Here at Vet’s Kitchen, we are a group of dedicated pet owners, and it is for this reason that we want to share with you some of our Vet Know-How tips from our veterinary professionals on how to keep your pets mentally stimulated when they are unable to go for their normal walks.
These boredom busters can also be used anytime- maybe your pet is on rest due to an operation or injury, you might have an indoor only cat, or your pet may not be going outside as much as normal due to owner illness. Whatever the reason, read on to find out our best boredom busters for dogs and cats.
Why is mental stimulation important in our pets?
Keeping your dogs happy in lockdown, and your cats even happier can make a big difference to a home. Walking and having access to the great outdoors provides our cats and dogs with so much brain engaging activity.
During outside walks, our pets pick up messages left by other animals, they interact with other humans and animals, and they are getting physical exercise. If their daily routines change and pets find themselves inside more than they normally would, it can have a huge impact on their demeanor, much like it would for us.
To help combat this and keep out pets fit, happy and healthy, we need to keep their brains working to help burn off excess energy. If pets are left indoors for longer periods than they are used to they will quickly become bored and frustrated, which could result in displaying unwanted behavior.
This is particularly important in younger animals like kittens and puppies, who have very high levels of energy. Our Vet Know How team have compiled a list of great brain games to play with a dog or cat below them entertained whilst at home.
What things can I do to help mentally engage my pet?
Puzzle toys and feeders
How do you feed your pet each day? Feeding into a bowl is fast and easy, but what if you were to make it more of a challenge where your cat or dog had to work a bit harder? Instead of delivering your pet’s dry food to their bowl, pop it into a Kong Wobbler ™
, a Green Feeder ™
or try scattering it over the floor. Instantly, your pet has to think about how they’re going to get their food and have to work harder to get it. You might need to help your pet out by showing your dog how they work, particularly for the first few times until they get the hang of it.
Using puzzle feeders means that mealtimes stop being a 5-minute chow down to a good hour of brain work- not to mention providing exercise, giving them mental stimulation and encouraging slow feeding. Do some research into different puzzle feeders. There are many different types, and you can even have a go at making your own. Our top tip: Vets Kitchen dry food
diets work great in puzzle feeders.
Treasure hunts can be a fun game to play with a cat or a dog. They can be great mental stimulation for dogs and cats as they’ll need to use their head and their nose to try and sniff out treats. If possible, confine your pet to one room or one part of the house while you (or the kids) make the treasure hunt.
If your pet hasn’t done something like this before, try hiding them in fairly easy spots like behind doors, on cupboard knobs/ handles, on chairs and stairs. If your pet is a well renowned treasure hunter and good with their sniffer, try more difficult places like in baskets which have been turned upside down, underneath their bed, in shoes and places they will need to climb to. This can also be done outside in the garden when the weather allows.
Hide and seek
Much like the treasure hunt, if your pet has a favourite toy they are obsessed with, try hiding it without their knowledge. If they have never hunted down their favourite toy before, make sure you start off easy and slowly find a harder place to hide. Once your pet gets the idea this can turn into a really fun game of hide and seek.
Frozen treats for dogs- this can be a really simple way to make your dog a long-lasting treat. Using Kong’s™ or similar, you can fill these with food and freeze and give to your dog as a treat. They will have to spend a while chewing at the Kong™ before the filling is soft enough to get out.
Fillings that can be used are wet/tinned dog foods, plain natural yoghurt, cooked vegetables like carrot, peas and mashed squash, dog safe peanut butter, banana, or a combination of these. If your dog is sensitive to lots of different foods or is on a special diet you can soak their kibble and squish it into the Kong™ and freeze.
Don't forget to encourage your dog to play with their favorite toys, maybe bring out their old toys to keep your dog busy. Most dogs love being played with, if that's the case, put some time aside for playing games with them, whether it be with cardboard boxes, or a tug toy. Either way, dedicating time for the simple play is a sure way to keep your dot or cat happy.
Something extra to consider
If your pet is receiving less physical exercise for longer periods of time, it’s a good idea to look at how much you’re feeding them and making sure that the reduced exercise is considered with feeding. It is likely that their daily food allowance will need temporarily reducing until they are back at their peak of activity.