#1. Make sure your pet is stimulated
When considering the natural behaviour of dogs and cats, it is obvious that the average pet receives very low levels of environmental stimulation. Most non-domestic animals spend the majority of their time foraging for food, seeking safe resting areas and avoid predators and other natural hazards.
They are kept in static and often monotonous environments. The majority of dog breeds were developed for some functional purpose (guarding, herding, hunting, etc.) yet few dogs actually participate in these activities, leaving them with no outlet for often high levels of energy and stamina.
Insufficient stimulation can cause or exacerbate a number of behaviour problems including
- destructive chewing,
- attention-seeking behaviour,
- compulsive disorders and
- certain forms of aggression.
Provide plenty of stimulation when you are with your pet (see some of Elisha’s tips below, and try to leave them games or items they can play with when you are not there.
#2. Provide as much companionship as you can
The dog is a highly social species, which loves and indeed craves company, and it makes very strong and loyal bonds with us. It has been said that one of the most attractive and endearing things about dogs is that they can sometimes seem to tune in to our moods. Their greeting when we return home is which is always totally genuine.
Most cats need social contact with people or other cats which can be enriching. Not all cats get along well with other cats so care must be taken to be sure the cats get along and that having other cats around doesn’t create more problems than it solves.
- Giving your pet “quality time” with you and other family members can also be very enriching and it can be very rewarding for both of you.
- Petting and grooming is a good way to spend this quality time with your pet.
- Teaching your pet is also a great way to strengthen the bond between human and pet. Both cats and dogs can be trained basic tricks such as sitting for a treat, fetching a toy or barking/meowing on cue.
#3. Make Feeding Fun
Pets on average spend less than 15 minutes per day eating because they do not have to forage or hunt for food. To recreate the animal’s natural behaviour and help prevent boredom we can make the cat or dog work a little for each meal.
- Feeding the dog and cat from a food dispensing toy such as a Buster Cube or Kong toy will keep your pet entertained for hours as they try to release the food.
- You could also scatter food outside in the grass or across the floor in your house to make the dog search for each piece.
- Or maybe divide portions of the pet’s meal into small Tupperware containers and hide them around the house for the dog or cat to find.
- You can invent new games to suit your pet; rotating the games will keep the animals interest and prevent the monotonous patterns in which animals become bored.
Related: Puppies and Kittens
#4. How to Avoid a Bored Dog
Cats evolved as a solitary hunter, in contrast to the dog, which is a social hunter. Our pet dogs are social predators, and through the evolution and the domestication of our pets by generations of selective breeding, these predatory behaviours are still deeply imbedded in our pets. This explains why our dogs love to track, why our cat can not resist chasing and biting moving objects and why our dogs will spend hours chewing.
They have urges to carry out these behaviours and if they do not have the opportunity, or have limited access or outlets that explore these behaviours; what we often see is frustrated, sad or even angry animals.
- A great way to develop outlets for this the natural behaviour for your pet is to come up with games involving behaviours in the search, chase, grab, and chew sequence. Providing this kind of stimulation on a regular basis for our pets will not only give us a happy content pet but also prevent behaviour problems.
- You can use play as a teaching tool also by teaching your dog to retrieve, recall, and carry objects and also basic obedience commands. Clicker training is a great tool to help you teach your dog. Always make sure play is fun and rewarding and never punish for the wrong behaviour as your dog will not want to play anymore and you will loose a valuable learning tool.
- There are lots of great toys on the market for our dogs which stimulate physical exercise and mental problem solving skills. These toys include Frisbees for chasing – this uses sight tracking skills and chase and retrieve. Kong’s are fantastic strong rubber toys with a hollow centre that can be stuffed with treat such as dog biscuits, cheese or chicken. Kong’s are especially useful if you are leaving the dog for a few hours as it will keep him busy trying to get the treats out of the centre, and he can chew the rubber Kong itself to relieve stress and boredom.
- Buster cubes are hard plastic cubes which have a maze like centre which treats can be dropped into. The dog can smell the treats and has to learn to push the cube onto each side to be able to receive his treat reward.
- Ropes are good to keep teeth clean and allow your dog to chew the correct object. Ropes are also great for chasing and play killing, if you play tug-of-war with your dog you can both shake and ‘kill’ the prey and is a great bond builder between you and your dog.
- Dogs love to dig and it is a great exploration game. Provide a sandpit to allow your dog to dig in the correct place. It is great fun to hide toys in the sandpit which your dog will love finding.
Make sure that your dog learns the release command and regularly use the command in the middle of the game with a treat reward to ensure it stays safe and fun.
Pets seem to get bored easily with some toys, so rotating play objects from time to time can help to keep toys exciting for the pet.
You might also enjoy: Top Tips for Families Considering Getting a Dog
#5. How to Avoid a Bored Cat
For a species that hunts alone, like the cat, the maintenance of a hunting territory is extremely important, as is the maintenance of the fitness of the individual animal.
Toys can allow our pet to fulfil these needs and also encourage your pet to exercise burning calories. Interactive toys can be very valuable, toys such as balls or a feather or piece of cloth on the end of a string is fantastic fun for cats.
You want to create a physical and social environment that meets your cat’s behavioural needs. Meeting your cat’s behavioural needs is the best way to prevent behaviour problems for example scratching the furniture, attacking our feet in play or just crying for attention.
- Cats like to make use of vertical space. Create high places where your cat can rest, survey the world, and escape from other cats and people when she wants.
- Cats also need hiding places. Simple things like boxes or paper bags scattered around make great hiding spots. Put a cat bed under a chair or behind a couch to make a secluded spot more comfortable.
- Cats need something to scratch and litter trays that conform to their preferences. Make sure litter trays are not placed in wide open places as many cats feel vulnerable when eliminating and can cause inappropriate toileting.
- Commercial cat play stations are great fun for cats providing to most of your cat’s needs. They have a hiding place, a safe high place for escape and a scratching post.
By thinking about what seems to be rewarding to your specific cat or dog, you will be able to think of a variety of activities that will enrich the life of your pet, and make your relationship with your pet more satisfying and rewarding.
Do you have any suggestions for other pet owners? Share them with us in the comments below.