If your pet is bored, they may express their boredom by exhibiting unwanted behaviors. Bored dogs can become destructive, chewing inappropriate objects, or digging holes in your yard. Other signs include overexcitement when they greet you, and constantly panting and pacing. Clues your cat may be suffering from boredom include over-grooming, which may cause hair loss or skin irritation, eliminating outside their litter box, excessive meowing, and scratching furniture. Pets need more than an occasional pat on the head for a fulfilling life, so our team at Palmer Veterinary Clinic shares six easy tips to keep them entertained.
#1: Let your pet get physical
Physical enrichment enhances your pet’s environment by adding complexity.
- Different routes — When walking your dog, explore new trails or neighborhoods, and try out different terrains and landscapes.
- Catio — If you have the space, create a catio so your cat can have safe access to the outdoors, enabling them to interact with the natural world. If this is not an option, place a cat perch near the window so they can survey their environment beyond the window.
- Agility — Many dog training centers offer agility classes, or you can set up a course in your backyard. Jumping and weaving through the obstacles is great exercise for your dog, and a great way to strengthen your bond.
- Scratching posts — Ensure you have enough cat scratching posts throughout your home. Cats need to scratch, and they will not hesitate to shred your new couch if they cannot find an appropriate place. You may need to try several different textures and styles to find your cat’s preference.
- Cat towers — Cats appreciate having a high vantage point to survey their kingdom.
#2: Let your pet use their brain
Cognitive enrichment provides thinking and problem-solving opportunities.
- Food puzzle toys — These toys provide a problem-solving activity for your pet, who should be rewarded with a yummy treat when they decipher the puzzle. Food puzzle toys are available for cats and dogs, or you can make your own.
- New tricks — Teach your pet a new trick. If your pet is new to tricks, start with something simple, so you don’t frustrate them. Some cats are amenable to trick learning, and many respond well to clicker training.
- Books — Read to your pet. Studies have shown that reading to pets may help keep them calm and less anxious.
#3: Let your pet be sociable
Social enrichment involves spending time with your pet, and allows them to meet other animals and people.
- Pet sitter — When you are away from home, hire a pet sitter to visit your pet, and provide a midday play session and cuddle.
- Dog park — Take your dog to a dog park to meet new buddies in a safe environment. Ensure their vaccines are up to date before allowing them to contact other dogs.
- Grooming — Finding time to groom your pet daily is a great way to offer your pet social enrichment and share your affection. Grooming also keeps your pet’s coat shiny and healthy.
- Playtime — You should make time in your day to play with your pet. Most dogs will not turn down an opportunity to play fetch, and cats can usually be tempted by laser pointers or wand toys.
#4: Let your pet use their senses
Sensory enrichment stimulates your pet by using their senses.
- Bubbles — Many pets are fascinated by bubbles and their elusiveness.
- Wind chimes — The light, pleasing noise can offer a new sound for your pet.
- Novel scents — Regularly introduce new scents to your pet to provide sensory enrichment. Scents to try include catnip, lavender, mint, and cinnamon. You can also rub an old shirt or cloth on another animal, to open your pet’s world to new species. Also, let your dog sniff all the scents when you are out walking.
#5: Let your pet work for their food
Feeding enrichment makes mealtime more interesting by challenging your pet to determine how they can access the food.
- Puzzle feeder — You can put your pet’s entire meal in a puzzle feeder, to make them work for their dinner.
- Foraging skills — Hide your pet’s meal around your home, and make them search for and find their feast.
- Water fountain — Cats especially enjoy water fountains, and they encourage your pet to drink more water. You should also provide still water, so your pet has a choice.
- Muffin tin — You can create a cheap, easy nosework game by placing tennis balls in a muffin tin, and placing your pet’s food under the balls.
#6: Let your pet be playful
Toy enrichment allows your pet to explore objects in new and interesting ways.
- Rotate — Rotate your pet’s toys frequently, so they are always interested in their playthings.
- Get creative — Stimulate your pet using remote control or wind-up toys, ensuring they do not chew the toys.
Pet enrichment will improve your dog or cat’s quality of life, and their wellbeing. If your pet has been displaying behavior that you think could be caused by boredom, do not hesitate to contact our team at Palmer Veterinary Clinic, to schedule an appointment for advice.