People often believe that if their pet has lots of love, water, food and proper medical care then they are set for life. Two items we often forget about are:
Giving them adequate physical exercise, and,
Plenty of mental challenges to stimulate their brains.
These two factors can increase their quality of life by leaps and bounds. ASPCA Animal Trainer, Kristen Collins, touts that “Pets need jobs.” Both dogs and cats have a need to be engaged and stay busy. Keep in mind that animals were created to take care of themselves by foraging or hunting for food and shelter. Although our pets have been domesticated, their energy levels and natural instincts still exist. More often than not our pets are bored and spend the day laying around waiting for us to return home from work. This is why animals get into mischief while we are away. They need simulation to deal with the overwhelming restless feeling. Much like children, dogs and cats that are left to their own devices must find new ways to entertain themselves. When you find your cat or dog gnawing or scratching on furniture or shoes, eating houseplants, tipping over the garbage can or spending excessive amounts of time barking or meowing, then it is time to take action (or, consider taking action before these behaviors occur). Several different workouts are recommended:
Get moving — Healthy dogs need a minimum of one hour of aerobic exercise per day. Kristen recommends breaking this into 2 separate 30 minute sessions. Great ways to burn off that energy are jogging, playing at the dog park and swimming.
Games — Combine exercise with a lesson by involving your pet in structured games. These can be games such as tug-of war or fetch. These types of games teach your dog about impulse control and creates a closer relationship between the two of you. Great items for the game of fetch include items such as an Air KONG squeaker tennis ball, a plain tennis ball, flexible Frisbee for dogs, Flying Squirrel fetch toy, or maybe just a good old fashioned stick.
Toys — If your dog is home alone, keep him occupied with chew toys or the Kong, which is a puzzle-toy stuffed with food.
Toys & Games — Your kitty also needs plenty of exercise. This can involve playing games or playing with toys. Great games include fetch with small balls or furry toys or even a game of chase.
Activities — Activities for your cat to do when they are home alone can consist of bird watching, watching cat videos, spending time playing in a secure outdoor area, or playing in boxes or paper bags.
Training / Tricks — Cats are amazingly intelligent creatures. Teach your pet new tricks such as rolling over, sitting up, or coming when you call them. Some cats can even be trained to use the toilet. A few tips to teaching your cat tricks include using treats or a clicker:
Treats — The treat method includes getting your cat’s attention with the treat. Allow them to smell and see the treat. Don’t raise the treat up too high causing them to stand on their hind legs (unless, of course, you are teaching them to stand). Once your cat sits or stands, depending upon your desired response, praise your kitty and give him the treat. Repeat this as necessary, do not hand over the treat until your cat has performed the desired outcome.
Clicker — A clicker can actually make training happen faster. You don’t have to purchase a clicker for this specific purpose. Simply find a pen that makes a loud clicking noise or even a clicky cap off of an iced tea bottle. When your cat performs the desired behavior, click your pen then offer your pet a treat. The cat will soon understand that the click means he did it right.
Animals learn through repetition so you will need to practice over and over. Repeat the process several times in a row but in short periods of time. These can be spread out in five to ten minute increments throughout the day. When it comes down to proper exercise for your pet, it’s all up to you. Giving your cat or dog exercises for their body and mind will help create a happier, healthier pet. This will also create a lasting bond between you and your animal.