Sitting in my home I often see my cats lazily sprawled out on the floor or furniture. With the simple act of crumpling a piece of paper, my cat Payton instantly springs to life and almost begs me to toss it so she can pounce and play. Payton’s favorite “toy” brings her endless hours of entertainment, which in turn help exercise her body and mind. Enriching the lives of our furry little friends is extraordinarily important for their general health as well as for stimulating their minds.

A sedentary pet that lacks interaction can be prone to a variety of maladies. Weight gain is common in sedentary animals. Excess weight can lead to such issues as arthritis and Diabetes Mellitus. In addition, stress and anxiety from inactivity can lead to a variety of destructive behaviors, which could cause harm to your pet and home. Try these simple activities to enrich your pet’s life and help them stay in peak physical and mental health.

For Dogs

Walking, jogging, running, and swimming with your dog can promote and maintain good general body condition and cardiopulmonary health for both you and Fido.

Feeding puzzles such as the Green Interactive Dog Feeder can serve as a stimulating activity. Most dogs love to forage and hunt. These puzzles can also aid in slowing those dogs who eat too fast and regurgitate as a result.

Clicker Training can prove a very positive and worthwhile way to interact with your dog. It can aid in teaching dogs to obey commands and assist in dealing with inappropriate behavior or stressful events/situations.

For Cats

Bringing cats into the home environment eliminates the risk of danger from the big bad world, including exposure to harsh weather conditions, malnutrition, vehicular trauma, fights with other cats or animals, and spread of infectious disease. But indoor cats, if not interacted with, can be prone to the same health concerns discussed above.

If your cat enjoys watching flying birds, the use of a laser pointer or catnip mice or balls can fulfill a cats need to stalk and catch prey.

Feeding puzzles or feeder balls can provide an interactive way to make meal time more appealing for your cat.

If your cat likes to chase bugs, instead of feeding your cat in a bowl, try throwing individual kibbles up or down stairs to provide a fun hunting/chasing activity.

Scratching posts provide an outlet for a stress relieving behavior.

Cats often like to climb and perch high above the ground to survey their surroundings and detect possible prey or threats. Cat towers, trees, playgrounds, or hammocks are nice additions to a cat’s indoor environment.

Having animal companions can certainly enrich the lives of us humans. So we owe it to them to enrich their lives to the fullest, promoting a healthy and happy pet and in turn help strengthen the bond between pet and human. —Peter Olson, DVM

Peter Olson, DVM, is a 2007 graduate of The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. He and his wife Beth share their home with two dogs, two cats, four turtles and a Russian Tortoise.

Photo credit: George Hodan