Spring Capers …

Have you ever considered how important play is to the well-being of your pet? Or how important it is to let your dog stop and sniff every ‘peemail’ on his favourite walk? To allow your cat to scratch his post or to give your rabbit the space to binky free? Of course you have, that is why you have chosen to read this article.

Let me put it in a nut shell, in order for pets to lead a healthy balanced life it is as important to socialise and mentally stimulate them as it is to exercise those active bodies.

Of course, there are many headings under which animal welfare needs are classified; suitable place to live, suitable diet, to be protected from injury and pain, protection from suffering and disease to mention just a few. For me for an animal to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns is as important as any of those above, thus removing some of the day to day stresses our pets experience.

We all love to walk our dogs but have you considered what else that walk does other than keep those pounds off and those inches at bay? Dogs as we know have a keen sense of smell and this gives us a wide scope with which to mentally stimulate our canine friends. By allowing him to stop and sniff every ‘peemail’ you are allowing him to read who is in the neighbourhood, friend or foe! An important trait of wild dogs, you are allowing him to be himself…a dog.

Take in different walks with different smells; different locations with different activities to get involved in; take a doggie companion along too and watch your dog have fun socialising. Happy in his activities, tongue lolling, tail wagging; don’t you just feel happier yourself?

Most companion animals are sentient creatures capable of experiencing positive feelings such as contentment. But they can also experience negative feelings such as pain and frustration. So, is mental stimulation not just as important as physical stimulation? Think about it…

There are other numerous activities that we can do to stimulate our dogs grey matter. Training classes engage your pet’s attention with sit and stay, heel work, find and retrieve etc. The point is you are engaging your dog to ‘think’ about

what he or she is being asked to do and that can be equally as satisfying as a romp in the countryside.

You could try harnessing that keen sense of smell to brain train your pooch into happier companions. Try using treat dispensers where your dog must work at getting the treat out; hide their favourite toy and send your dog off to find it, a tit-bit being his reward; how about good old fashioned hide and seek? You will be amazed how engaged your dog can become with a little use of your own grey matter! 

Cats are no different. Although you may have to be a little more cunning in engaging your cat. Playing chase games replicates the desire for a cat to stalk, pounce and attack even if it is just a feather on a stick! Back legging the stuffing out of a bag filled with cat nip sends him into cat ecstasy. Encouraging your cat to simply be a cat improves his live immeasurably. Regularly getting active keeps kitty’s waistline trim, his mind stimulated and improves the bond between owner and cat too.

Rabbit owners too realise that their sociable pets soon become bored without stimulus and companionship. By enriching their environment to encourage rabbits to do what comes naturally (such as digging, nesting, burrowing) you may be rewarded with wonderful binky jumps; a sure sign of happiness in the world of the Lago.

Physical and mental stimulation should go paw in paw. They will improve the wellbeing and health of your companion animal (and probably save your house and garden from total destruction). Owning a pet and spending time creatively with them can seriously improve our own mental health and can give us our sense of fun back too. Now that’s what I call a double whammy!

Danielle Giles, Heathside Veterinary Surgery www.heathsidevets.co.uk