Mental Stimulation is a Critical Need in Pets

Mental Stimulation

The need for mental stimulation is deep and instinctual in both people and companion animals. The difference, of course, is that you can seek you own mental challenges while your dog or cat depends on you to do it for him. You already do a great job caring for your pet’s physical health needs. We encourage you to consider his need to solve problems and socialize with other people and animals as well.

A pet will quickly let you know if you’re overlooking this need by her behavior. A dog or pet who feels bored can become destructive, depressed, or both. People who don’t make the connection between their pet’s behavior and lack of mental stimulation sometimes punish their pet or even give her away. While it’s understandably frustrating to deal with behavior such as excessive barking or meowing, inappropriate elimination, biting, scratching, or chewing, try to look at the situation from your pet’s perspective and provide her with the stimulation she’s trying to tell you that she needs.

How to Stimulate the Mind of a Dog

Dogs require exercise daily and interaction with people and other dogs as often as possible. The good news is that physical exercise helps to stimulate the brain as well. For example, your dog can learn to catch a Frisbee and bring it back to you, how to hike on a trail, or how to swim. Once it’s clear that he’s caught on to a specific exercise, try to change things up a bit to prevent boredom. Exercise is also a good way to bond with you and to see other people and pets out in the community.

Providing your dog with a toy that requires her to solve a problem to get a treat is also a good idea. We carry food puzzles and other such items in our online store for your convenience. Since dogs are very motivated by treats, play a game of hiding your dog’s treat in a different location in the house each time so he has to figure out how to find it.

How to Stimulate the Mind of a Cat

Cats have a need for mental stimulation, as well. Your cat loves spending one-on-one time with you as you pet his tummy, talk to him, and play games together.

We recommend taking some time each day to play simple games with your cat that require him to use his mind. For example, place a gloved hand under a sofa cushion and move it around. Place toys in various places around your home, to help your cat feel like he's seeking out prey. Cats also enjoy treats and might like a toy like the egg-cercizer that requires batting it a certain way for the toy to release a treat.

Need more ideas to help keep your pet’s mind sharp? Just call Grantsburg Animal Hospital at 715-463-2536 or Wild River Veterinary Clinic at 320-629-7474.

Photo Credit: YakobchukOlena / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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