Playtime – something children and pets enjoy and adult humans should do more of. Activity and play are good for people and for our pets.
Consider the wild cousins of our cats and dogs, those cougars, tigers, wolves and coyotes that wander the immense outdoors – searching, tracking, stalking, and chasing prey, and rolling, wrestling, and pouncing on their siblings and packmates. The wild ones engage in great amounts of activity; the furry companions living in our homes, more often than not, participate in the activity of... couch potato.
Most dogs were originally bred for some type of job such as herding, hunting, hauling, and guarding. These tasks required strong bodies and alert minds, and many breeds today still yearn for the work for which they were bred – you see that when your Corgi or Aussie Shepherd herds your kids! Cats also had jobs during the agricultural and early industrial age: keeping vermin, like mice and rats, at bay. Yet, today, most dogs and cats enjoy the lap of luxury – laying on the couch, floor, or pet bed. And sometimes that lack of activity leads to boredom and gets them into trouble.
There are many benefits for our pets to engage in play and other activities. In addition to being more physically healthy, exercise often alleviates unruly behaviors such as chewing, digging or scratching, hyperactivity, jumping on people, barking, whining, and meowing. These behaviors can not only be annoying but also destructive.
Mental stimulation is also important, particularly for those dogs bred for active jobs such as herding and hauling. Therefore, participating in more rigorous exercise like hiking and jogging or joining agility or tracking events not only exercises a dog physically but mentally as well. Playing with the cat using feather and laser toys engages kitty's prey and pounce instincts, again stimulating the cat's physical as well as mental abilities. Playing with your pet in the afternoon and evening helps tire it before bedtime, keeping it from being restless at night when you want to sleep – a great benefit for you!
So whether playing fetch with Fido, hiking with Holly, running the agility course with Ruger, or feather swirling and yarn twirling with Simba the cat, providing your pet with playtime reaps positive benefits for both you and your furry friend. And keep in mind that our pets want us to engage in activities with them – we are their special person, their pack, their clan. Think of how young wolves and lions wrestle with and stalk one another – they play together and hunt together. So spend time with your special canine or feline today engaging in some fun activities – your bond will grow even stronger … and the exercise will do you both good!
For more information on the benefits of playful activities with your dog, visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/exercise-dogs.
For further information on agility, tracking, and other dog events and activities, visit http://www.akc.org/dog_shows_trials/.
For more information on enriching your cat's life with play and other activities, visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/enriching-your-cats-life.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.