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I live in the Northern California foothills so we get chilly temps during the winter months. Just like humans, it's far easier to keep our furry family members healthy and fit during the warm summer compared to the long, cold days of winter. As a pet owner and one who loves to exercise, it can be tough to get outdoors and exercise when the temps drop during the winter months.
If you live in frigid climates or if you would rather curl up by a warm fire instead of hitting the trails, I swear by these tips to keep my pets healthy when the temperatures drop. Like children, pets do better when they stick to a routine. Set up healthy habits with your pets sooner rather than later.
#1 Make sure your dog or cat has plenty of fun, interactive toys
I know I get bored easily during the winter months when the days are long and cold. Pets are the same way and when pets are bored that means trouble! To avoid pets, especially puppies and kittens, getting into mischief and chewing up your favorite pair of shoes, buy them fun, interactive toys to keep them occupied.
Some fun toys to include in their daily play time are safe chew toys, light-up, mechanical toys, or toys on a string with feathers and bells (for cats). Some cats love running water, and cat water fountains allow them to bat and play with the water. Make sure to put the fountain in a safe place, away from foot traffic, so no one slips on the floor and gets hurt. You can also put a towel or rubber mat underneath the fountain to keep the floor dry.
Pets also need brain stimulation so spinning and bouncing toys are great for your pet's coordination, balance and overall brain health. Cats also love chasing lasers so invest in a laser pointer and they will be entertained for hours.
#2 Play indoor games such as fetch and hide-the-treat
If it's too cold outdoors, play and exercise with your pet indoors. If you have a long hallway or a big recreation room/basement, designate a play area for your pet and throw a small ball for indoor fetch. It might be tough to play indoor fetch with large dogs but small dogs and cats enjoy running and chasing balls and toys. Make sure you play in a safe spot--far away from breakable items!
Other fun game ideas include hiding treats in different locations of the house for pets to sniff out and find. Cats love to hunt for their prey so place various moving toys (such as toy mice) around the house so they can run, jump, and pounce on them.
#3 Create a warm, cozy spot for pets so they are calm and relaxed
I love to cuddle up with a warm blanket and hot cup of tea on a cold winter's day. Create a peaceful, warm spot for your pet during the winter months. Besides their physical health, take into consideration their mental health. Pets are all about love and attention so make sure you shower them with plenty of affection. The holidays can be a stressful time for both humans and pets so make sure you reduce their stress levels, especially if you feel overwhelmed and stressed. Animals are very intuitive and can pick up on human stress and anxiety easily.
My cat loves to cuddle up on my lap near the fire or take over my warm, fuzzy throw blanket on my bed. Just like humans, cats and dogs feel the cold like us so make sure they stay warm. For dogs with short coats/fur, invest in a doggie sweater or coat (especially if you don't use indoor heating in your home). Cats also make great furry heating blankets when cuddled on your lap or next to you in bed. They love the human contact and the warmth and they will keep you warm on a cold, winter's night.
Additional pet safety tips:
- Always make sure pets are protected when they play outdoors, including their paws and coats which are very sensitive to the cold.
- Buy comfy and safe dog booties, especially if your pets likes to run and frolic in the snow.
- Also, buy toys and bones that are safe for animals. Be careful of your pet ripping apart toys and chewing up material and stuffing which could cause them to choke.
My recommendation is to always purchase toys at a pet store or from a verified merchant that specifically makes safe pet toys.