How to help your pet fight cabin fever this winter

By Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Brrrrrr! It took a while but it looks like winter has finally arrived in full force. That means long nights by the fire curled up under a blanket with your best fur buddy, a cup of cocoa and good book in hand.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? And it is! Well, for about the first week or two. Then, if you’re like me, you start to feel a little stir crazy. Because let’s face it…how many cups of cocoa can you realistically drink?

Being cooped up for long hours has the same type of effect on our pets, too. Maybe even more so. After all, they don’t have the ability or interest to binge watch the latest Netflix show everyone’s talking about.

Luckily, there are lots of fun, creative ways to ward off the winter blues and keep cabin fever at bay.

Blaze New Trails

Colder days and longer nights may mean that you can’t walk as far as you did during the summer. So why not make those shorter walks more interesting by taking in some new scenery? My dog Chilly and I began blazing new walking trails recently and I’ve noticed he’s much more engaged on these “new” walks. I can see his brain working, his nose sniffing like mad and he’s got more pep in his step. For me, it’s fun to check out parts of my neighborhood I’ve never explored before and I especially love watching Chilly soak up the new surroundings.

Car Hop

Feel like you’ve walked every single trail and street in your immediate area? Then take a car ride to a new place, like a park, green space or a new neighborhood. Most dogs love the “adventure” of a car ride and you’ll get the opportunity to discover other parts of your city or region. Mix it up between shorter five-minute jaunts and longer daytrips. Wherever you end up, make sure your dog has the opportunity to get out, stretch his legs and read some new pee-mail.

Mental Gymnastics

Working a dog’s brain can tire him out just as much, if not more, as a long walk. That’s why I help Chilly fight cabin fever with his three favorite brain games. He has a new Buster DogMaze Feeder from Kruuse that I put a few bits of his daily kibble in a couple of times a day. It’s a fun challenge for him because he has to use his brain to figure out how to work the food out of the grooves. He also loves his Buster Cube and a wobble feeder I found at a local pet boutique. So, he’s eating, but having to use his mind and body instead of just getting a “free meal” in a bowl.

On the Hunt

If you have a cat in your life, you know how much they love to hunt (even if they’re just pouncing on their favorite mouse toy). I’ve found that a great way to keep my cats Turdie and Olivia entertained is to engage these natural instincts. I hide some of their kibble in different places around the house. It’s amazing how fast their hunting instincts kick in! Just like with Chilly, making my cats work for their food gives them fun, new challenges and gets them moving.

Practice Picture-Perfect Poses

Do your dogs and cats “sit pretty” for pictures? Or do you have a bunch of photos of tabby-striped blurs and the back of your dog’s head? If so, you’re not alone. I’m right there with ya! That’s why I was so excited to see this post from Maggie at the Oh My Dog! Blog. She gives some super helpful tips on how to train your pets to actually pose for pictures! What a concept! I’m definitely spending time this winter working on this with Chilly (and I might even attempt it with the cats). Talk about a win-win. Chilly will get plenty of mental stimulation and rewards, and I’ll (hopefully) get a photo worthy of next year’s Christmas cards.

Hopefully these ideas will change your outlook on winter. Instead of viewing it as “that long season before it warms up again,” think of it as the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with your four-legged friend.

How do you and your pet beat cabin fever? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.