January 26, 2022 Wellness

How to Keep Your Pet’s Mind Active and Healthy

Kitten with an enriching feeding puzzle made from an egg carton

How to Keep Your Pet’s Mind Active and Healthy

Many of us look at the new year as an opportunity to improve our health. Pet owners should consider the same for their pets. To help you get 2022 off on the right paw, I am devoting January’s blog posts to healthy living suggestions for pets. Last week’s blog post focused on exercise tips for dogs and cats. Exercise keeps the body healthy, but pets need to exercise their mind as well. Today’s final healthy living post offers suggestions on mental stimulation and environmental enrichment for pets.

Enrich Your Pet’s Mealtime

What your pet eats is vital to your pet’s overall health, but how they eat it can provide rewarding mental stimulation. Feeding puzzles challenge your pet to find their food rather than walk to their bowl and gulp it down. Feeding toys deliver double benefits. They promote slow eating and satiety while engaging your pet in their quest for dinner. Puzzle toys come in different levels of difficulty, so start low and have your pet work their way up to the advanced level. I would choose a dishwasher safe puzzle toy since it is going to get a lot of licking and will need to be regularly cleaned. The American Kennel Club has some great do-it-yourself puzzles for dogs. The website CatTime has similar puzzle suggestions for cats.

Enrich Your Pet’s Environment

A kitten plays in a cereal box

Humans enrich their homes with music, outdoor spaces and plants. Similarly, you can enrich your home for your pet. For example, there is species-specific music that takes into account the hearing range of dogs and cats. This special music can be very calming to pets, especially if they are left alone during the day. A pretty green plant makes any home more appealing, and your cat might love to have a pot of catnip or an alternative for snacking. AMC’s Usdan Institute for Animal Health Education has an infographic detailing pet safe and unsafe plants for your home and garden. Indoor cats will benefit from have safe access to the outdoors via a catio, window perch or cat tree placed near a window. The Indoor Pet Initiative of The Ohio State University has other great enrichment suggestions for both dogs and cats. AMC’s Usdan Institute also provides a helpful guide for enriching the environments of exotic pets, complete with do-it-yourself craft options.

Socialize Your Dog, While You Social Distance

The dog park is a great source of both exercise and mental stimulation, and many dogs love playing with their buddies. Since dogs are quite resistant to infections with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, your dog can continue to enjoy social hour with other dogs at the dog park. However, you still need to be cautious around other people. Both you AND your dog need to keep away from other humans who might be infected with the virus, and you should wear a mask if there are others in the dog park when you visit.

I hope you enjoyed this four week mini-course to setting your pet on a course of healthy living in 2022!

Tags: catio, catnip, dog parks, enrichment, environmental enrichment, music for pets, pet enrichment, puzzle feeders, social distance, toy feeders,

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