How to Entertain Your Pets When You are Not Home
Is Your Pet Bored?
Often we wonder what our pets do while we are gone. Some of us have even set up a video camera and recorded our pets involved in creative hijinks or simple boredom. We can often prevent problems, while at the same time, increase the quality of life for our pets by giving them something to occupy their minds.
This page is all about how we can enrich their lives while we are away.
Image courtesy of Luca Venturelli
Animals and Me
Over the years I have had 2 ferrets, a corn snake, a bearded dragon, birds, rabbits, dogs, a squirrel, fish, a turtle, and many others. Some were just being rehabbed and released eventually, while others were my loyal companions.
One thing I have learned is that all intelligent creatures need something to engage and entertain them. Our local zoo calls it "enrichment" and will often do such things as put a gallon bucket of frozen meat and water in the area for the tigers to slowly chew through or they will have a small pond with a "natural looking" rock slide for the weasels.
Right now I just have a wonderful dog, whom I found at an animal shelter. He spends much of his day alone waiting for me to come home from work, so he can go for a run or walk. Before I leave in the morning, I usually make sure he has something to entertain him, which often includes making sure that I leave the blinds open so he can watch the squirrels, birds and people go about their day outside. In addition, I sometimes give him a Kong filled with various sized, low calorie, nutritious treats (often broken up into odd shapes) so that it is difficult to get them out. Also, I make sure that he has easy access to his toys, has freedom to wonder the house (he's trustworthy not to damage anything), and sometimes I hide a treat amongst his toys. I will also sometimes leave the radio on in order to keep him company.
What Pets do While You are Away
Reasons for Engaging Your Pet
In the wild, animals spend much of their time awake looking for food and shelter. This is their "work." For our beloved cat or dog, however, supper comes in a dish from us. In addition, their shelter is also supplied by us. This means their work is eliminated.
For the physical and mental well-being of your furry little friend, it is important to replace this work with other activities. Just as we provide our fish with things to hide under or a hamster a wheel to spin, we should find creative outlets for our larger, and often more intelligent critters.
Studies have shown that when animals are given an interesting living environment tend to be friendlier, eat less, and live longer.
When you are home, take your dog out for walks, play fetch, get her involved in flyball or obstacle coursework, and teach her new tricks and skills. Spend time interacting with your cat, if he is willing, and pet, play, and snuggle. You could also build or buy a cat tree, which provide cats with premium personal real estate. An added advantage of a cat tree is that it provides a scratching post. Large trees even offer a place to hide, a place to eat, a place to sleep and a place to watch the world around them.
Teach your pet how to do something. I would argue that there is an element of satisfaction, and perhaps pride, in your dog or cat when they learn something new.
Get a Friend
First, one of the most obvious ways to keep your dog company all day is to get another dog. You know how the saying goes, the more the merrier, right? Of course, this isn't an option for everybody, but it is a viable way to keep your dog(s) engaged. Especially for a pack animal, such as a dog.
Cats are another story, as some may not appreciate the competition. However, if you have two of the same gender, it is usually more likely that they would get along, and may actually enjoy the company.
A Patent on a "Pet Entertainment Device"
If you have a lot of time on your hands, you could always invent something for your pet.
This invention, United States Patent 7066780, allows the pet to wear a harness that directs light in front of the dog or cat, thereby entertaining them.
Personally, I think it would drive the poor dog or cat nuts!
Here's more on the patent:
1. A pet entertainment device for wearing by a pet, said pet having a head end and tail end, a said device comprising: a garment configured for wearing by said pet, wherein said garment comprises a collar configured to be worn around said pet's neck; a laser source for producing a laser beam, said laser source attaching to said garment, said laser source configured to project said laser beam on a surface beyond said pet's head end, and a laser director for directing the projection of said laser beam.
2. The device of claim 1, wherein said laser director controls both the horizontal movement and the vertical movement of said laser beam.
3. The device of claim 2, wherein said horizontal movement is controlled through use of a first servo, and whereas said vertical movement is controlled through use of a second servo.
4. The device of claim 3, wherein said first servo is connected to said laser source, wherefore rotation of said first servo causes a horizontal movement in the projection of said laser beam.
5. The device of claim 3, wherein said second servo is connected to said laser source, wherein rotation of said second servo causes a vertical movement in the projection of said laser beam.
6. The device of claim 1, wherein said device further comprises an extension pole from said garment upon which said laser source is attached, said extension pole for positioning said laser source over said pet's head end so said laser beam can be directed onto a surface in front of said pet.
7. The device of claim 6, wherein said horizontal movement is controlled through use of a first servo which rotates said extension pole.
8. The device of claim 7, further comprising a spring which attaches between said extension pole and said laser source.
9. The device of claim 8, wherein said vertical movement is controlled through use of a second servo that connects via a cable to said spring.
10. The device of claim 1, wherein the operation of said laser director is controlled through use of a remote control.
11. A pet entertainment device for wearing by a pet, said pet having a head end and tail end, a said device comprising: a garment configured for wearing by said pet; a laser source for producing a laser beam, said laser source attaching to said garment, said laser source configured to project said laser beam on a surface beyond said pet's head end; and a laser director for directing the projection of said laser beam, wherein said laser director is configured to move the projection of the laser beam in a pattern relative to said pet.
