Mental Enrichment: Interactive Games and Activities Your Dog Or Cat Will Love

Have you started coming home to chewed shoes and an innocent face and wagging tail? Or maybe you’ve noticed your cat is starting to shred the furniture, usually while you’re home and while maintaining eye contact. What has gotten into these pets? 


Has anything changed lately? Maybe you have a new job, or your work routine has changed. If you realize you may not be at home as much, and your pet’s destruction lines up with this change, you might have your answer. You have a bored pet.


Our pets need regular exercise to keep them happy. But they also require mental stimulation to keep them healthy and engaged. An animal who is not getting enough mental stimulation will often turn to destructive behaviors out of anxiety or depression. Your job is to help your dog or cat exercise their brain as much as they exercise their body. Not sure what to do? We have ideas for interactive games and activities your dog or cat will love that will keep them out of your shoes and out of trouble.  

Interactive Games For Your Pets

These interactive games and activities engage your pet’s brain by having them utilize their natural instincts. Even domesticated animals still have the drive to hunt, sniff, and chase. By helping them use these instincts, you are allowing their brains to engage in a way that is natural for them.  

  • Treasure Hunt

This is a game you can play with your dog or cat. All it takes is hiding treats in different areas and letting them sniff them out. Start out with some easy treat hiding spots so your pet understands that they’re “hunting for food”. Hide the food in easy-to-find places, and increase the difficulty as they get better at the game. 

For your cat, hide the treats at different elevations since many cats like to be up high.

For dogs, you can increase the challenge by taking the game to your backyard where there are more smells for them to differentiate. As an extra challenge, try hiding something like a Beef Pizzle Chew for your dog to find.  

  • Puzzles

Your pet may not be able to solve a Rubix Cube, but puzzle toys are still good fun. You can find puzzle toys for dogs and cats in-store or online. Kong treat dispensers, snuffle mats, and kitty diggers are all engaging toys. If you’re crafty, you can also DIY puzzle toys for your pets. 


Puzzle Idea For Cats- Take a shoebox and fill it with toys. Cut out holes large enough for your cat’s paws. Your cat will have a great time trying to dig out all of the toys. 

Puzzle Idea For Dogs-  Cut a hole in a plastic pipe, making sure the edges are smooth. Seal one end, and find a way to cap the other. Place treats or food inside so your dog has to work to remove them. 


  • Fetch

A basic game of fetch can entertain your dog or cat and work both their brain and body. A ball or flying disc are appropriate for dogs. A jingle ball, crinkle ball, or even just some balled-up paper will keep your cat happily pouncing. You might even find that your cat will bring the ball back to you so you can throw it again. 


  • Chews

Dogs and cats get a great deal of mental stimulation just from chewing. Providing healthy chews for your dog or cat provides mental enrichment and also helps keep their teeth clean. Chews should be sized appropriately for your pet so they don’t risk choking. For cats and smaller dogs, a chew like a lamb-hide-roll is a good size and easy to digest. For larger dogs, a beef trachea chew that holds up to strong chewers is a good choice. 


  • Hide and Seek

Dogs and cats can both get a thrill out of a game of Hide and Seek with you. 


Cat Version- To play with your cat, hide behind something like a chair or table. Let your cat stalk you and attempt to catch their “prey”. 


Dog Version- Have someone hold your dog back, and tell them to stay. Hide; then have your dog released to come and find you. When they finally sniff out your hiding spot, give them cuddles and praise. 


  • Chase

Chase is usually associated with cats. Most cat owners have a flirt pole toy with a feather at the end. Cats love chase because it’s reminiscent of hunting. This is the same reason some dogs love to play chase. You can find a flirt pole designed to hold up to a dog’s rougher play at your local pet retailer, or you can even make your own. All you need is a bamboo stick, some rope, and a soft toy. 

 

  • Bag Tag

This game is cat-specific, but they’re almost guaranteed to love it. All you need is an empty paper bag. When your cat runs into the bag, gently poke the sides and allow your cat to chase and bat at your hands from inside the bag. 


  • Tug-Of-War

Here’s a game just for the dogs. You may have heard differing opinions on this game. Some people have said that it can cause aggression. This is not factual, but you should establish some boundaries. 

  • Make sure you have a command, so your dog knows when they need to release the toy. 
  • Stop immediately if their teeth hit your skin or your dog is growling in a non-playful manner. 
  • Only play with dogs with all of their adult teeth. Tug-of-war can damage a puppy’s developing joints.

Ready to get the party started? These are just a few of the activities you can use to help keep your pet’s brain engaged. There are plenty of other games that you can add to your routine. And don’t be afraid to get creative. Coming up with games that your pet loves is a total blast! Have a favorite game not listed here? Be sure to share it in the comments.


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