As winter approaches and tightens its chilly grip on Spokane, your furry pal—and you—may not want to venture outdoors for a stroll around the neighborhood. Whether you stay inside because of rain, snow, or quarantine, indoor enrichment for your pet is vital for their mental and physical health. If pets become bored and unfulfilled, a variety of conditions can develop, including:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Overgrooming
  • Feline idiopathic cystitis
  • Destructive behavior
  • Overeating

Essentially, bored pets become stressed pets, which weakens their immune systems and can leave them open to illness and infection. Boredom and stress can also create many problem behaviors in pets that, once developed, can be difficult to eliminate. Keep your four-legged friend happy and engaged by implementing environmental enrichment at home. Here are five ideas to get you started.

#1: Ditch your pet’s food dish for a puzzle feeder

While being served your meal every day is great, the same food can quickly bore your pet, especially if a never-ending food buffet fills their dish. Pets are no longer wild animals who need to spend most of their days hunting for their next meals, but they often have no activities to replace that behavior. Outdoor cats can engage in 20 stalking and pouncing sessions per day, which fulfill their daily calorie requirements, burning a great deal of calories while providing excellent mental stimulation.

Ditch your pet’s food dish and opt for a homemade or store-bought puzzle feeder. If your pet eats a canned diet, try a LickiMat or rubber Kong. You can freeze your pet’s canned food in their puzzle feeder overnight for longer-lasting fun. Other choices include snuffle mats, folded-over cardboard tubes, or crumpled paper stuffed with dry kibble.

#2: Brush up on daily brain games for your pet

Feeding your pet from a puzzle feeder is a great way to kickstart their mind in the morning, but don’t slack off on brain games after that. Clicker training your pet is excellent for building confidence, teaching independent thought, and allowing them to express their creativity. Check out 101 Things to Do with a Box or design your own training games and criteria that your pet must reach to be rewarded.

If you’re not feeling particularly creative, you can stick to your normal training regimen. Run through your pet’s repertoire of tricks to reinforce verbal cues and hand signals, and attempt to chain tricks together for more mental stimulation.

#3: Cater to your cat’s predatory nature

Despite being domesticated, your feline friend still has a wild side that needs exercise. Cats enjoy playing with toys that allow them to stalk, pounce, and catch their prey, which makes fishing pole toys, feather wands, robotic mice, and other interactive items their perfect entertainment. Each cat has a different prey preference, and determining which your feline friend finds the most fascinating can be trial and error. Examples include feathered bird-like toys that make chirping noises, furry stuffed animals that resemble mice, and a string with a knot at the end that mimics a bug. Try them all to learn which piques your cat’s interest the most.

#4: Train your dog to use their nose

Nothing enriches your dog’s life more than using their natural scenting ability. When out walking, your pup spends a great deal of time sniffing and seeking the sources of intriguing smells. Sniffing lowers your pet’s heart rate and decreases anxiety, and a lengthy sniffing session can tire out your pooch more than an intense exercise session. If you’re stuck indoors, create a “sniffari” for your dog by hiding strong-smelling treats around your home for them to discover.
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#5: Create an indoor agility course

Cats and dogs alike can learn and enjoy agility, leaping over obstacles, weaving through poles, and scurrying through tunnels. Although you probably won’t set up a full agility course inside your home, you can create one with household furniture and other items. Luring your pet over the course with a treat or toy will help teach them to maneuver around the obstacles and build excitement for the activity.

Whether your pet is demonstrating signs of boredom-induced stress, or has pulled a muscle zipping through your homemade agility course, your Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team is here for you. Give us a call for any after-hours issue your furry pal may experience.