Exercise helps cats and dogs produce feel-good hormones that strengthen their immunity. Just like people, our pets need regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy—maybe even more so considering the amount of energy some pets have. It’s important to remember to fit activity and playtime into each day for your pets. Think about it this way: You make sure to fit going to the gym into your busy schedule, so shouldn’t your pets get the same health considerations? The answer is a resounding yes! Check out some tips for how you can ensure your dog and/or cat stays healthy through play and exercise.
Even if your pup loves her daily walk, you can make exercising more fun and challenging with these expert-recommended ideas.
Walk this way
When it comes to exercising dogs, walking and running are king. “Continuous aerobic activity strengthens their muscles and heart,” says Ernie Ward, D.V.M., founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. The guideline is 30 minutes to two hours a day of aerobic activity, depending on age and breed.
A few ways to make sure their walks are good exercise: Do splits. Go faster for half of the walk so your dog focuses on moving continuously versus repeatedly stopping to sniff. Try interval training by alternating walking fast for one minute and slower for one minute. You can also take a brief play break. Carry a favorite toy (preferably one you can have a session of fetch with), then play a game at the halfway point.
Consider a doggy gym or club
Fit clubs for canines are a good way to log exercise, play and socialization time. But make sure the facility is run by knowledgeable staff who use reward-based training methods. Many have a free trial visit or a drop-in day rate, which can be as low as $12.
Food is a great way to motivate cats to move, but so are games and activities that encourage exploration and curiosity. Try these playful ideas.
Use their hunting instincts
Bringing out their instincts to pounce, stalk and hunt is a great way to motivate them to exercise, Ward says. Use feather dancers and toys that require movement to interact. The goal is three to five minutes of play three times a day.
Make feeding fitness-oriented
Rather than feeding your cat at ground level every meal, Ward suggests putting out one meal low and another high—on a cat perch, for instance. Or try an interactive feeder or a puzzle toy that engages their hunt-play instincts and rewards with food.
Enrich their environment
Look around your house from your cat’s perspective and think about how to make it more interactive. Try a cat perch or cat tree (or a vertical scratching post that they stand to use). Cats love exploring small spaces. Got an empty box? Put it out and move it every few days to give your cat someplace new to jump in and out of.
As a part of your family, your pets deserve a ton of care and concern when it comes to their health and well-being. Make sure you’re taking all the steps to keep them as happy as can be through play and exercise.
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