Pandemic isolation isn’t purr-fect for bored pets – take time for scratches, walks and treats

Sally (A491016) is known to be great with kids, is housetrained, and gets along with dogs her size

I’ve been socially distancing for so long now, I’m finding it hard to really remember what it felt like to live any differently. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’m not sure. One thing I do know for certain is that I’m starting to go a little stir crazy.

I’m pretty sure we all are feeling a bit antsy these days with so much time spent at home. If social distancing is driving you nuts, just think about how your four-legged friend must feel. Our furry friends might love having us home and possibly getting an extra walk most days, but your constant presence is probably also disrupting their routine.

Believe it or not, cats and dogs can experience boredom.

Your pet might normally go out with a walking group, attend doggy day care or invent their own mischief at home. Having you home all of the time might make them more inclined to lounge around all day, rather than break up the day with their usual mischief and exploration.

And if you’re a new pet parent who recently fostered or adopted an animal because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be working on establishing a new routine and healthy habits.

Here are some ways to make sure your pet gets the exercise they need to stay healthy and boredom free while keeping outside time to a minimum:

Teach an old dog (or cat) some new tricks

Training is a great way to keep your pet active and tire them out while you’re at home together.

Don’t shy away from revisiting the basics or practicing things that might cause your pup stress, like being in a crate at the vet or groomer. It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

Some great things to practice on are eye contact, ‘leave it,’ ‘stays’ (make this harder with distractions) and tricks.

Give them some space. Their own space, in fact.

Cats are creatures of habit. Although they appreciate your company, many of them also enjoy alone time.

Don’t be surprised if you notice your kitty getting a little stressed if you aren’t giving them enough space. An easy way to solve this is by giving your cat a better place to hang out than your keyboard, like a strategically placed heated cat bed near your chair or desk.

Play some mind games

You’re probably looking for ways to pass the time, be more productive and learn something new, and your pets are craving the same stimulation. In fact, dogs that don’t get enough mental exercise might experience hyperactivity and resort to destructive behavior and excessive barking.

Mental fatigue makes dogs (and humans) feel more physically tired than a physical effort alone. You can use this bit of science to help your dog get to what she wants most — a nice long nap.

So what exactly is a mentally stimulating game for dogs? Think dog puzzles, Kong toys with your pup’s favorite snack inside, hiding treats under bowls and shuffling them around — activities that will make them think and problem-solve.

You may also try playing some scent games, like hiding a few treats around the house and encouraging your dog to search for them, and setting up an indoor agility course with household items, like tunnels under chair legs and jumping over buckets.

For our feline friends, a mentally stimulating game might look like a feather wand, a food puzzle or hiding treats in a cardboard box filled with tissue paper. There are also plenty of cat puzzle toys and games, too.

Address and correct any repeat bad behaviors

Training isn’t exclusively for dogs, so take this time to correct your cat’s behavior or teach them a new trick or two. And remember: Don’t reward behavior you don’t want to continue.

If your cat meows at you and you talk back, pet them, or even yell at them, that may be the response they are looking for. Reward good behaviors (being calm, quiet) with treats or praise.

If your cat is scratching at the door while you’re busy, the best advice is to ignore them. If necessary, place a mild deterrent — like cardboard with sticky tape — on the door to discourage your cat.

Make the most of your walks

You might be wearing out your dog’s leash at this point with all of those socially distant walks you’re taking.

It might not seem like much, but switching up your dog’s walking routine can make a difference, just like a new walking route can lift your own mood.

Practice some new commands during the walk like heeling, stopping and sitting to add spontaneity and tire out your pooch.

Take breaks for cuddles

You might be trying to stick to a semi-normal work routine, but your furry friend doesn’t care.

At the end of the day, all our pets want is love and attention. Remember to take a few breaks throughout the day for cuddles, snuggles and playtime to keep them happy and active.

Get them a fun toy to pass the time

Last, but certainly not least: pet toys.

You might be ordering puzzles, embroidery kits and spending way too much time playing Candy Crush to keep yourself entertained during social distancing, but don’t forget about your pet.

If they seem to lose interest easily, try hiding the toys your dog isn’t playing with and rotating them every so often so it becomes exciting the next time it comes out.