Enrichment – Pets & Play

Kittens love to play! Watching them play is a delightful experience. They look like miniature cats in the wild as they stalk, pounce, chase and capture their prey. They have energetic bursts of exuberant playfulness throughout the day. As kittens mature, however, the periods of playfulness change to more mature cat activities – grooming, eating and sleeping. The average cat spends approximately 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping, 15 to 50 percent of their waking hours grooming themselves, and, of course, some time is spent eating, drinking and litter box duties. The challenge is making sure their daily schedule includes playtime.

It is important to start a play routine with your kitten to keep them active and healthy throughout their lives. Each cat is unique and enjoys different types of activities and toys. Cat toys that help mimic the actions of hunting prey are essential. A good toy choice is the wand. They come with a variety of styles. It is easy for us to “become the prey” as the wand is maneuvered to simulate the movements of the prey. Real prey move away so always move the toy away from the cat. Vary your patterns and time to allow them to stalk and pounce. Cats get tired of chasing the same prey so rotate their toys to avoid the “oh hum, I’ve already caught that mouse” response. Most cats prefer shorter play sessions (10 to 15 minutes) throughout the day rather than one long one. As they age the sessions might need to be shortened.

Dogs love to play! Dogs and people are two species of mammals that continue playing into adulthood. Dogs need to engage in fun activities in order to stay physically and mentally fit. They rely on their owners to create a stimulating environment with varied activities, toys, and social interaction to help them maintain their mental health and physical fitness. Exercise is an important part of playtime. All dogs need exercise but how much and what type depends on their age, breed, and general health. For example, dogs in the hunting, working, or herding groups (Labrador retrievers, hounds, collies and shepherds) require more exercise. Generally dogs (and people too) benefit from at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Two daily exercise sessions are recommended.

Playing games with your dog is a way to provide mental challenge as well as physical fitness. Probably one of the first dog toys was the stick, though not safe they were just natural toys used for throwing and fetching. Leather balls were some of the first dog toys sold in the early 1900’s. The results in one study about dogs, toys and games showed that 43% of the dog owners reported fetch as the favorite game and tennis balls as the favorite toy. Sometimes the type of games your dog likes to play is influenced by their dominant breed; Retrievers like to retrieve, Shelties and Collies love to chase, and Hounds like to sniff and follow scents. Playtime, exercise, and games provide opportunities for your dog to express their natural instinctive and dominant breed behaviors.

Spending quality playtime is essential for the health, happiness and well being of your pet and helps foster your relationship with them! ©LVPSM