Just like humans animals need to be mentally challenged and experience new things or we become bored, less inquisitive and sometimes less intelligent.
Like us, if pets are bored they will find their own entertainment. If we’re bored we may overeat or wind people up to get attention! I saw a post on Facebook recently that said a unemployed dog will become self – employed – so may start digging up the garden. How true! They will find their own entertainment if they don’t have suitable outlets for their behaviour.
There seems to be a misconception that cats don’t like to play or need to play, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Kittens love to play so there’s no reason why this should stop into cat-ulthood! (Ahem, sorry). The cat descended from the African wildcat, and the African wildcat hunted for their food and ate 3-4 meals a day. Often with our cats we give them their food on bowl so they don’t have to engage their brain to find it. If you wanted to mimic a cats original feeding method you could provide them their morning and evening meal in a cat puzzle toy (check out Trixie or Nina Ottoson), and then buy 2 cat timers and set them to go off during the day while you’re out at work so your kitty is getting 4 small meals a day.
Here are some boredom busting tips for your pets:
- Food related games – Hide treats in towel for them to paw and snuffle out, put kibble higher up for them to get – such as on cat climbing trees, hide treats in crumbled up paper and with toilet tubes put kibble through and they can catch it or get it.
- Playtime – A shoelace strung across the floor that may mimic a little mouse’s tail may be fun for your cat to watch! Lots of cats go mad for ‘da bird’ toy that has real feathers and mimics a bird – it has long string so like the string it’s important to put it out of reach and sight incase the cat got caught in it. They often like da bird when it’s hidden behind a blanket or something opaque- this way they can hear it and see it slightly – making it all the more enticing!
- A cork chucked around the floor (an excuse to open up a bottle of champagne if ever you needed one). Lots of cats like sitting in paper bags, but again remove handles otherwise the cat could strangle themselves). Ping pong balls in an empty bathtub are also a fun way to keep your cat engaged in play.Obviously all cats have different preferences so these games may not be suitable for all cats (elderly) for example.
Puppies and dogs
- Food related games- a baking tray put treats in and balls on top, get cones and hide treats underneath (show them where they are), chuck treats in long blades of grass ask them to find it, put liver paste and treats higher up the bark on a tree, get them to chase you (not the other way around!) and drop a treat.
- Playtime – pop up tunnels (be mindful if dog is fearful of them – signs would be lip licking, moving away from it). A good old-fashioned ball can be fun for short bursts! A game of tug is a nice thing to incorporate into a sniffy walk. You can also buy flirt poles which some dogs love chasing after and playing with!
The Canine Enrichment group on Facebook has some inventive ideas too.
When we’re pet or cat sitting we often put on music. Lots of the cats have only met us once before so it’s important to us that they’re relaxed and get to know us. On You Tube there’s calming cat and dog music, and Classic Fm also seems to be a hit!