At-Home Tips for Keeping Your Pets Busy and Engaged

April 23, 2020

a cat with a toy on their head

One key to a happy and healthy pet is regular enrichment, keeping their environments safe and exciting and allowing them to engage in their innate behaviors such as sniffing or chewing in dogs. For many pet parents right now, extended and prolonged time at home may be making it difficult to stay engaged and busy, and boredom can lead to destructive and undesirable behavior patterns for some pets. While families are busy working and learning from home, it's important for dogs and cats to do the same! These enrichment ideas are great ways to keep your furry friends happy, healthy and on best buddy behavior while in quarantine.

Staying Active (In More Ways than One) Is Key

In addition to physical exercise, there are many fun and free ways to give your dog or cat a mental workout from the comfort of your home. 

For dogs:

a dog chewing on a tennis ball
  • Use a snuffle mat for offering treats or dry food or stuff a puzzle toy with yummy food like plain yogurt, peanut butter or their meal for a fun and delicious challenge that will keep your dog busy and mentally stimulated. Once your dog gets good at using a puzzle toy, you can even try freezing the stuffed toy so getting all the food out takes even more of your dog’s time. 

    Don’t have a puzzle toy? Cardboard boxes (of all sizes), paper towel rolls, PVC pipes with holes drilled into the sides or plastic jugs can be used. 

  • Set up a scavenger hunt so your pup can put their powerful nose to work. Hide treats around a room in partial view, or even in cardboard boxes, empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes or egg cartons, to be discovered. If you have a yard, simply toss your dog’s kibble in the grass for him to search for his meal.
  • Engage your dog in short, empowering, training exercises such as targeting your hand or a particular object, or learning “sit”, “down” and “come. If your pup already knows the basics, look for trick training books or videos to learn more advanced skills like “spin” or “roll over.” If you want help with training, many professional dog trainers are offering virtual coaching. 

Check out our full list of DIY projects you can craft to help with enrichment for your dog!

For cats:

a cat with a toy
  • Offer their meals or treats in food puzzle toys for kitties.
  • Provide objects for them to explore, such as cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags (with the handles cut off), bottle caps, packing paper and toys that encourage them to investigate various openings with their paws.
  • Train your cat to learn useful behaviors and fun tricks like “sit”, “come”, hand target, “shake” and fetch.
  • Position bird and squirrel feeders outside windows where your cat can observe animals coming and going during the day or even try playing videos of birds and squirrels on your tv, computer or phone!

Check out our full list of DIY projects you can craft to help with enrichment for your cat!

Preparing Them for Alone Time Again 

a dog chewing a chew toy

When our regular work and school routines commence again, your dog or cat may be left confused once everyone is rushing out the door instead of spending time at home. Even while you and your family are home, start to prepare your pet by designating time for them to spend alone, comfortably, throughout the day. 

Tips to helping them adjust:

  • Create a cozy, inviting place for your dog or cat to nap away from all the activity of remote work and school. You can put on some soothing music. 
  • When giving your pet time away from you, offer your dog tasty chews to keep them busy.  You can purchase all sorts of interesting and easily digestible chews online such as bully sticks, or you can fill a puzzle toy with a tasty treat and freeze it. Both dogs and cats will be entertained for some time with an interactive food-puzzle toy. 
  • There are many free game apps for cats to play with on their own. You can also find battery-operated toys online that may keep your cat busy and happy on their own.
  • Leave your home and take a stroll outside without your dog occasionally to practice leaving the house for short durations. While you’re out, leave your dog a chew or their meal in a puzzle toy to keep them busy and occupied during your absence.