We’ve all heard of Covid-19 but what about the dreaded “Covid-15”? People everywhere are commiserating about their weight gain during the pandemic and the same applies to our pets. A survey of 1,000 cat and dog owners in the US found that 42% of respondents had pets that gained weight during the pandemic. It’s not too late to involve your pets in your New Year’s fitness resolutions. Besides, fitness goals are easier to achieve with a friend!
Your pup can motivate YOU! There are fitness trackers for dogs and they’re generally budget-friendly. They offer a variety of features to track steps, activity, calories, and sleep, and some come with built-in GPS (that’s handy if you lose track of your pup on the trail). Some of these collar gadgets (i.e., FitBark) sync with human fitness trackers like Fitbit and Google Fit, meaning you can compare your stats side-by-side. Take the family step competition to another level!
Canine fitness devices can also provide useful information for your veterinarian by tracking changes in activity, sleep, and behavior, helping to catch issues with pain, mobility, or cognitive function early.
Understandably, it’s hard for people to get motivated on those extra hot, cold, or rainy days, but it’s no reason not to get some steps in with your dog indoors (it may also be safer for some dogs depending on the weather). Use those 30 minutes set aside for your dog’s morning walk for training indoors. Practicing commands like “stay” and “come”, “leave it”, or “heal” will make up for those missed outdoor steps AND improve the quality of your walks together when you get back out there.
OK, get fit with your dog, count steps together, sure, but how can I get my cat motivated if she hates taking me for walks or I don’t live in an ideal neighborhood for her to walk me in? Easy! While she believes she’s too superior to be seen walking next to you, she likely does want to be more active. But there are rules:
Rule #1: If you want your cats to do something for you, make it seem like it was their idea in the first place.
Rule #2: Hungry cats are motivated cats.
Rule #3: Review Rule #1.
Cats evolved as hunters and scavengers, and these natural instincts are still deeply ingrained in even the “laziest” of lap cats. Reigniting these instincts will get them moving more AND provide mental enrichment, making them happier, too (review Rule #1 again). Rather than leaving food out or feeding meals in standard dishes, you can strategically use food in games to your/her advantage (review Rule #2…and Rule #1 again for good measure). Here are some ideas to get started:
Hide kibble throughout a suitable part of your home to set your cat on a scavenger hunt. Think on top of furniture, under the coffee table, on each level of the cat tree or a staircase, inside the travel carrier, on top of the dresser – any place they are allowed to go and can access safely. You can use prey-like kibble dispensers or egg carton cups to keep dust and dirt off the kibble and likewise keep the kibble grease off your carpet and furniture.
Turn your cat’s kibble into prey and she will chase it if she’s motivated enough (review Rule #2). Start simple by landing a kibble piece close to her – if a furry paw slides out to get it, you have her attention. Gradually throw the kibble further and further away. If you throw the kibble upwards, you might discover your cat has some hidden Michael Jordan (ish) moves.
There are considerations to keep in mind with these kitty activities. First, if your cat has a medical condition such as arthritis or heart disease, ask your veterinarian if these games may compromise her health or comfort and if so, ask for advice about suitable types of activity. Second, if you have multiple cats, ensure the games are non-competitive. This may require using separate rooms for hide-and-seek or playing fetch with one cat at a time in a private area of the home.
If it’s still appropriate to wish a Happy New Year to your co-worker in your first email of 2022 and you can spot at least one home in your neighborhood still glowing under Christmas lights, it’s not too late to set a New Year’s resolution with your pet to get more active!