What do you do when your pet gives you “the look”? You know, the long, deep stare that screams, "I'm bored out of my furry mind!" As pet parents, the overall contentment and excitement in your pet’s life rests squarely with you. Largely because your furry companion lacks thumbs, the ability to speak fluent English and, most importantly, disposable income. However, for those not fully in tune, it’s easy to miss signs of pet boredom. This rings even more true if they are well trained and, for lack of a better term, “chill” most of the time. For some, it’s sometimes easy to confuse and dismiss the more destructive signs of boredom as general mischief. Below are some of the tell-tale signs that your pet is longing for something different.
Subtle vs. not-so-subtle hints
Much like snowflakes and fingerprints, no two pets are the same. They have distinctive personalities, meaning they will show their boredom in different ways—some way less destructive than others. Pet owners need to spot the less obvious signs that their cat or dog is bored before things escalate out of control.
Less overt ways to spot boredom
Over-grooming or obsessing: Are they aggressively licking their fur or pawing at a bed? Think of this as the pet version of aimlessly doodling on a notepad; it's their way of saying, "Hey, I need some extra attention. Changes in appetite: Is your pet suddenly turning their nose up at their once-favourite treat? This could be a sign that their current routine is becoming stale. Mood shifts: Noticing a decrease in playfulness, a sudden disinterest in their toys, or an unusual desire for solitude? These can all be signs of a bored pet. Ignoring the less obvious signs of boredom can lead to far more aggressive attempts to get your attention. This becomes especially troubling when newer pet owners misinterpret these attempts to get the message across. This can result in unnecessary rehoming of pets.
Behaviour that should set off alarm bells
Destructive new habits: Are they digging your garden, gnawing at your cupboards or becoming less friendly with others? When usually good pets develop destructive habits, it’s a sign they could use a change in their routine. Noisier than usual: Are you and your neighbours noticing that your pet's vocal range seems to have expanded? Are they excessively—and unbearably—barking, howling or meowing? This could signal their desperate plea for some fun.
Simple Solutions for Happy Pets
Good news for pet owners: your pets don't need spa visits, retail therapy or even regular therapy to feel better. You can curve their behaviour simply by investing your time in many cases.
Low or no cost solutions to prevent boredom
New toys: pets need mental stimulation, so swap boring chew toys with ones that make them think. Puzzle toys, toys that hide treats or treat-dispensing toys are like Sudoku for your pet – challenging yet satisfying.
Exercise: By nature, pets love to be active. Whether jogging in the park or chasing their human around, physical exercise is key to pet happiness.
Teach them new tricks: Transform your living room into a classroom. Teaching your pet new tricks or commands is not just a party trick; it's brain gymnastics for them.
Playdates: For fur babies who are already dealing with separation anxiety, being alone all day can be unbearable. Arrange a play date with a friend's pet or visit dog parks to let your pet mix and mingle with others.
DIY activities: Cardboard castles for cats or obstacle courses for dogs can lead to hours of entertainment. In many cases, just having something fun and different to do with their human will make the activity a hit.
Quality time: Ultimately, you are your pet's best friend, and just spending more time with you is sure to boost their mood.
Remember: changes in appetite or mood could mean something is wrong with your pet and they may need medical help. This is especially true if small changes in routine have little to no effect on their demeanour. When in doubt, check with your vet.
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