With the exception of winter sports enthusiasts, a great number of us tend to be less active in the winter compared to the summer. I, for one, am less motivated to go for walks in icy conditions. This could reflect in shorter and fewer walks for our dogs, in particular, but outdoor cats will also tend to stay inside more due to extreme weather conditions. However, their needs for exercise and mental stimulation remain the same so they too can have cabin fever, which can potentially lead to behavioral issues due to boredom. There are a number of simple ways you can engage your pet with indoor activities to compensate for an otherwise decreased activity level.
Getting new toys is always fun, but just rotating the toys your pet already has can help keep things interesting. Choose different toys to play with each day, even if for only a few minutes at a time. Interactive toys or food puzzles can keep your pet busy and entertained for long periods. They mimic hunting or scavenging for food. You can put canned food in a Kong and freeze it, which will make it last even longer, or you can place kibble in special hollow toys designed to release only a few pieces of kibble at a time.
It may be possible to play fetch or catch inside with soft toys if there is an areain your home where it is less likely to break things and you will also want to be careful about slippery floors. Hiding treats or kibble for your pet to find can be great fun for both cats and dogs and many will get a charge out of playing hide and seek with you. A quieter game is the three-cup game where you hide a piece of kibble under one of the cups and get your pet to select the right one. Teaching new tricks is interactive and mentally stimulating, more particularly for dogs, but some cats enjoy that kind of interaction with people.
Some cats and dogs are actually intrigued by the TV, while others may be completely indifferent to it. Watching DogTV and YouTube videos is a modern way to entertain some of our pets. DogTV is aimed at stimulating, entertaining, relaxing and habituating dogs with shows that are filled with different sounds, objects and movements, all seen from a dog’s point of view. There aren’t any studies that have proven DogTV’s effectiveness, but the American Veterinary Medical Association states that any form of relaxation and stimulation is good for your pet. On YouTube, you can find a multitude of videos aimed for pet viewing.
Obviously, the activities you and your pet will engage in will depend on both your personal preferences, but staying indoors doesn’t have to be boring. I’ve only mentioned a few suggestions to get you started.