Sirius plays with feeder ball
Sirius with feeder ball

“I’m bored.” “There’s nothing to do.” You don’t have to be a parent to be able to conjure up the sound of that childish whine. In fact, if you cast your mind back, you might even be guilty of having said something similar in your childhood – or more recently. Unfortunately, boredom often leads to trouble-making, in both both kids and pets. It’s not that anyone intends harm, its simply that your pet’s idea of a good way to pass the time may not closely match yours.

When the weather gets nice in springtime, there is nothing I would like more than to spend all my time walking my dog and playing with my cat. Unfortunately, springtime also means finals time, which eats up a lot of that theoretical pet exercise time. It doesn’t help that days that I do have time always seem to be the springtime shower days. However, just because your short on time doesn’t mean you can just leave your pets to entertain themselves – unless your prepared to tolerate whatever games they come up with. Up for a game of hide the sock? What about chew the couch or knock everything off the dresser? It’s a world of boundless possibilities!

So what do you do when time or the weather aren’t on your side? There are a lot of great options, including playing with toys or even doing training. Using your brain burns an amazing amount of energy, for both people and pets, which is why so many people say their dogs are tired after training classes. These interactive activities are probably some of your best choices, since they are bonding and brain exercises. However, if you can’t stretch your time enough even for that – or if your energy is not as boundless as your pets – there are a lot of interactive toys are the market, or you can put your brain to making your own.

Sirius in crate with Kong
Sirius enjoys a Kong in his crate – it’s been stuffed with wet and dry food and frozen

The iconic dog toy in this class is the Kong, available in a variety of types and sizes, including the super tough black Kong for heavy chewers. Kong also makes a variety of other feeding toys. Most Kongs can be stuffed with canned dog food, yogurt, squeeze cheese, etc. and frozen for dogs who will work hard enough. Two other popular lines of interactive food toys are the Busy Buddy and Nina Ottosson… I almost hate to start listing them, because more innovative options keep coming to mind! Toys with small pieces should be used under supervision, as should any toy if your dog is a hard chewer. For high energy dogs, I often recommend feeding most or all meals from interactive feeders.

Interactive feeders are not just for dogs! Most cats will not work hard enough for a Kong toy, but there are other feeding toys on the market, including feeder balls. Cats can also play food toss games, or you can make an interactive feeder for your cat by cutting holes in a cardboard box. Have a small animal? For a rabbit or guinea pig, consider a cardboard tube stuffed with hay. Multiple interactive toys are available for birds, depending on the species and temperament of your pet. (Have a multi-pet household? Consider separating them while they use their toys, to avoid fights, or dogs getting access to toys meant for smaller species.)

Nefertiti with feeder ball
Nefertiti may be a cat, but she also gets her dry food in a feeder ball!

When it comes to feeding and interactive toys, there are plenty of options. If you are looking to buy something, new products come on the market constantly. If you are planning to make something, cardboard boxes and tubes are great materials to consider, as are cardboard egg containers, but you are truly limited only by your imagination and your pet’s safety. So go ahead, turn your bored pet into your next best pet.

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