For many pet parents, long walks, trips to the dog park, and scenic hikes are on the list of ways we keep ourselves and our pets exercised. It's also how our pets scratch that explorer itch, sniffing and observing their surroundings outdoors. But when winter's chill has us stuck inside, it's time to get creative.
If you can’t leave the house, don't fret — we've got you covered with a list of indoor pet solutions that will keep your pets engaged and exercised all winter long.
Set up an indoor playtime challenge.
If your cat or dog has the zoomies, it might be a sign that they have a lot of pent-up energy. Help them work it off with these fun ideas.
Obstacle courses: Transform your living room into an adventure zone by creating obstacle courses using household items like cushions and boxes.
Hide and seek: Set up a game by hiding treats or toys in different spots around the house to engage their minds and tap into their natural hunting instincts.
DIY agility courses: Get crafty and create a mini agility course for your dog. Use tunnels, small jumps, and other challenges to test their skills.
Tug of war and fetch: Engage in indoor games of tug of war or fetch with your dogs. These games are not only physically stimulating but also great bonding experiences.
Try a new interactive game or puzzle toy.
Invest in puzzles, sniffing mats, and other toys that dispense treats as your pets play with them. Puzzle toys are great outlets for your pet’s problem-solving and provide mental stimulation, requiring them to work for their rewards.
For feline friends, interactive games like laser pointers or feather wands can provide hours of exercise and mental stimulation. Cats (and some dogs!) love to chase and pounce on moving objects, making these toys a popular source of human entertainment, too.
Learn a new trick or two.
Mental exercise is also important for our pets. Whether it’s basic obedience or fun new tricks to show off, take some time to train with them. Leash training and recall are great examples of what you can practice indoors with minimal distractions. You can even start training your cat to walk on a leash.
Make some homemade treats.
You don’t need baking expertise to make pet-friendly treats. Simple recipes using ingredients like peanut butter, yogurt, and oats will make for a delicious distraction.
Pair up as exercise partners.
Chances are, if you’re looking for solutions for keeping your pet entertained while stuck indoors, you also need some ideas for yourself. Look for opportunities to exercise with your pets, like practicing yoga with your dog.
When all else fails, walk it out every chance you get. Watch the weather for an opportunity to take a mindfulness walk. You'll appreciate those rare moments between winter and a highly anticipated springtime.
Put on some pet-friendly movies and TV shows.
Believe it or not, some pets enjoy watching TV. Put on shows with birds, fish, or nature scenes to captivate their attention, or play content specifically designed to capture their attention.
Relax with some warm and cozy cuddle time.
When it’s cold outside, there's nothing quite like snuggling with your pets under a warm blanket. Spend quality time cuddling — it strengthens your bond and keeps everyone toasty.
Cold weather doesn't have to mean boredom for our cats and dogs. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what makes them excited and engaged and get to know them better. You might even learn a thing or two yourself. The question is: How will you keep your pet busy this winter?
Dylan M. Austin is Independence Pet Group’s highly caffeinated Sr. Content Writer, supporting Figo Pet Insurance, Pets Plus Us, and PetPartners. Based in Seattle, he's usually hanging out with his Chihuahua Terrier mix, Will, and tending to an increasingly excessive houseplant collection.