DVDs and Videos for the Pet
One possible option is to leave the television or radio on while you are away. Some pets do respond to such stations as Animal Planet, or to certain music.
Another option is to buy a DVD that is specifically designed to entertain your cat or dog. The best thing to do is see how they respond to something freely available on TV. If they like it, then consider spending the money on a DVD.
Below is a complete selection of just such DVDs on Amazon.
Cat Sitter DVD
Cat Sitter DVD - Volume 2 - The DVD Your Cats Love to Watch
Cat Sitter Vol. III
A Dog up to No Good
Dog Sitter 1
DVD For Dogs : While You Are Gone
Audio for the Dog or Cat
Another option is an audio CD or radio designed for pets. You may find that sounds of birds and other animals works well to potentially keep your pet engaged throughout the day.
Music Cats Love: While You Are Gone
More Cat Mischief
Puzzles and Toys
You could give your dog or cat a puzzle type toys that challenges them to figure out how to get a treat out of the toy itself. These are great because they work your dog's brain and keep them going until they figure out how to get the treat out.
Courtesy of Wageningen University
The Beloved Kong
This is my favorite toy to entertain my dog. I buy small, healthy treats and put them inside. Then I break a bone in half and shove it inside. The broken bone is really tough to get out, so it takes perhaps an hour or two (or more) before he gets it out. Once the broken bone is out it's fairly easy to get the other treats out.
It's a great toy for your dog!
* Our super-bouncy, red, US made, natural rubber compound is perfect for typical chewers.
* The original, stuffable treat dispensing toy.
* Five sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large and King.
* Veterinarians and trainers recommend stuffing KONG toys with KONG treats and ZIGGIES to keep dogs busy and deter misbehaviors.
* Capture toys by fishing them out
* Works with all size appropriate toys
* Durable wood toy box
* Last for years
* Looks good in your home
* Two moving targets
* Attach different velcro toys
* Sturdy wood construction
Kitty's Garden - Organic Grass Seed
* 100% Organic Seed
* Oats, Wheat, Rye and Barley
* Grows in 4 - 6 days.
* Easy to assemble - all pieces compatible with snaps
* Durable construction - materials can withstand rough play
* Expandable and changeable; Use the modular add-on tracks and curves to create a variety of shapes
* Great entertainment while owner is away from home
* Encourages exercise
* Records personal message for their dog.
* The message is motion activated and will play over and over as the dog rolls the ball.
* Treats will also dispense randomly as the dog plays with the ball.
* Color: Varies
* Size: 6 inches -- for dogs over 25 lbs
* Original ONE piece wand, stong and well made
* Realistic feather toy activates your cat's hunting instinct
* 3 Attachment Refills (Feather, Sparkly, Kitty Puff)
* Cats go wild over Peacock Feathers
* Even lazy and fat cats cannot resist all this!
Outside the Window
As I mentioned above, one thing that I like to do is to give my dog a way to watch the animals outside. You may find that putting a bird feeder or two near a window can provide countless hours of entertainment.
Courtesy of dwittkower
If a bird feeder is not an option, then you could have a fish tank. Just make sure it is out of reach and safe from your other pets.
Another option that I think could be really fun for you and your pet would be to build an "in-house bird window feeder". Although not designed specifically with your pet in mind, they could be a good possibility.
As they say, it "promotes healthy bird feeding with an easier than ever way to clean and fills. Simply lift out the center panel for cleaning and adding fresh seed. One way mirrored panels allow up close easy viewing of the birds, but they can't see you. The classic styling reminiscent of sunny Bay Windows will enhance any room. Quality cedar and maple construction. May be assembled with our without window mullions for two different looks. Easy to install. Large feeding area hold several pounds of seed and has enough room for several birds to feed at the same time".
It also appears that it is not permanent, so may be removed during the cold winter months, if heat-loss is a concern.
For more information, check out BirdCentral.com
Bird Watching for Cats: An Entertainment Guide for Indoor Felines
Let's face it: indoor cats may get bored when their owners are away or otherwise occupied. No more. This user-friendly, step-by-step guide takes owners through the process of establishing successful bird-watching windows for the endless enjoyment of their cats - and without harming (in fact, benefitting) the birds on the other side. The vividly illustrated chapters describe how to set up appropriate window feeders, birdbaths and even birdhouses for your home or apartment. Suggestions for planting natural cover outside windows, one-way viewing, bird videos, outside speakers, and special toys - all for the pleasure of cats - are also included. This remarkable book by renowned bird experts (and lifelong cat owners) George and Kit Harrison is sure to be a valuable resource - for both you and your cat.
Find a Pet Sitter
You may also want to check into a service to entertain your pet while you are away.
- Choosing a Pet Sitter | The Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States. Pet sitters do much more than provide a pet with food and water while their guardian is away from home. A good pet sitter also spends quality time with the animal, gives him exercise and knows how to tell if
- National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
NAPPS is the source for everything animal owners need to know about hiring a pet sitter, including online and toll-free phone pet sitter locator services.
- Pet Sitters International
Pet Sitters International is the global leader in the pet-sitting industry. Our longevity, stability and worldwide expansion are unparalleled.
- List of Pet Sitters
Online directory of pet sitters, walkers and pet sitter assignments. Dedicated to matching pet sitters and dog walkers with pet owners worldwide.
The #1 radio station for pet lovers!