Pets need to keep busy for many reasons, but it can be a challenge to help your pets stay active in winter. Not only can cold temperatures and icy weather make playing outside impossible, but shorter days can limit the opportunity for winter outdoor activities. Fortunately, there are many options for keeping pets busy in winter that are safe, effective, and fun for both you and your pet.
Why Pets Need to Stay Active in Winter
Just like their owners, pets need exercise and physical activity to stay healthy no matter what the season. Keeping busy and active will help your pets…
- Maintain muscle tone for good physical condition
- Keep a healthy weight with appropriate exercise
- Improve mobility and flexibility, especially for older pets
- Reduce anxiety brought about by confinement and inactivity
- Curb behavior problems from boredom and anxiety
Regular activity is essential for overall good health, and an active pet is one that will be healthier and better able to resist illness and injuries.
How to Keep Pets Busy in Winter
There are many different ways to keep pets busy all through the winter months. Easy and popular options include…
- New Toys – Catch your pet’s attention with a new and exciting toy. Regularly swapping out different toys can keep pets interested in each one and will encourage more active play.
- Puzzle or Treat Toys – Toys that hide a treat and make your pet work for it are particularly great for winter play and can engage your pet for hours as they work for their reward.
- Indoor Games – Different games such as tug-of-war, fetch, hide and seek, finding treats, or agility courses can be played indoors just as well as outside.
- Safe Room – Consider pet-proofing one room to use for more exuberant indoor games and active play, so you don’t have to worry about breakables or unsafe conditions as your pet plays.
- Training Reinforcement – Winter is a great time to reinforce your pet’s responses to basic commands as well as work on more advanced training or new tricks.
- Videos – Some pets will watch television and choosing pet-friendly videos can provide great entertainment, particularly if the video encourages your pet to chase or otherwise interact.
- Play Dates or Daycare – Arrange a play date for your pet or find a pet daycare to provide great stimulation, interaction, and activity for your pet to enjoy no matter what the weather.
- Grooming – Take the time in winter for thoroughly grooming your pet and not only will your pet enjoy the activity, but it can be a great bonding opportunity to strengthen your relationship.
- Pet-Safe Plants – Provide pet-safe plants such as a sprig of catnip or a tray of pet grass for your pet to enjoy when there are no plants growing outside.
- Viewing Window – Cats will especially appreciate a good window during the winter, and adding a bird feeder outside the window will provide ongoing stimulation to keep your cat active.
- Indoor Dog Parks – Discover new activity options in your area if you have an indoor dog park available nearby. Your dog will enjoy the new place to visit out of the cold.
- Classes – Consider new classes for pet training during the winter, such as advanced manners, agility skills, hunting prowess, or other options for more activity and enrichment.
It’s also important to note that it is still possible to be active outside even in winter, especially on warmer days. Outdoor activity may need to be more limited, but the occasional snowy playtime or brisk winter walk can still be a great way for keeping pets busy in winter and will add variety to their winter activities.
Tips for Safe Winter Activities
No matter what activities you choose for winter play and exercise, it is always crucial to stay safe. Be aware of indoor hazards for your pet, such as stairs or trip hazards, holiday foods that are toxic for pets, chilly drafts around their sleeping areas, breakable holiday decorations that could make sharp edges, or the fire hazards posed by candles or fireplaces. If your pet must be less active in winter, consider adjusting their diet slightly to maintain a healthy weight, and stay alert for any signs of illness or injury no matter what the season. Ideally, mix up the different activities you do with your pet to keep them engaged and entertained, and you both will enjoy the variety of fun you can have all winter long.