Winter has definitely made its presence known, and if you’re like us, the “Big BRRR” is keeping us inside more than we would like. Still, sometimes indoor time in the winter can be a nice chance to slow down and reconnect with what’s most important – namely, our pets!
If you’re searching for ways to engage with your pets this season, look no further. Volunteer Veterinary Hospital knows that a little inspiration is always good, so we’re diving into the best winter indoor pet activities.
Wintering with Pets
Being cooped up in the house day after day can make any human want to tear their hair out, and pets are no different. Boredom and inactivity can cause pets to become lethargic and subject to unhealthy weight gain. It can also cause destructive behavior or hyperactivity.
Nip those behaviors in the bud by paying attention to your pet’s physical and mental need for activity and stimulation. Allowing them to expel pent up energy while indoors will improve your pet’s health and well being (and save your couch) throughout the winter months.
Indoor Pet Activities
Fetch and tug. Sometimes, you can’t beat old standbys. Fetch is a great game to encourage your dog or your cat (yes!) to move, and gives them both mental and physical exercise. To kick it up a notch, ask your dog to perform a trick for each throw, or play stairway fetch if your dog is young, athletic, and healthy.
A good game of tug with a soft rope toy can also provide your dog with an outlet for her natural desire to grab and shake, while giving you the opportunity to work on commands like “give” and “gentle.”
Indoor obstacle course. You don’t need a bunch of materials to create an exciting obstacle course for your dog or motivated cat. Set up a curtain rod on top of two laundry baskets to make a great beginner jump. If you have small orange cones from your child’s soccer practice, they make perfect beginner weave poles. A child’s play tunnel that they have outgrown makes a great dog tunnel; even a cardboard box with the bottom removed would satisfy a beginner.
Take your dog through the obstacles slowly at first, and always with lots of positivity and praise. Offer small treat rewards if she needs encouragement. Practice hand signals and different commands for each obstacle. And then, change up the order of the course!
Fancy tricks. You can always teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks. Learning stimulates the mind, and can make your pet just as tired and happy as physical exercise in many cases.
To start, modify and expand on a trick your dog already knows. A “shake” can become a “high five.” Gray days are also a great excuse to brush up on your dog’s obedience training and indoor manners.
Treat puzzles. Nothing is better than novelty, and a new treat puzzle toy can keep your pet busy for hours. Remember to factor in any extra treats or food into your pet’s daily caloric intake to avoid winter weight gain.
For cats, take an opportunity to let them express their natural instincts by hiding food in and around their perches and cat towers. Vertical climbing to get to her food can help your cat stay in physical as well as mental shape all winter long.
Indoor dog park. If all this activity still leaves your dog raring to go, check your community for an indoor dog park. Take your dog for a group playdate, do an obstacle course, or walk on a treadmill. As long as your dog is well socialized and friendly with other dogs, indoor dog parks can get you both out of the house and still stay warm and dry.
The he urge to hibernate in the winter is strong. But playing games and challenging your pet with indoor pet activities will keep you both healthier and happier until good weather returns. No matter what activity you choose, it all adds up to more quality time with your best pet friend. And that can be good for both of you, too.
If you have any questions about indoor pet health or winter pet safety, please call us.