It’s that time of year again when it becomes more noticeable that the days are getting shorter, the nights a little cooler, and leaves have started to change color. We’ve escaped the heat of summer and are now entering autumn, one of the more pleasant times of year in most places. However, as the nights continue to get longer and cooler and we start the process of being inside more than outside, we still need some fun ways to entertain and exercise our pets.
Indoor activities with our furry friends can be just as fun as summertime activities with them. We just need to move the party a little more inside as we gradually lose daylight and warmth. By starting now, some really fun activities can be discovered in anticipation of old man winter paying a visit in a few months.
The indoor activities below are great for dogs and cats and some can even be modified for other animals such as rabbits and ferrets. There is enough variation to keep your pet(s) busy throughout the fall and winter when it becomes more difficult to be outside. From hide and seek games to indoor exercise, watching stations, and food puzzles, there is a fun assortment of indoor activities to share with your canine, feline, or hare.
Step to It
Instead of going for a walk outside when it is too cold, some stepping can be easily accomplished indoors with some planning. If stairs are available, a great way to encourage doggie exercise is to gently toss a soft (not hard) ball to the top of the stairs and ask your canine companion to fetch it. You can also step or jog up the stairs together if everyone wants some exercise. If stairs aren’t available, then walking or running down a long hallway or doing laps around some rooms on one or multiple home levels will work as well.
Many dogs enjoy watching TV and videos, especially if the shows contains other animals. Some pet parents leave the TV tuned to an animal station all day to help keep their pets entertained. It’s great stimulation and gives their senses a good workout. Just be sure that your dog doesn’t try to attack the TV when a disagreeable animal appears. It can happen, so supervising your canine companion for the first few shows would be a good idea.
Where’s Your Toy/Bone?
Everyone likes a good mystery - even our faithful companions. If your pooch has a favorite toy or bone, show it to him and then give the sit command. Have him stay while you go off and hide it. Give the fetch or find command and watch him search for it. Start easy by hiding it close by and maybe even where he can see where it is being placed. As the game progresses, it can be hidden further away or in more difficult-to-find places. This will help finely tune his sense of smell. If your toy or bone has holes where treats can be placed, it will make it even more fun for your canine companion.
Hide and Seek
Can you find me? A game of hide and seek between man’s best friend and his master can bring about some wonderful memories for both. Simply use the “stay” command while you go hide and then call your furry friend when you are ready. The quieter you are, the harder it will be for Fido to find you, but eventually, his keen sense of smell will give you away. Reward him with a small treat when you are discovered. As the game progresses you can make it harder by hiding in more difficult places to be found, going further away, or even having someone else tell your dog to go find you so your dog doesn’t hear your voice, thus possibly giving away your location.
Working with your dog on doggy drills is essential for developing a well-behaved pooch. Drills such as “heel”, “sit”, “stay”, “come”, and “down” are basic commands that each dog should learn for their safety and the safety of others. Not only do these training drills burn calories, but it provides for a safer and more confident family dog that can then be around others.
From chairs to empty boxes, obstacle courses can be set up in the house to promote more exercise and obedience. This can be done on or off leash and both dog and owner can participate. Obstacle courses are often used in agility contests, so this is a perfect way to see if your furry friend has an aptitude for such maneuverability.
Treadmills provide great exercise for everyone - including dogs. If you have access to a treadmill, it’s a great alternative to an outdoor walk for your canine companion when it gets too cold to go outside. Simply attach Fido’s leash to the treadmill and put it on slow so he gets used to the sound and speed. Gradually increase the speed if your furry exerciser is walking faster than the treadmill is moving. Supervision is necessary so nothing goes wrong, but it’s a great way to keep your treadmill busy and for your dog to get some exercise at the same time.
Playing indoor fetch is fun for all involved, and it’s a great way for man’s best friend to exercise while stuck indoors. Several variations can be implemented indoors that are harder to do outdoors, such as bouncing a soft ball off walls. It is highly recommended that a soft, bouncy ball, bone, or stuffed sock be used indoors compared to more sturdy objects used in the outdoors. As mentioned above, indoor fetch can include bouncing the soft object off baseboards and walls so cornering into different rooms can be added to the fun. It makes it more interesting and challenging for your pooch and keeps the game fresh for longer. Upstairs/downstairs fetch can also be fun and provides for a multi-dimensional game. Even dropping a soft, bouncy ball like a racquet or tennis ball from a second-story indoor overlook can provide a bouncing target for your dog to corral.
