The importance of routines and mental stimulation for your pet
Just like our human children, a routine is critical for the wellbeing of our pets. This will reduce unnecessary anxiety and suffering in their lives.
While your pet may be the happiest member of the family during the worldwide #Lockdown with everyone under one roof from dusk till dawn all day every day, it needs to be acknowledged that our pets’ routines, just like ours, have done a complete 180. “Our pet’s lives have changed too. Limited walks around the neighbourhood and no trips to the park for your dog, and while you may not have taken your cat for a walk outside of your home before lockdown, they too can definitely pick up on our stress and anxiety during this time,” explains Marycke Ackhurst pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.
Stick to Normal
To avoid any unnecessary stress for our pets, Ackhurst suggests we try and stick to their normal routine as much as possible, plus include some mental activities for them to do in order to balance out their decrease in physical activity.
Make your pet delicious homemade snacks with these great recipe ideas using Hill’s food. They’re fun to make, you can get the whole family involved, and your pet will love the flavour variety. Remember to take note of your pet’s current food portion size versus the amount of physical activity they’re getting. You may need to adjust them down slightly to meet their present needs.
Treasure hunts –
Make mealtimes a game. Instead of just placing food in their bowl, hide your cat’s kibbles in a few different spots around the house. This will kick in their natural hunting instincts and provide them with a stimulating challenge while helping to keep those instincts sharp and active. For your dog, play a game using their built-in sniffing and scavenging abilities; take some pellets and hide them in a few places in a scrunched-up blanket. Watch the fun of uncovering their meal ensues.
Right now, ample space isn’t on our side. However, we’re all becoming creative in using the space we do have. So, make sure your dog joins you on your laps around the house and garden; play fetch in your tea breaks and use the stairs as often as you can. For cats, household items can be turned into a game; why not tie an empty toilet roll to a piece of string and entice your cat to run after it? Even a scrunched-up work note would work! Feathery toys, scratch posts, or even a good, old box, will bring out the kitten in them and expend any pent-up energy.
New tricks –
Learning new tricks is a great way to challenge both dogs and cats’ minds. Yes, cats can learn tricks, it just takes effort and encouragement from you and will also heavily depend on your cat’s mood. It will add a level of mental stimulation that your cat probably isn’t used to and will strengthen your bond. Using a few kibbles, or the homemade treats and praise as a reward try teaching your cat to follow you or rollover. For your dog, teaching him a new skill, in a positive manner, is a wonderful way to boost his confidence. Does your dog know how to weave through your legs or give you a high five? There’s always a new trick you can teach your dog, young or old.
Give them some space –
Bear in mind that your pet isn’t used to having you at home all day and the extra, constant attention may get a little bit much for them, just as it does for us people. Give them some space to nap (especially cats) and play independently. This will also help in ensuring their routine is kept as normal as possible.
You can now buy your pet’s Hill’s Science Plan food from the comfort of your own home; visit www.hillspet.co.za/shop-online for a list of online retailers. Please note that the Hill’s Prescription Diet range is only available at vet clinics. Contact your vet to find out if they are offering a delivery service during the lockdown.