Keeping your senior dog or cat healthy involves not just keeping their bodies fit and free from problems, but their minds as well. Just as it’s important for us humans to challenge our minds as we age, we need to challenge the minds of our pets.
Read on for five great ways to keep your pet mentally sharp as he ages!
Name your dog or cat’s toys
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? By introducing new information to your pet, you’re giving him new things to think about–which is, of course, great for his mind. You can start by naming a toy that he already has, and then, once he recognizes it, continue on from there. Feel free to give him a few new toys, as well. You don’t have to go overboard and provide him with a treasure chest’s worth of stuffed animals and Kong bones; a few well-loved toys can do the trick.
This works for both cats and dogs. Show your pet either a treat, catnip, or some of their food, and then hide it somewhere that they must use their noses to find it. You may have to teach your pet how to play the game, first, so she knows she must actually go after it. For your dog, have her sit and show her the treat, then hide it in an obvious place. Once she goes to it, reward her with lots of love and praise (and the treat, of course!). Once she gets the hang of it, you can hide her treats in more difficult locations. For cats, hiding the treat or food a few times is usually enough for her to get the hang of the game. Get creative with your hiding spots, such as inside cardboard boxes, between couch cushions, or behind houseplants.
Take them new places
Just as experiencing new things is good for our human minds, doing so is good for our pets, too. Try taking a new route during your afternoon walks, or bring him to a different park. Just make sure that wherever you are going won’t stress him out (for example, if he doesn’t like car rides, don’t bring him somewhere you have to take the car to). Mixing up his routine a little bit every week will help him stay sharp. Alternatively, you could also create new havens for him within your home–this is particularly good for cats. Carve out a napping spot beside the bookshelf or on the windowsill, or add another dimension to his scratching post. A little bit of change is good to keep him from getting bored.
Build an obstacle course
Your senior pet may be less active than she used to be, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need any exercise! Set up a little obstacle course for her to go through to get her active both mentally and physically. You can provide low jumps for her to go over, tunnels to go through, and sticks to weave around. Cardboard boxes and paper bags make great DIY obstacles, and can provide hours of fun for your pet. These courses work for both dogs and cats, inside or outside.
Give him a puzzle toy
Perhaps the easiest thing you can do to help keep your pet’s mind sharp is by giving him a toy that he has to figure out. There are plenty of toys out there for both cats and dogs that hide treats inside that he must get to. Your pet can relax while playing with one of these toys, so it’s a nice way of keeping his mind active while his body is staying still. He’ll love figuring out the secret to these toys, and being rewarded by the treat inside!
. . .
With these tips, you’ll assure that your pet’s mind stays in peak condition well into his old age.