January is a great month to be thinking about your own wellbeing, but getting your pets involved can be just as rewarding and beneficial. Creating an engaging and healthy environment for your cat or dog will not only be good for their waistline but great for your bond to.
Activity is good for our pets, it helps to maintain a healthy body weight and keep the muscles toned and strong, keeping the mind alert and active as well. Exercise is also fun and can offer us opportunities to bond with our pets. There are many ways to get your cat or dog more involved in play, and they don’t take much time, money, or effort on your part.
Exercising your Cat
It is a good idea to treat each cat individually and be mindful of their age, weight and breed and whether they are Indoor or an Outdoor cat. Cat trees allow a cat to display many different natural behaviours, such as climbing, scratching, and observing which are not only good for naturally wearing down the points on their claws but also getting their muscles moving.
Whilst younger cats and kittens may take the initiative on interacting with you, older cats or overweight cats may need a bit more coaxing… Try starting with a few minutes a few times a day and build up their stamina from there. Once you have found something that engages your cat’s interest, try different versions of this activity and build gradually.
There is a whole range of toys available from your local pet shop that are designed for playing with your cat or you could do just as easily with homemade feathers on a string or a pretend mouse. These will get your cats attention very quickly as they are amongst their favourite animals for stalking in the wild…Please be aware that string may pose a potential strangling hazard for your cat so do not leave them unattended.
Another engaging game for cats is putting a length of ribbon or string underneath a door whilst you sit the other side and gently pull it through. Just remember to put any strings or ribbon away after your play session as they can be dangerous for a cat if they swallow it.
Other objects you may find around the home can be just as interesting for your cat like empty boxes with holes cut into them make great “caves” and scratching toys, crumpled paper, especially the tissue type that makes lots of noise, is great for batting around. Paper bags are fun for crawling into, too, but avoid the plastic bags; you don’t want to risk an accidental suffocation. Also: plastic rings, empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, stuffed animals, etc. Just be careful none of the household “toys” can become choking hazards.
With some imagination and a commitment to spend at least a combined hour each day on your cat’s activity, recent studies have shown that you will find both you and your cat are enjoying a healthier and more joyful life.
Exercising your Dog
Studies have shown that dog owners enjoy numerous health and social benefits by walking their dog a few times a week. Benefits include improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles and bones (built up by walking regularly), and decreased stress.
A regular walk is vitally important for your pet’s health too. Obesity in pets is associated with a number of medical complaints including osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and insulin resistance.
Most dogs need to be walked at least once each day, though some dogs, particularly very active dogs, may require more. The breed of dog you have, as well as its level of fitness and age, will also determine how long and how vigorous your walk should be.
A walk appeals to dogs for numerous reasons; they love to check out the sights and smells and get to spend plenty of time with you. A dog that doesn’t receive sufficient exercise can easily become bored or destructive.
Here are a few other ideas for making exercising your dogs’ fun and stimulating.
A good old fashioned game of fetch helps your dog to release any pent up energy and is great for your bond. A simple game of fetch can be all that is needed for your dog’s daily exercise fix. Fetch is easy to squeeze into busy schedules, as there is no need to travel far to fit in a game. A close-by park or garden works great and on rainy days, fetch can be an indoor sport, played from the comfort of your sofa.
Take a handful of your dog’s daily food ration or our Educ training aid and hide them around the house – behind doors, under tables, underneath rugs, and anywhere else you can think of. Your dog will get enjoy the tracking element of the game and find it both physically and mentally tiring. Dispensing toys are another great way to keep your dog busy and engage them physically as they push around their toys and try to get to the food inside.
With the amount of ropes and toys available that encourage tug of war, it’s not surprising that so many dog owners play this game with their dog. However, you need to be aware of the risk. It’s a game that brings out predatory behaviour in your dog and can be unhealthy for your relationship if you don’t have trust and respect to begin with. You need to have control over your dog’s power and instincts before you can engage in a healthy game of tug of war with them and stop the game if and before it becomes too rigorous.
Don’t forget to exercise your dog’s brain. After puppyhood and the basic obedience commands have been taught, cognitive challenges tend to drop off. Find some fun behaviour to teach your dog, like high-fiving or sitting.