Enriching the Lives of our Pets (and Us)!

Tonya Tenters, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist

With the New Year, often there are New Year’s Resolutions. January is frequently the starting point for a new exercise plan or activity; however, have you ever considered including your pets in your resolution? Animals thrive on enriching activities! This does not have to be some elaborate exercise plan that adds hours to the day, but simple minutes added to your day and your pet’s.

It has been scientifically proven that animals have a better quality of life when exercised and played with regularly. Therefore, in veterinary clinics and shelters, that scheduled enrichment time is a priority. This adds to the quality of life an animal has, even when they must be in a small space (i.e. a kennel). This concept can also be applied to the family pet, whether they are a dog, cat, bird, exotic, etc.

Some great ideas for enrichment are walking, running, using toys to get them to play, and even food. For our smaller pets, sometimes hiding food and having them hunt for it utilizes their natural instincts and engages their minds. With our larger pets, walking them, even if only for a few minutes, gets their bodies up and moving and engages their minds. If you have multiple pets, it may mean different days for different activities.

The best part of this New Year’s Resolution is that it benefits both the pet and YOU! Using a few minutes, a day to disconnect from the wired world and interact with your pet has its own health benefits. Pets help us de-stress, which helps us unwind and relax. If you are playing with your pet or walking them, it will involve some activity for you. If you spend all day in the office, in a chair, this is a way to get moving. If your job is high intensity, high stress, then playing with your pet allows your brain to take a break. So, take a moment, think of some simple, small activities that you can do with your pet and make that a resolution or just a life style change!