Veterinary medicine and nutrition are good for your pet, but pet owners shouldn’t overlook environmental enrichment and stimulation as important components of an animal’s overall health and wellbeing. Even the most dedicated or involved pet owner may start to notice the tell-tale signs of a bored pet; especially if you’re walking by the same ol’ smells, day after day.
Life gets hectic, we all get a bit older everyday, and the old antics from kitten or puppy hood give way to a more sedentary life. Even for pets that have a stretch of backyard to play in, boredom (and maybe even bad behavior) can easily set in. But, with a new approach to your pet’s environmental enrichment, it doesn’t have to be this way.
What You Don’t Want
By addressing your pet’s physical and mental needs, you are sidestepping a serious swath of unwanted behaviors.
A bored pet will find just about any way he or she can to fill the void that boredom brings, and this may rear it’s ugly head on your furniture – and peace of mind. A dog left to his or her own devices may book it down the street, dig holes beneath your fences, bark incessantly, chew into bags of refuse, and other unsavory misdeeds. And then there’s cats, and you know what a bored cat looks like.
Although you’re not a mindreader, a pet with this type of behavior needs…something. But what?
Your pet deserves exposure to other pets, and facilitating this will not only provide your pet with a necessary outlet, but will go a long way toward protecting your sanity – and belongings. Training classes can serve a pet well no matter how old he or she is, and will typically emphasize time spent with other dogs and people. Additional playdates among friends and their socialized pets is a wonderful way to meet your pet’s needs, or consider doggie daycare or a pet sitter or walker to visit your pet in your absence.
Sports are also a tremendous source to inspire a bored pet. You may consider agility, or just upping the time spent walking, jogging, or hiking.
Helping A Bored Pet
Remember that digging, chewing, chasing, scratching, marking, and tearing are all part of the genetic makeup your pet was born with. It’s up to us to find ways to re-direct those natural instincts and behaviors of your pet. We offer behavioral medicine and counseling for an errant pet, but check with your regular veterinarian first for most common pet behavior issues.
Dogs are wonderfully motivated by food, as the makers of Kong chew toys are well aware. These clever devices encourage chewing, hunting, seeking, and offer a tasty reward (cheese cube, peanut butter, or kibble) for all the focus and hard work. It may work to offer one of your dog’s daily meals via Kong or other reward-based food toys because it can occupy a pet for some time, and fully exhaust him or her. You could also create a game of hide and seek with your pet and leave a bowl of food somewhere for him or her to sniff out, and then heartily enjoy.
Your cat could benefit from any sort of climbing structure, scratching post, toys, tunnel, and catnip-scented toys. Furthermore, opportunities to pounce, lunge, paw, chase, and (believe it or not) fetch are of critical importance for a bored pet (yes, even cats).
Although pet owners can easily feel guilty when considering the side effects of a bored pet, we can assure you, the situation is anything but hopeless. With a little extra time, patience, understanding, and dedication, your bored pet will soon be an inspired, enriched one.
Please take a moment to contact your veterinarian with any questions if you think your pet may be bored and understimulated and is exhibiting behavior issues, and good luck!