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Mind and Body — How to Help Your Pet Stay Fit

Fitness is vital to the health of all pets. Physical fitness prevents obesity while strengthening muscles and bones, but there is more to being fit than just strengthening the body…the brain needs to be fit too. Both physical and mental stimulation are essential to being a responsible pet parent. Among many other benefits, mental and physical fitness reduce the risk of disease and increase longevity which will help you and your furry friend live a long happy life together. Read below for more information on how you can provide your pet with the keys to wellness, and make sure to download the infographic to share with other pet parents in your community.

Fitness and The Brain:

Pet fitness is the foundation of a well-rounded pet. Dr. Tanya Patterson, VBSPCA Assistant Medical Director, said that exercising the brain affects health by releasing feel-good endorphins into your pet’s system to help their body work smoothly. And of course, if they feel better, then their overall behavior is better.

However, what happens when the behavior is destructive? While this is a common complaint among pet owners, what you may not realize is that your pet may be trying to communicate their boredom. Patterson cautioned that If your pet is being destructive or showing signs of stress, this may be a sign that you need to give your pet more variety in the area of mental stimulation.

Exercise and mental health go hand in hand for mammals, similar to how it is with humans. It is important to remember that the brain is also a muscle and performs better when it is fit. Read below to learn how you can ensure that your pet has the tools and play needed to exercise both their brain and body.

Let’s Work Out!

Dogs:
Dogs require exercise and mental stimulation so they can be on their best behavior. Canines are also social animals, so working out with a buddy is recommended. Here are a few ideas to get you and your pup started:

  • Make mealtimes fun by buying a puzzle feeder or creating your own by using a paper bag. This helps your dog use their olfactory senses to problem-solve their way to a yummy treat!
  • Taking a different route than usual for your daily walk. This helps dogs build their confidence in new surroundings and also allows curious canines to discover different sights and smells.
  • Teach them a new trick. This counts as both exercise and mental stimulation. Training is one of the best things you can do for a dog’s wellbeing, as it helps prevent boredom and works in your favor to improve obedience. Both you and your pup will feel accomplished after a successful training session.
  • Going for a run helps build the bond between you and your dog, while also being a great form of exercise. If you think running would be a great activity for you and your pet, click here for some helpful tips.

Cats:
Contrary to popular belief, cats need as much physical activity and mental stimulation as canines! However, all of this can be done from the comfort of your own home. Felines are natural hunters and enjoy activities such as:

  • Puzzle feeders, which help your cat’s problem-solving skills. Cats love to stretch their claws, so for added physical activity, cut a hole in a small cardboard container and hang it above the ground to encourage jumping and swatting.
  • Chasing a laser or lure toy builds your cat’s confidence and is also a great form of exercise. Try to play with your cat for at least 10-15 minutes. If your cat seems disinterested or bored, it may be a sign that it is time to rotate toys.
  • Teach your cat a trick or two! Clicker training is one of the best ways to help your cat stay healthy and confident. Click here for some helpful training tips.

Rabbits and guinea pigs:
Small animals are intelligent and are constantly on the move. Animals like rabbits and guinea pigs have a lot of excess energy that they need to burn in order to be happy and healthy pets. Some creative ways to help prevent boredom and destructive behavior are:

  • Stuffing cardboard rolls with hay or another healthy treat is a perfect way to encourage healthy chewing while also giving them a fun puzzle to figure out!
  • Creating a DIY obstacle course to exercise your small animal’s mind. Both rabbits and guinea pigs are curious and love to discover new things. Use boxes or pillows to build your pet a maze, and you can create barriers that they will have to get around for added mental stimulation. Have their favorite food or treat waiting for them at the finish for a reward.
  • Supervised exercise outside their pen. Small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs need time outside their cage to explore the world around them. Make sure to be with them at all times, and for added fun, place their toys around the area so they have approved items that they can chew on.

Download the infographic below for a helpful reminder to help your pets stay active!