While the coming of winter does mean cozy nights by the fire and hot cocoa, there is no doubt that the switch to life indoors can, at times, be a bit stifling. If you are feeling bouts of excess energy during these months, odds are, so are your pets! Like you, your pets daily routine changes in the winter, and so must the activities that keep them busy.
While some pets (such as Bernese Mountain dogs or Huskies) are born to live in a snowy environment, many pets are not. Leaving your dog or cat outside for the full day can lead to hypothermia or frostbite. A good rule of thumb when you take your pet outside is: when you get cold, it’s likely they’re feeling chilly too!
Start by taking time inside to groom your pet. Many animals develop a heavier coat in winter; for their sake and yours, take care of the excess fur that might otherwise be floating around your home. Pets may be skittish about grooming to begin with, so make sure you ease them into the process, providing treats when necessary.
Where opportunities for physical exercise may be lacking, you can substitute play with mental stimulation. Look for toys that provide the incentive of a tasty treat—but make your pet work for it! Try toys that conceal treats inside of them, from Kong products to more elaborate puzzles. You may also add an additional layer of challenge by freezing the toy first.
Your dog may see playtime as an opportunity to act as the alpha. Games such as tug-of-war provide ample room for bad behavior. Don’t be afraid to “win” every time—make sure your dog knows who is in charge. Playtime can be used as the perfect setting for brushing up on obedience training. Spend ten minutes each day teaching your dog a new trick or rehearsing old favorites—this will focus your dog’s extra energy on something constructive.
As cat lovers no doubt already know, it can be hard (if not impossible!) to teach a cat tricks in the same way as a dog. However, you can still engage your cat in several indoor activities. Placing cat-friendly plants such catnip or rosemary around your house is a fantastic way to appeal to your cat’s senses. Cats also respond very well to visual stimulation. Remember to leave your blinds open during the day—a cat can spend hours observing the outdoors through a sunny window. For the more tech-savvy cat, try one of many DVD’s for cats on the market—special videos featuring laser pointers, flying birds and scurrying mice.
In sum, a busy pet is a happy pet! Poor behavior such as chewing, scratching or climbing may come with the winter months, as pets become bored and stir-crazy. Keep your pet occupied with some of these activities and you will make the winter months not just bearable, but fun!