Baby, It’s Cold Outside!: Having Fun With Your Pets When the Weather Won’t Cooperate
They warned us. They said it would happen, and now it has. Winter has come.
Living in the northern part of the country, we get used to the cold to some extent. We learn to bundle up or stay indoors. We embrace hot cocoa and concepts like Hygge (a Swedish word for cozy living). However, the winter can be particularly rough on our pets. Used to having warm sunspots to lie in and green parks to run in, they suddenly find themselves stuck inside for days that are more dark than not. It’s enough to drive any pet crazy!
With that in mind, here are some winter activities to help you and your pets take advantage of the cold months –
Have fun with meal-time
Your pets are starved for mental stimulation while sitting around inside. Take their normal feeding time and turn it into play time! Dogs will enjoy sniffing out their food, so try hiding treats
around the house for them to find or move their food every meal and leave ‘clues’ leading them to their dinner. They will love being food detectives and helping them will be entertaining for you as well!
Cats will enjoy treat dispensing toys which activate their ‘hunting’ instinct. Nothing is as entertaining as watching your tiny hunter pounce on a toy mouse and fight it for treats!
We all know not to feed our pets human sweets. There are a lot of things they shouldn’t be eating (chocolate, sweetener) which can upset their stomachs. However, that doesn’t mean they should miss out on the holiday baking! A quick internet search can yield hundreds of recipes for pet treats. Baking a few delicious ‘cookies’ for your dog or cat lets them get in on the fun when all their people are celebrating. This can also be a great activity for kids (especially little ones) who may not be as concerned about the *ahem* appearance of their creations; good news! Your pets aren’t either!
Back to School
Winter is a great time to work on some training with your pup! There are all kinds of classes available in the Quad Cities (Ask your vet for some options, or check out the QC Dog Center and PetSmart), which can help you train your dog in everything from the basics, to therapy dog training, to a trick training class! Take these skills home and spend some special one-on-one time reinforcing good habits with your best friend.
Queen of the Castle
We know that cats love boxes, and what do we have a surplus of around the holidays? Boxes! Try making a maze or ‘castle’ out of boxes for your cat to explore. If you have kids, get them involved with cutting out new holes and coloring the outside. Once you’ve assembled this box tower, hide some treats inside and encourage your cat to explore. They will love popping in and out of holes and peeking around corners. Once the cat seems to have grown tired of their new home, rearrange the boxes and start again! The possibilities are endless, and the cost is a few pieces of cardboard.
The holidays are a time of giving, and what better way to help the community than to volunteer with your pet? Science has proven that humans and animals alike thrive with interaction and attention. Call your local nursing home or animal shelter and ask them what kind of opportunities might be available for you and your furry friend to give back. You may need to pass a behavior assessment in order to help in this way, but the benefits to your pet the community are enormous.
The most important of all this winter is to spend quality time with your pet. Even some time spend snuggling on the couch will help them feel safe and loved. This is how we can most help our pets to thrive.