Time to Tidy Up
When it’s cold or messy outside, it can be a good time to clean up. Your canine companion can help clean up their toy mess if they have been properly trained.
To train Rover to pick up his toys and put them back after he is finished playing with them, simply hold a treat up over the toy box or bin and say a command like “Tidy Up.” When Fido is over the bin with the toy, make sure he sees the treat dangling above him. Once he drops the toy in the bin and reaches for the treat, lots of praise can be given. If you repeat this daily, you will have a tidier home in no time.
Everyone enjoys a scavenger hunt, especially dogs. By hiding small treats in various places around your home, it will not only stimulate their mind and senses but can provide an extended exercise session as well. It’s best to use non-perishable treats in case some are not found or get misplaced.
Cat trees are one of the “must-have” play apparatuses for homes with one or more cats. Cats love to climb, and they provide a scratching/climbing post and a way to get up high for an aerial view of the surroundings. Plus, it’s only for cats, so they feel like they own something of their own. Whether you custom make a tree or buy one, your cat is bound to enjoy it either way.
As with a cat tree, cat shelves allow a cat to gain a great vantage point to see all the action. They can be installed near windows, in bedrooms, or wherever your cat enjoys spending time.
Bird Watching Station
As we all know from watching Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, cats love watching birds. By setting up a bird feeder outside a window or attached to the outside of a window, your kitty will have instant entertainment that can last hours. This provides great stimulation and enjoyment for cats. A cat hammock can even be installed inside the window so your cat has a front-row view of all the action.
Want to either supercharge your cat or get him to chill out? Catnip can be just the right solution for changing things up with your cat. Many cats enjoy this natural herb and it’s good for them as well. Some toys are stuffed with catnip and you can buy it in bulk online or at your favorite pet store.
From store-bought food puzzles to homemade food mazes, cats enjoy the thrill of the hunt for treats. You can even use a cardboard box and hide treats inside. Your cat will find that they need to enter the box to find their food treats, and with cats enjoying empty boxes so much, it’s a win-win.
Cats love to stay engaged but can get bored easily. What better way to keep your feline friend interested and engaged than by introducing some new toys from time to time. From fishing rods with dangle attachments and balls with bells to laser pointers and interactive battery-operated toys, cats find new toys too much fun to resist.
Have fun watching your cat try and catch the laser pointer dot that just can’t seem to be “caught”. Just be sure to let your cat catch something so they don’t feel disappointed.
As cat owners know all too well - cats are quite curious and can be very clever. This makes them great learners. As with dogs, cats can be taught to sit, stay, play fetch, and even give high-fives. They can learn to roll over, jump over high obstacles, and of course climb to great heights. For added exercise, while indoors, introduce your feline companion to some fun cat tricks and impress the rest of the family, friends, and YouTube viewers.
Walking on-leash isn’t just for dogs anymore. With the proper size harness, cats can be trained to be on a leash and even go on short outdoor walks. Imagine being the first in your neighborhood to be sporting a cat on a leash. It will be the talk of the town and quite an accomplishment as well.
Door Handle Play
Cats love to play with toys that are attached to a fishing pole or wand, but have you tried attaching some favorite toys to door handles? When the doors open and close, the toys get a workout and so will your cat when he sees all the movement. What a great way to keep your furry friend occupied without having to play with him all the time. Doors can help do some of the entertaining.
Get a Friend
Another great way to introduce more fun and exercise is to get another cat for the first cat to play and buddy around with. Cats love playing with other cats, and as long as they are properly introduced to each other, it could be fun for all.
Fall is a great time to take advantage of the milder temperatures and enjoy the great outdoors, but some days also bring rain and colder than comfortable temperatures as we begin the shoulder season changeover from summer to winter. The play and exercise ideas above for dogs and cats can help reduce a pet’s nervous energy and provide for some exercise when it’s tough to get outdoors. Some of these ideas can also be used for other pets such as rabbits, ferrets, rats, foxes, and even pot-bellied pigs. Enjoy the outdoors this autumn, but when the weather doesn’t cooperate, you will be set with plenty of indoor activities for your pets.
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