placing dry food in a box with small holes or wet food in a muffin pan. Commercial puzzle feeders are also available.
Hide and Seek: Encourage your pet’s hunting instinct with a game of hide and seek. Start by hiding food where your pet will easily find it, and gradually increase the difficulty of the hiding places. Similarly, hide toys around the house and encourage your pet to seek them out.
Blow Bubbles: Blow bubbles for your pet to chase. Start by letting your pet get a scent of the bubble mixture and then blow one or two bubbles. After your pet learns that the bubbles are harmless, your pet will have fun trying to catch them.
Fetch: Start with a toy in your hands. Throw the toy and ask your pet to bring it back. If your pet doesn’t know how to fetch, this might be a good time to teach it!
Indoor Training: Speaking of training, take advantage of being forced you to stay inside by guiding your pet through obedience training, such as sit, come, stay, and down. If you want help, there are local classes for dogs and online classes for cats.
Chase/Walk the Stairs: Play a game of chase to expend pent-up energy. Use treats or a toy to motivate your pet to run around the house. If you have stairs, increase the cardiovascular workout by walking up and down them with your pet.
Obstacle Course: As with puzzle feeders, obstacle courses are a great way to work your pet’s mind and body. Use objects around the house, such as cushions, blankets, chairs, and sofas. Increase the difficulty level by having your pet jump over obstacles and by creating a tunnel which your pet can run through.
Indoor Treadmill/Exercise Wheel: Whether you use one designed for people or for dogs, a treadmill can help maintain your dog’s muscle tone. Get your dog used to the treadmill by setting it on a low speed. Make the treadmill more challenging by increasing the speed, but without exceeding a safe running speed for your dog. An exercise wheel designed for cats can similarly provide a safe and fun way for your cat to be physically active indoors.
Yoga: Classes in yoga are available locally for both dogs and cats. They provide a wonderful way to for you and your pet to stretch, de-stress, and relax together.
Outdoor Walk: You might need to shorten your pet’s outdoor walks during cold weather, but walks are an important way for your pet to explore new scents and smells beyond your home, burn calories, and stay fit. If your cat isn’t used to walks, this might be a time to train your cat to accept a leash, transport pet backpack, or stroller.