Keeping pets entertained during lockdown

Feeling stressed out? Anxious? Out of sorts? Your pets can also be feeling similar effects during lockdown. The current restrictions on physical activity and social distancing have not only had a huge impact on our lives, but also the lives of our pets. For many pets, the amount of physical activity they get has been reduced, their stress levels have increased and their routines have been disrupted. Why not use some of your lockdown time to bond with your pet and provide them with some mental stimulation? We’ve got a few ideas to help keep your pets entertained  and active.

Feeding activities

Rather than feeding your pet in their bowl, why not encourage them to forage for their food? This not only encourages exercise and promotes weight loss, but also provides mental stimulation as they have to sniff out their meal. Hide the kibble in cardboard boxes, toilet rolls or old folded towels and watch your pet start their treasure hunt! If you don’t want the mess, an alternative idea is to buy a commercial puzzle feeder for your pet – these involve various mazes for them to interact with in order to get their food.

Another idea is to provide your cat or dog with chew toys that can be filled with tasty, animal friendly treats. This helps to keep your pet entertained and in dogs, chewing actually releases calming endorphins, so this can help to reduce their stress levels.

Exercise activities

Obstacle courses are a fantastic way to entertain the whole family. Set up a course using household items, appropriate for the size and age of your pet, such as small steps, ramps, tunnels out of cardboard boxes, and objects to weave in and out of. Using pet friendly treats, entice your pet through the course. If you have access to an enclosed garden, why not set this up outside and for the summer months you could even include a paddling pool at the end!

Try to allocate ten minutes of your morning and evening to playtime with your pet. Cats love to hunt, so we can harness this natural instinct by getting them motorised or wind-up toys to chase, or even something as simple as a scrunched-up paper ball for them to bat can provide entertainment. Make sure that you allow your cat to occasionally “catch” the object and reward them with a treat to prevent them from becoming frustrated.

Toys

When choosing toys for your pet, make sure that they are appropriate for their species and age to avoid anything being accidently eaten! It is best to have a selection of toys available and let your pet play with two or three each week before rotating them so that they do not become bored. Hide and seek is a great game to play with your dog – you can hide their toy around the house for them to find! Cats love to climb, so make sure there are safe areas in your house where your cat can sit at a height. Cat climbing frames are available to buy, or you can transform cardboard boxes into tunnels and kitty castles for them to play in!

Training 

Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks was wrong! In fact, you can teach a dog, cat or rabbit of any age a trick. Why not aim to spend ten minutes a day trying to teach a new command, using positive reinforcement methods such as their favourite treat? Training your pet can enhance the trust and bond between you and keep them physically and mentally active.

Quiet time

While it is important to ensure our pets are mentally stimulated and get enough exercise, it is essential that they also have quiet time alone. With us being in the house more than usual, our pets often aren’t getting the quality sleep that they usually would. This can make our pets stressed and they may show unwanted behaviours as a means of coping.

Encourage your pet to rest on their own bed and make sure that you spend time in another room away from them. Provide your pet with independent activities such as toys, chews, treats and puzzle feeders that can help to occupy them without you being present. It is particularly important to ensure your pet has designated time away from you throughout the day to prevent separation anxiety issues when you return to your usual routine.

If you are worried your pet is stressed or starting to display unwanted behaviours, please ring into the clinic to discuss this with our clinical team who will be able to provide you with some guidance. Get creative and have some fun with your pets during lockdown!