(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)
It’s no secret that pets provide love, loyalty and affection. This is even more apparent now that you’re spending more time at home with them. In fact, according to the 2020 Purina Pet Ownership Survey, 94% of pet owners rely on their pet for emotional support, which is particularly important during times of uncertainty.
You may be tempted to spend your time snuggling with your furry friend, but there are a lot of fun new things you can do to engage your pet mentally and physically while you are at home together. Now is a great time to integrate enrichment activities that will keep both of you healthy, happy and engaged.
“Setting and keeping a daily pet care routine to feed and walk your pet is important in alleviating stress for your pet. But scheduling play and incorporating enrichment activities into your pet’s day can also do wonders in keeping them happy and healthy,” says Alex Johnson, senior designer and pet enrichment specialist at Purina.
Johnson shares her favorite at-home pet enrichment tips and ideas:
Making it new: It is important to expand your pet’s world by providing opportunities for exploration. Try creating temporary indoor spaces to explore with boxes and paper bags or closing off a bedroom for a week to give your pet a space to rediscover. Hide some treats or favorite toys in the room before reopening it. Remember to keep toys in rotation to help create newness.
Treat time: While at home all day, it can become difficult to track when your pet gets a snack, so try adding a treat time to your schedule. Keep in mind, pets should get no more than 10% of their daily calories from treats. If you have kids, let them earn the reward of treating the pet that day by cleaning their room or finishing homework early.
One-on-one time: Having everyone constantly at home together can be stressful for pets. Provide opportunities for pets to have time on their own in addition to one-on-one time with family members. Spending 15 minutes together in a quiet space with no distractions can allow you to focus on engaging and bonding with your pet.
Exercise: When stuck inside, it’s important to find indoor activities to help pets burn energy. Try tug toys, laser pointer play, or playing tag or hide and seek. If you live in an apartment building, try throwing toys up or down steps in the stairwells or down hallways (if your landlord permits). If you’re spending more time watching TV, consider keeping a drawer or basket close by with some of your pet’s favorite toys, feather wands, tug-toys, balls, lasers, cat dancers, mechanical toys and stuffed animals. These toys allow you to interact with your pet from the comfort of the couch.
Box of invisibility: Providing pets with safe spaces is a great way to give them some downtime while still being close to everyone. For example, set out a box or sign in the family room, and when the cat is in the box or the dog is in the designated area, have the whole family pretend you can’t see them, as if they were invisible. If the rule is followed, your pet will learn they can enjoy downtime in these spaces.
Sensory spot: If you have a cat, you know they love exploring textures and smells. Try getting a box or basket just as big as your cat loosely curled up, and place it in an out-of-the-way area, preferably near a safe heat source, vent or sunny window. Each week, try putting in a new material such as a worn T-shirt, packaging paper or bits of textured fabric for them to explore.
To learn more about how to keep pets happy and healthy during quarantine, visit www.purina.com/homewithpets.
(For more information on pets and animal adoption, please visit www.petconnectionprogramsinc.com. Or, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetConnectionProgramsinc. Located in Marilla, N.Y., Pet Connection Programs Inc. is a nonprofit maternity and special care shelter founded in 1984.)