Resolve to Fight Pet Boredom – Easy Tips

Well, my first new year’s resolution was to get this piece completed by January 2nd, so you can see how well this is working out so far. Here it is, almost mid-January, and I only have the first sentence written. Well, two actually. Now I’m on a roll!

A new year brings a new chance to make up for all the failed promises and broken dreams of the prior year, and a new opportunity to not get them done yet again. It’s not so bad if you let yourself down, but it really tugs at the heart strings when the unkept promises involve your pets – I mean, they’ve given you a whole year’s worth of unending, unconditional furry love and sloppy kisses, so the least you can do is come up with a really convincing new year’s resolution and stick with it for a few weeks like the rest of us!

You can even give yourself a head start and resolve to do things you are already doing, or ones that are ridiculously easy to accomplish; I resolve to keep at least 21% oxygen in the house at all times and let my cat breathe as much of it as she likes or I resolve to keep the water bowl at least ½ full at least ½ of the time or (if you are a pirate) I resolve to let my parrot play with my golden earring and pegleg for at least 5 minutes every day for some mental stimulation.  See – that wasn’t so bad, was it?

There’s a whole host of tips and tricks out there to help you keep your pet resolutions, too. Our pets suffer from lots and lots of boredom while we are away at work or at the helm of the pirate ship, so fending off boredom (which can develop into a tendency to become destructive and wreak havoc in the house) should be one of your initial resolutions.

One of my favorite tips for alleviating boredom is to take a rugged, hollow chew toy, such as the Sergeant’s Zoink! or a hard rubber toy with an empty center and fill it with treats (like the Barkery Lil’ Trix treats) after lining the inside with peanut butter. A few of the treats fall out easily when the dog nudges it, giving an immediate reward – when this happens, you can almost hear the dog thinking when I move this thing, food comes out! Am I in heaven? After they play with it for a while and have exhausted all the easily-removed treats, they have to work a bit harder to get the last few out and then really get the tongue action going to remove the peanut butter. I have seen dogs (my own included) happily sit for hours turning the toys around over and over and making some really goofy facial expressions as they try and get all of the nummies out.

This is a great way for them to while away a few hours while you sail the high seas and pillage, or commandeer your cubicle at work. The principle behind it is called variable-ratio reinforcement: they don’t get a treat every time they move the toy, but it happens often enough to keep them hooked.  It is the same principle that keeps the lights on in the casinos of Las Vegas, which makes it a devilishly clever technique to use on your dog.

For the felines (who merely sit and snicker at the dogs as they try and master the treat-filled toy while they plan total world domination) fending off boredom can be as difficult as fending off wave upon wave of marauders after your Mayan gold, matey. Cats are typically much smarter than dogs (my cat actually helped me write this piece; Don’t use the Oxford Comma, she says, Don’t end a preposition with a sentence, she says. I’m not sure she is right on that last one.) For your cats, your new year’s resolution to increase their stimulation level has no better friend than a laser pointer –my favorite one is the Zoink! Fun-n-Run laser toy.

You can sit on the couch, idly watching your Golden Girls reruns, all the while making your cat run back and forth across the living room like a maniac while Rose and Blanch install a hot tub or lose the Pope’s ring. Cats may be smart, but a laser pointer instantly makes them channel their inner Labrador Retriever and start acting all silly – check out YouTube for videos if you don’t believe me. Just be warned, you can waste all day watching cat videos on YouTube if you are not careful. Learn from my mistakes; I have resolved never to do that again.

So grab a pen and paper, write your pet-related resolutions down and resolve to stick to them this year. While you’re at it, make a few for yourself – there’s not much better than increasing your activity level while you entertain your pets at the same time. Maybe instead of Golden Girls, this time you can leash up the pooch and explore the neighborhood – you may find buried treasure. Millions of suburban pirates have become millionaires that way. Or so my cat says.


-Photo Credit: From flickr by Hans Dekker

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