Pet ownership has been a part of society for thousands of years and it’s only growing. “More and more, pets are thought of as members of the family […] We have never been more obsessed with our pets than we are now,” says Dr. Kathryn Winger, assistant professor for the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and neurologist at the MSU Veterinary Medical Center.
People are pet-obsessed and are always looking for ways to keep their animals healthy so they can live long lives. Says Bob Vetere, APPA president & CEO, “No matter the primary cause of increased spending on pets— be it enhanced nutrition, better health care, increased pampering, or greater technology—the one thing we know for sure is that a top priority for pet owners is pursuing longer, healthier lives for their pets.”
It should come as no surprise that longer, healthier lives for pets are largely tied to the amount of activity that they have. To learn more, we reached out to professionals to hear how and why you should keep your pets active.
Benefits of Active Pets
Active pets tend to be overall healthier and happier than their lazy counterparts. In the wild, animals are naturally more active.
“It’s very important for dogs and cats to practice their natural instincts,” says Laura Berg, Chief Commercial Officer of AskVet. “It helps keep them from being bored and reduces any destructive behaviors, like digging, chewing, or scratching. Play is a wonderful way to both give them exercise and help them practice these instincts. There are toys designed specifically for cats that help them hunt and pounce. And toys for dogs that help them exercise their prey instinct, run, fetch and chew […] Playtime with your pets is a wonderful way to keep them healthy and also to grow the bond between both of you.”
Beyond activating their natural instincts and proclivity for exercise, pet exercise helps to promote a healthy weight and overall better physical health. “Exercise promotes a healthy heart and cardiovascular system as well as joints, lungs, weight, and digestion,” says Trey Ferro, CEO of Spot Pet Insurance. “Overall, you will see the quality of life and longevity of your furry friend improve.”
Behavior also improves when pets are well exercised. “Most bad behavior we see in pets is a result of not exerted energy,” adds Michelle Arnau, CEO of Rowan. “Behaviors like chewing, barking, scratching, and biting are all signs of an animal that is frustrated with the lack of exercise they are receiving.”
Pets who exercise more frequently also tend to enjoy better sleep. This is beneficial to pet owners as well. As the old saying goes, “a tired dog is a happy dog.” The same rings true for other species. Animals reap benefits from a good night’s sleep in the same way humans do, making sleep crucial to their overall vitality.
Ways to Keep Pets Active
Keeping pets active can come in many forms. The trick is finding what works best for you and your four-legged companion. “Taking regular walks is one of the simplest and most effective methods of pet activity,” says James Shalhoub, Co-Founder of Finn. “Schedule them daily, if not more depending on the breed, to ensure your pet remains active.”
Don’t let your walk schedule slack because of the weather either. Bundle up and if your pet is a short-haired breed, consider investing in a vest or coat for them as well. Try to remain consistent as far as time of day goes and take into account your pets’ comfort. High noon might be good for your schedule, but the sun might be making the walk more challenging for your pet. “Cats enjoy walks too,” Shalhoub added, “Get them a leash and harness and let them explore the yard.
Playdates are another great way to get exercise for your pet. “Not only does a playdate help exercise your pet, but it also socializes them with other animals,” says Reece Kresser, Co-Founder of Zizi. “Pets are social beasts and they crave interaction with other animals.”
Try setting a scheduled playdate with a friend who has a pet. Dogs especially will benefit from play with other dogs and socialization and will be wiped out when they get back home. “If you can afford it, a doggy daycare will check both the exercise and socializing box every day while you are at work. A win/win.”
Toys are another way to get your pets engaged and active while they are inside or in the yard. For dogs, puzzle toys stimulate their minds while engaging them physically, according to Lauren Kleinman, Co-Founder of The Quality Edit. “There are many variations of these that will keep your dog coming back. If they aren’t taking to it, try one that dispenses treats so they are rewarded for their activity.”
Cats love these toys as well and will benefit from having them around as they help to reduce pets’ anxiety and boredom. “Any toy that will hold their interest for a long time will do the trick,” says Kleinman. “Make their playtime more fun by playing with them. For a dog, that might mean playing fetch or playing with a string toy or laser to entertain your cat. Get creative!”
Active Pets and You
Just like humans, pets find some exercises off-putting, so take some time to figure out the ones that they enjoy the most and focus on those. Keep in mind that too much activity can also be detrimental to your pet’s health. To make sure you are getting them the exercise they need, speak with your vet and they will advise you on the correct amount of exercise to aim for. When done right, exercise will lead your pets to a long and healthy life.
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