The cold weather makes just about everyone want to stay inside and drink hot cocoa. Lots of people stop or drastically reduce their exercise routines this time of year. Unfortunately, the weather also means your pets probably aren’t getting as much outdoor exercise as they want or need. Here are some tips for keeping your pets active during the winter months.
Dogs typically need more outdoor time than the average household cat. They’re often bigger and need a lot of space to run and play. Keeping your dog too cooped up can lead to behavioral issues and weight gain.
While it’s not always possible to give Fido the same amount of outdoor exercise in the winter, there are indoor activities you can do to keep him entertained. Play tug in the house, or use stairs to play a game of fetch. Some places have indoor training facilities or agility classes that will get your dog active.
Oftentimes, dogs are in need of mental stimulation just as much as physical. Play hide-and-seek with treats that your dog has to find. You can also try teaching him new tricks or working on basic obedience.
At some point, you will need to take your dog outside. She’ll need to use the bathroom, and you can’t go months without giving her a walk. When she does go outside, remember that she needs protection from the elements, too. Booties can protect her paws not only from the cold and snow, but also from salt crystals, anti-freeze and chemical ice-melting agents. Adding a little petroleum jelly to the pads of the paws can help prevent them from getting too dry. You also shouldn’t shave your dog’s coat in the winter. Letting it grow long will help keep them warm. Short-haired breeds can wear little sweaters for an extra layer of protection. All dogs may need some sort of added coat depending on how cold and windy it is outside.
Many household cats are indoor-only, so the colder months don’t impact their play and exercise habits quite as much. Still, the temperatures inside can mess with them. If they’re too cold, heated cat beds or adding extra blankets and towels to their sleeping space will make things a little cozier. The artificial heat can make animal skin dry and flaky like humans, so keep an eye out for irritation or dryness.
If you have an outdoor cat or an indoor cat that likes to go outside, you’ll have to be judicious about when to bring him in. Cats are smart, but they’re still susceptible to the elements. The key to keeping an outdoor cat happy inside is creating a stimulating environment. Extra toys, cat trees, nature videos and other cats will all help him adjust to life indoors.
If your cat insists on being outside, or you simply want to take care of the neighborhood strays, building a dry, insulated cat shelter can keep them somewhat more protected from the wind, cold, rain and snow.
Make sure that cats aren’t living in dangerous spaces. Many strays will climb into garages to keep warm, only to get sick with gas from your car. They may also sleep under the hood of cars, so don’t start yours until you’ve checked for guests.
No matter what type of pet you prefer, if you see an animal out in the freezing cold, call animal services. No animal deserves to suffer outside in the snow, and it could be neglect or cruelty if owners are leaving their pets out for too long.