Got cabin fever? Let the indoor games begin!
By now, the excitement of the holidays is over, the decorations are back in storage and spring seems a long way off.
Short days with hit-or-miss sunshine and long cold nights mean that my morning dog walk takes place in the dark and my evening dog walk takes place … you guessed it … in the dark.
And as the dog mom to two corgi puppies under 18 months old, as well as two older dogs, I can attest to the fact that less outside playtime equals more indoor craziness. Time to break out the indoor games!
Indoor games for dogs
When the season and the weather just won’t cooperate, it’s time to think of creative ways to burn off your dog’s excess energy.
One game that almost any dog likes to play is fetch. It doesn’t require a lot of space — a long hallway will work. Use soft toys to (hopefully) minimize any damage; throw the toy and have him retrieve it.
To make the game more challenging, toss the toy up a carpeted staircase and have him retrieve it. And if you really want to up the ante, race your dog to the toy and see who gets it first.
A game of hide-and-seek can be fun for the whole family, as well as for your dog. Stock up on lots of bite-sized treats, then have all of the players hide in various places around your house.
One person calls the dog; when your dog finds the person who called him, reward him with several small treats. Repeat until your dog — or the players — get tired, whichever comes first.
If self-entertainment is more your style, try offering your dog one of the many enrichment toys on the market. Instead of his usual food bowl, feed your dog’s kibble in a food puzzle and make him work for his meal. It’s amazing how thinking tires out even the most rambunctious dog!
Or, for a longer-lasting challenge, stuff a hollow toy like a Kong with canned dog food, yogurt, cheese or peanut butter and freeze.
And if both of you are going stir-crazy in the house, why not take your dog on an outing? Visit a pet-friendly store and let him experience the sights, sounds and smells of a new environment.
Indoor games for cats
Even though your cat may be strictly an indoor cat, games offer a bit of variety in their daily routine. And you may discover that if your cat is more active during the day, she’ll sleep a little bit longer at night.
One easy way to offer your cat some additional exercise is by setting up some cat furniture. Cat towers provide many platforms and tunnels that are perfect for climbing, jumping and romping. But if you’re limited on space, many cats are just as happy playing in cardboard boxes and paper bags.
A window perch with a view of your outdoor bird feeders is another way to break the monotony of a bleak winter landscape. Watching bird visitors come and go from your feeder will provide hours of entertainment.
And finally, probably one of the most entertaining indoor games for both cats and cat owners is laser tag. Cats are fascinated by the beam of a laser pointer and will go crazy chasing it. A note of caution: Be careful not to aim the beam of the pointer at your cat’s face.
So let the games begin … and give your dog or cat some much-needed exercise during our dark and dreary winter months.
Sue Williams is a lifelong pet enthusiast. She has been actively involved in animal rescue, dog performance sports, responsible pet ownership and animal advocacy for more than 20 years. She can be contacted at altoonapets