PET THERAPYHow to set up a stimulating play area for your petTebogo ThlopaneThousands of years ago our pets were wild animals that had wide-open spaces and tired each other out by playing and hunting.
We live busy lives and our pets require an environment to keep them physically and mentally entertained when we are not home and even when we are. A play area will keep your pet out of trouble from boredom and destroying your socks. Mental stimulation and physical activity are important for their well being.
Dogs love to run, chase, dig, bark, and chew things and depending on the breed they may enjoy different activities. Selecting an activity to include in your doggie play area will require you to know your dog’s likes and dislikes. Cat owners know that their feline friends love to climb, scratch, and chase things, along with napping. An entertained and stimulated pet is a well behaved one.

One of the most important aspects of creating a stimulating environment is training, it’s important to start mentally training puppies from an early age to enjoy playing with toys, digging in places they are allowed, and teaching them what is for chewing and what is not. This will also help you manage any behaviour issues. Mental stimulation is often easier to implement than you think, simply by training commands on a regular basis will benefit your dogs greatly.
A rewarding and entertaining environment for your dog should include some of the following:
  1. A rubber chew toy tied up with a plant fibre rope, they can pull and pull when they feel like it is time for tug of war. The toy could be a Kong toy filled with something yummy to distract them for ages.
  2. Cow hooves, pig ears, and other soft chewing items can be left around, avoid Raw Hide as the pieces break off and when swallowed do not break down and can cause blockages. Simple homemade toys, snuffle mats, a plastic bottle filled with their food.
  3. Give your dog somewhere to dig! A corner of the garden with sand or loose soil that you do not mind your puppy learning is the place they can dig, this will keep them out of your flower beds.
  4. The main thing your doggie play area will need is variety, some chew toys are nicer than others, rope toys are not as durable as rubberised ones but they can be ripped apart and used for tug of war.
  5. A soft bed for when playtime is over.
  6. Something gaining popularity in the dog owner community is the idea of “feeding enrichment” this is basically giving your dog a more interesting and tiring way of eating. Silicone mats with grooves and patterns that food can get stuck into are frozen and left out for your pups to lick and extract the goodies frozen to it. Another option is a rolling kibble or treats ball that needs to be pushed around for food to be dispensed.
Cat owners probably already own a cat scratch post or maybe even a kitty jungle gym. These are great options and can provide a release for those urges to claw at things, like your furniture. However, cats that are not allowed outside due to safety still want more, so here are some fun ideas for your kitties:
  1. Cat climbing wall. This is a bit of a DIY project however, the end product is aesthetic and a fun way for your kitty to climb and jump. By mounting platforms made of wood on a wall, you can create a parkour course for your cat, add in a couple of beds and soft spots and you will find Sylvester parking off there.
  2. Cardboard scratch trays are similar to scratch posts but they are easier to rip up and maybe more fun.
  3. Give your cat places they can watch the world go by, outside cats already have this when they adventure, but inside cats would appreciate a view.
  4. Some cats are anxious and they could do with a hiding spot, give them a space they feel safe in, and for those balls of energy, it is a good place to pounce on you from.
  5. Stimulating toys are usually ones that make noises, balls with bells, squeaky toys, and even catnip toys.
  6. Some dedicated cat owners create outdoor "catio’s". These are outdoor enclosed spaces that connect to an inside window and allow the kitty to roam either a section of the garden or just to have a spot of fresh air and a view in the sun.
The take-home messages should be that your pet play area should be full of things to do, full of your pet’s favourite things and that training is involved. Mental stimulation via training to follow commands, perform tasks and play with you when you are home will make the time you and your pet spend together more valuable.  things and that training is involved. Mental stimulation via training to follow commands, perform tasks and play with you when you are home will make the time you and your pet spend together more valuable.
One of the best distractions and stimulating activities for your kitten can be a friend. The same applies to dogs and when looking for a friend for your furbaby, adoption is always a winner. Why not pop on down to your local shelter and rescue a friend today!