Exercises to Promote Physical and Mental Stimulation for Dogs and Cats
By: Kay Carter | Jul 9, 2019
Keeping a pet active has numerous health benefits. Whether you have a dog or a cat, exercise can provide both physical and mental stimulation and help to improve problem behaviors. Here are a few simple exercises that you can do every day with your pet so that they can live a long and happy life.
Exercises for Cats
Surprisingly, exercise makes up about only 10% when it comes to weight loss in dogs and cats and then the other 90% is really about diet. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a cat’s natural instinct is to hunt and chase and when we bring them into the home, they may not have that same environmental stimulation that they would otherwise get outside. As a result, they may end up spending more of their time being sedentary, act out and overeat. Introducing exercise by employing different cat toys will help to promote physical and mental stimulation, bonding between you and your cat, ward off overeating and problem behaviors.
Wands are a great play option for your cat, as they allow them to engage in their natural hunting behavior. This will give your cat something to chase after and run around.
You may opt for a toy that you can toss (like a ball), so your cat can chase after it. Even if they don’t bring it right back, running around will do wonders for them.
There are automatic mice on the market that will scurry around the house. This is a great way to get your pet to express their natural instincts to hunt as they stalk and chase after the robotic toy.
Incorporating catnip into a toy is a great way to get your cat moving, however, remember to only take it out every once in a while so your cat doesn’t grow tired of it. Also, catnip only lasts for about 10 minutes after which cats become immune to its effects for about another 30 minutes. Toys are available that are specifically designed to hold catnip but really any delivery system will do that won’t fall apart right away. Consider adding catnip into a clean sock and tieing it up on one end. Catnip toys work best when a little bit of the catnip is dispensed at a time so that your cat doesn’t eat it all up right away because then the game is over pretty quickly. About 70-80% of cats don’t respond to catnip so if you’re not seeing much of an effect, try honeysuckle or valerian toys instead.
Paper Bags & Boxes
A paper bag or box on the floor can be a great stimulating cat toy and keep your feline entertained for a long time. It works even better if you have two or more cats where one settles inside bag or box, while the other stays outside leaving the one cat to try and get the other out. If your cat is on their own, they will most likely find amusement in jumping in and out of the box and playing with the flaps or tussling with the paper bag as it makes a crinkling sound.
Whatever it is that your cat likes, make sure that it’s available and that you take the time to play with them each day.
Exercises for Dogs
Just like cats, exercise provides dogs with an outlet for pent up energy and mental stimulation by engaging with their environment. If the temperatures are too hot outside, try waiting until a cooler time of day or consider playing with them inside the home (if you go this route, make sure your home is properly pet-proofed and safe for your dog). Doing so helps them to stay active and encourages bonding with their owner. Here are a few ways to incorporate exercise with your dog:
Runs & Walks
One way to keep your pup active is by taking them for runs or walks (as long as the temperature isn’t too hot). It’s best to vary their walking routes so that both you and your dog don’t get bored with the same routine. If you opt to go for a run with your pup, bring water with you and allow your dog to dictate when they need stop and take a break.
If you really aren’t sure where to begin with this exercise, follow your dog’s cues. Grab an assortment of toys and let them pick what catches their interest—this could be a rope toy or even an old t-shirt. Once your dog selects an item, start a game of tug-of-war to keep their heart rate pumping.
With this classic game, you’re simply throwing something, getting your dog to run after it, and letting them bring the item right back to you. You may have to train your dog to bring the object back, but they’ll hopefully get the hang of it very quickly.
Rubber Hollow Chew Toys
These toys are designed to be packed full of different food materials such as wet food, kibble, vegetables and any other appropriate treat. By packing these items deep into the toy, your dog will likely be entertained for hours as it tries to lick, chew, ingest and engage with the toy to get it out. There are a few common brands and they will definitely be carried at your local pet supply store.
No matter what type of pet you have, it’s important to make exercise a regular part of their daily routine. Keeping them active will not only allow you to spend more quality time with your pet but also help to promote physical and mental stimulation.
Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.