Penny, a 5-year-old mixed-breed dog, lives in a quiet neighborhood. When her owners take her for a walk, she takes 30 minutes to walk 30 feet down the street. She likes to smell her way through her walk—if you can call it a walk. When she gets back into the house, she moseys over to her crate, and curls up for a nap. Except for meals and potty time, Penny spends all her time napping.
Rue, an 8-year-old mixed-breed cat, who lives in a small apartment, starts her day by asking her pet parents for breakfast as soon as she wakes up at 5 a.m. She gets up from the bottom of the bed, sits down on one parent’s chest, and gently paws at their face until they wake up. After breakfast, Rue ambles over to the window where the sun is starting to warm her favorite perch. Nap time. Rue wakes up only to move to another window to catch the afternoon sunshine, and then to the kitchen to ask for dinner as soon as her owners get home from work.
At Alpine Animal Hospital, we want your pet to stay active, to help ensure their good health. If Penny or Rue describe your pet, we brainstormed for some ideas that will make them more active.
Keeping your dog active
Dogs should be naturally active, so if your dog is a couch potato, or they disappear until meal time, they aren’t getting the exercise they need to keep them healthy. Help keep your dog active with the following:
- Change the scenery — Your dog will likely enjoy a change of scenery, so try a new route for their walk, rather than the same walk every day. If you have to, hop in the car, and take your dog to the closest park, dog park, or nature trail, and start exploring. If you work long hours, find a dog walker or an adventure group dog-walking company to take your dog to the beach or the park while you are at work.
If your dog’s only scenery has been the view from being carried in your arms, set them down to walk on the ground for a certain amount of time every day, rewarding them when they quit begging you to be picked up. Wherever you go, your dog is sure to follow, so several laps around your home will also get them moving.
- Change out the dog toys — Some dogs are obsessed with one toy (e.g., a tennis ball) that they carry everywhere, while others need variety. Toys of different shapes, sizes, and materials will stimulate your dog. Some pickier dogs need more than toys, and for them, putting a favorite toy in the freezer, filling a toy with cheese or peanut butter, or rubbing a toy with something that smells like meat can make playtime fun and interesting.
- Change the games you play — If your dog has a favorite game, that should be a daily staple. If not, games such as hide-and-seek, or a treasure hunt with dinner kibble, will keep your dog moving, and their brain thinking. If you are bored one night, turn on some fun music, and have a dance party with your dog. Most importantly, if your dog shows they want to play, oblige them. Pet owners miss many opportunities for play with their dog, because they are too busy doing something else.
Keeping your cat active
Most cats like to chill during the day, and are active during dawn and dusk (i.e., crepuscular) or at night (i.e., nocturnal). Some cats are active only at mealtimes—enough to get to their food, and back to their napping spot. Here are some ways you can help these kitties reap the benefits of exercise.
- Change the scenery — Indoor cats will often get little or no stimulation from their surroundings. Some will watch birds from the window, but have no reason to walk around. Try taking your indoor cat outside for a stroll on a harness and leash. The harness will take some getting used to, but walking your safely tethered cat through a park, or in your backyard, will get their body and mind moving. You can also let your cat spend time, with supervision, in your screened-in porch, build a “catio” where they can spend time outside, or build elevated walkways inside.
- Change out the cat toys — Toys should be rotated frequently. Like children with their toy fads, cats need new toys to keep their attention. You can also make old toys new by sewing on something that crinkles, or is shiny or dangly. Adding catnip to toys can also make them more exciting.
- Change the games you play — The easiest way to change your cat’s play is by melding mealtime and playtime, using toys that dispense food as your cat plays, such as a ball that releases food only when rolled a certain way, or toy mice that are “hunted” until food is released. Find toys that make your pet work for their meal, and simultaneously stimulate their natural instincts.
An active lifestyle is important not only for your four-legged family members, but also the two-legged ones. If you need more suggestions, or wonder if your pet should be more active, give us a call, and make an appointment with our Alpine Animal Hospital team. We will be happy to help get your pet off the couch.