I am sure that by now many of you have reached the, “I feel trapped in my house blues.” First, let me say that this feeling is ok. (I know that this is a vet blog, but I am a person, too, and I understand what you may be going through).
While it may be hard to adjust to the new “normal” right now, we have a lot to be thankful for. We have a variety of things we can do to keep ourselves occupied at home. It doesn’t have to be all cleaning and binging on Netflix. We can do so many things with our pets to help keep both ourselves and them entertained and happy!
Go for a walk
Ok, so this is an easy one. Take your dog for an extra walk…or two…or three. This not only exercises Fluffy, but it helps to stretch your legs, too. On your walk, take time to breathe in the fall air and enjoy the sounds around you. Since I live in the country, I can hear the birds chirp and my kids laugh as they watch our crazy (but lovable) dog sniff everything in sight!
As you and your pet get used to your more-frequent walking adventures, see if you can slowly add on longer distances. Keep a mindful eye on your pet. Too much exercise might make her sore the next day. Also, make sure to bring water on your walks to keep you and your dog well hydrated.
You can make your walks more interesting if you turn them into scavenger hunts! Make a list of things that you might be able to find on a walk and cross them off as you see them. I know my dog, Mimi, is really good at finding the wild turkeys and squirrels on our scavenger hunt lists!
Some cats enjoy walks, too. Now, I have never personally had a cat that likes being outside, but there are some cats that enjoy going for walks. You can walk your cat on a leash or in a cat stroller. (Yes, they make these, and they are adorable)! So, if your cat likes to walk with you, bring him along too!
For those of you that are crafty, now’s your time to shine! Bust out those fabric pieces and make a new blanket or quilt. You can use your leftover fabric to sew little toys for your cats to bat around. If you’re crafty enough, you can make toys shaped like mice. Or, if your sewing skills are like mine, make simple rectangles!
If you have a bird, refashion your old bird toys into new toys for their play areas. Rearrange the perches. Just make sure that you use non-toxic materials when you make your pets’ toys. In addition, make sure your newly-crafted items are free from sharp edges, loose strings or pieces that your pet could swallow.
Set up an obstacle course
Obstacle courses can be great fun for dogs, cats, mice, guinea pigs, and more! They can be fun for you to design and create and fun for your pet to run through. Use your imagination when designing your course.
For our smaller friends (like our guinea pigs or mice), create mazes from cardboard boxes. Put treats at the end of the maze for their rewards.
For larger pets, set up paths using canned goods from your pantry, boxes or furniture. Outside, use garbage cans for your pet to maneuver around and set up sticks for your pet to jump over.
Initially, you may need to do the course with your pet. Show her that the course isn’t scary. Use treats along the way to reward her for trying it with you. For cats, use a laser pointer on the floor to encourage them to chase their way through the course.
Make sure to make this a fun experience for your pet. You may be excited about your creativity and design skills. But remember, most of our pets have probably never gone through an obstacle course. Your pet may be confused or scared at first.
Don’t expect your pet to conquer the course right away. Be patient and aim to have fun with the experience. Consider this activity as a way to bond with your pet, and you may be surprised to discover how much fun this can be!
Snuggle in for some cuddles and a nap
Who doesn’t enjoy some good snuggle time with their pets? Now we have the extra time to do it! Grab that fuzzy blanket and lay on the couch with your pet. Take a nap together. Remember, sleep is good for you! It allows you to recharge and helps you maintain a healthy immune system. Sometimes, it’s okay to just cuddle and watch Netflix.
Spending time petting your pet helps his health and yours! Studies have shown that when you pet your dog or cat, it helps to reduce his stress and calms him. And for you, spending more time with your pet can help lower your blood pressure and can relieve your stress as well.
Do a pet photo shoot
You don’t have to be a professional photographer or have a fancy camera to take some nice pictures. Chances are, your cell phone can take some beautiful pictures. The pictures can be candids of everyday life together, like your dog cuddled up on her favorite bed or playing with her favorite toy.
Or, you can set up more professional-style portraits. If you are artistic, you can make a backdrop for your picture taking. Use a sheet for the background and use whatever props you have around your house. You can use things like plastic easter eggs or fake flowers. Just make sure that your photo subject doesn’t eat them!
In addition, you can paint or design your own backdrop. Don’t forget, pictures of your pets don’t have to be just of your dog or cat. You can take some beautiful pictures of your hamsters, birds, or bearded dragons, too.
While life may be a little different from what we are used to, we can be thankful for so many things. Our families and our pets are one of those things! Take time to enjoy being with your pets. That time will be good for their health and for your health too!
Dr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.