Playing active games is a great way for pets and their owners to bond together and also stay mentally and physically healthy. For puppies and kittens, regular activity is especially important and the good news is that providing your pet with enough activity doesn’t need to take a lot of time or effort.
The benefits of active play:
- Physical health: Active play helps keep your pet's heart healthy and assists with weight control. It also keeps the joints lubricated, and improves overall balance and coordination.
- Mental health: Games with rules force your pet to use their brain, not just their body. This can help keep their mind sharp and focused.
- Social skills: When your pet plays with other pets and other people, it helps improve their overall social skills.
- Bonding: Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your pet helps strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
Active play with your dog:
- Take a stroll: Through your neighbourhood, at the park or the beach. Make each walk fun by giving your dog a chance to jump, balance on curbs and smell the roses. Just be sure to keep them close by and be aware of traffic, people and other dogs. Remember to cater to your dog’s age, puppies won't be ready for vigorous running and activities until their joints are fully mature.
- Hide and seek: Great exercise that will also allow your dog to show off their hunting skills. Hide a healthy treat or their favourite toy and encourage your dog to find it. If using treats remember to subtract the calories given during this activity from your dog’s daily food intake.
- Play a game of fetch: Depending on the size of your dog an exciting game of fetch can be played almost anywhere. In the hallway, the backyard or the park. Not only is this a great way to keep your dog active but is a great way to teach puppies to focus and follow instructions. Remember to use a fetch object that is appropriate to suit the size and age of your dog.
- Water activities: During the warmer months water-based games provide a fabulous low-impact workout for your pet. Great for dogs of all ages as it won’t put stress on their joints. Introduce water to your pet early to make them more confident in this environment. If your dog does not like the water do not force them as anxiety can quickly turn to panic. Swimming can be tiring so ensure your dog has a decent rest period in between swims.
Active play with your cat:
- Scratching posts encourage your cat to climb which helps to keep their muscles strong and their joints mobile. In addition, scratchers also offer a great hiding place and a shelf from which your cat can watch the world go by after play time.
- Activities that help to stimulate a cat's natural hunting instincts are ideal, interactive toys are a great choice to encourage your cat to pounce and chase. There are many options to choose from; starting with a simple wand toy or the more technical options of laser and electronic toys to provide exercise that your cat will enjoy.
- Food hunting: Simply hide small amounts of food throughout the house and let your cat discover it. Another option is to give your cat a treat dispensing toy to play with or for a more skilled cat, try a treat puzzle. Remember to subtract the calories given during this activity from your cat’s daily food intake.
While it is true that cats have the evolutionary advantage of a high metabolism that works even as they lounge around, they still need some physical activity to keep them from living a sedentary life and possible obesity.
Unlike dogs, cats cannot be walked around the neighbourhood on a leash (well, some can, but they need to be trained from kitten-hood) so it is important to find other fun and creative ways to encourage your cat to be more active.
- Ensure your pet stays well hydrated
- Play for a few short sessions every day
- Provide a variety of toys
- Never force your pet to play or be trained
- Have fun!