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If social distancing is making you a little stir-crazy, just think about how your four-legged friend must feel. Our fur babies might love having us home and possibly getting an extra walk most days, but your constant presence is probably also disrupting their routine.
Believe it or not, cats and dogs can experience boredom.
Your pet might normally go out with a walking group, attend doggy day care or invent their own mischief at home. Having you home all of the time might make them more inclined to lounge around all day, rather than break up the day with their usual mischief and exploration.
We reached out to the cat and dog trainers at Rover, experts in pet care, for their tips and tricks. Here’s what they had to say about how exercising your pet while keeping outside time to a minimum.
1. Teach an old dog (or cat) some new tricks
Don’t shy away from revisiting the basics or practicing things that might cause your pup stress, like being in a crate at the vet or groomer. It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.
“It doesn’t take long to make a difference,” Ellis said. “Some great things to practice on are eye contact, ‘leave it,’ ‘stays’ (make this harder with distractions) and tricks.”
2. Give them their own designated space
Don’t be surprised if you notice your kitty getting a little stressed if you aren’t giving them enough space. An easy way to solve this is by giving your cat a better place to hang out than your keyboard, like a strategically placed heated cat bed near your chair or desk.
“A cleared-off shelf with a cat blanket on it can give your cat a ‘perch of judgment’ from which they can watch you work,” Delgado said.
3. Play some mind games
You’re probably looking for ways to pass the time, be more productive and learn something new, and your pets are craving the same stimulation. In fact, dogs that don’t get enough mental exercise might experience hyperactivity and resort to destructive behavior and excessive barking.
“Mental fatigue makes dogs (and humans) feel more physically tired than a physical effort alone,” Ellis said. “You can use this bit of science to help your dog get to what she wants most — a nice long nap.”
So what exactly is a mentally stimulating game for dogs? Think dog puzzles, Kong toys with your pup’s favorite snack inside, hiding treats under bowls and shuffling them around — activities that will make them think and problem-solve.
Ellis suggests playing some scent games, like hiding a few treats around the house and encouraging your dog to search for them, and setting up an indoor agility course with household items, like tunnels under chair legs and jumping over buckets.
For our feline friends, a mentally stimulating game might look like a feather wand, a food puzzle or hiding treats in a cardboard box filled with tissue paper. There are also plenty of cat puzzle toys and games, too.
4. Address and correct any repeat bad behaviors
Training isn’t exclusively for dogs, so take this time to correct your cat’s behavior or teach them a new trick or two. And remember: Don’t reward behavior you don’t want to continue.
“If your cat meows at you and you talk back, pet them, or even yell at them, that may be the response they are looking for,” Delgado said. “Reward good behaviors (being calm, quiet) with treats or praise.”
If your cat is scratching at the door while you’re busy, the best advice is to ignore them. If necessary, place a mild deterrent — like cardboard with sticky tape — on the door to discourage your cat.
5. Make the most of your walks
You might be wearing out your dog’s leash at this point with all of those socially distant walks you’re taking.
It might not seem like much, but switching up your dog’s walking routine can make a difference, just like a new walking route can lift your own mood.
Practice some new commands during the walk like heeling, stopping and sitting to add spontaneity and tire out your pooch.
6. Take breaks for cuddles
You might be trying to stick to a semi-normal work routine, but your furry friend doesn’t care.
At the end of the day, all our pets want is love and attention. Remember to take a few breaks throughout the day for cuddles, snuggles and playtime to keep them happy and active.
7. Get them a fun toy to pass the time
Last, but certainly not least: pet toys.
If they seem to lose interest easily, Ellis recommends hiding the toys your dog isn’t playing with and rotating them every so often so it becomes exciting the next time it comes out.