- Annie King, DVM
Pet indoor boredom busters 721
Updated: Apr 8, 2021
For many of us, the first few crisp autumn days are a welcome change from the heat of summer. But as we transition further from fall into winter, many of our pets need to adjust from a life filled with outdoor adventures to a more sedentary indoor lifestyle.
But do not despair, this indoor transition does not mean that we cannot provide mental stimulation for our pets. It just takes a little more creativity. Below are some ideas to help keep your dog or cat entertained when winter weather forces you indoors.
1. Clicker training. If your pet is motivated by food or attention, they can be clicker trained. Clicker training is a science-based method to clearly communicate with your dog or cat and is much easier for your pet to learn than the typical command-based training. You will be surprised at how quickly they pick up basic behaviors and how excited they are for their training sessions. Many online resources are available for clicker training for both dogs and cats. Just imagine how much fun you will have sharing videos with your friends and family of your clever pet giving you a high-five or rolling over on command!
2. Food puzzles. If you do not have all the time it requires to clicker train your pet, you can still provide your dog or cat hours of entertainment by giving them a food puzzle. Food puzzles require your dog or cat to figure out a set of steps in order to earn a food reward. They can be purchased or home-made and can range from very simple to quite complicated for more clever pets. A simple Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter and frozen overnight can keep your dog occupied for hours. For your cat, take an empty toilet paper roll and fill it with a few of their favorite treats and a pinch of catnip. Fold down both ends of the roll so they have to open it to get to the treats inside. These toys can be left with your pet when you have to leave them at home alone. Even better, give it to them when you can be present to enjoy watching them figure out the puzzle!
3. Play hide and seek. This is a fun activity for the whole family. Have a couple of people take a handful of treats and hide around the house in different rooms. Take turns calling for your dog or cat to come to you. When your pet finds you, give them a treat and praise them. Next, have another person call your pet from a different part of the house. This is a great way to work on the “come” command, which can be very important if your dog or cat ever finds themselves off-leash in an unsafe outdoor environment.
4. Play together. While it may seem obvious, do not forget that time spent playing with you can be one of your pet’s favorite activities. Tug-of-war and fetch are great indoor activities for your dog. Wand toys or laser pointers can keep your cat entertained and exercised and allow for some quality bonding time. Just remember to provide a treat for your cat to “catch” at the end of playing with the laser toy so they do not become frustrated about never catching that elusive red dot!
5. Create a box fort or obstacle course. Find items around the house to use as obstacles: a hula-hoop, a laundry basket turned over, or a tunnel made out of blankets can be made into a mini-agility course for your dog. After the holidays, make use of all of those left-over boxes to construct your cat’s dream feline fortress. Use your creativity and watch as your pet’s natural curiosity does the rest!
Hopefully, these suggestions have motivated you to keep your pet entertained when winter weather forces you inside this season. Do not forget, the best part of engaging in these activities with your dog or cat is strengthening the deep bond and connection you have already formed.
Annie King, DVM, is the owner of The Cat Clinic of Asheville, located at 49 Haywood Road, Asheville. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828
Optional pull quote: “Food puzzles can be purchased or home-made.”