The Effect of 10 Minutes!
This past year has given us all an idea of what it's like to be really bored. I mean, REALLY BORED. We’ve been kept inside all day, staring out the window, thrilled to see the postman because it’s just something to do. We’ve watched everything on Netflix, Hulu and Prime, and tried countless new craft hobbies.
Imagine how much worse it would be if we didn’t have the internet, or the TV or the ability to take up baking. That’s how a lot of our pets live.
They’re 100% dependent on us - to let them outside, to provide food, to keep things clean, to add entertainment and excitement to their day. For a lot of animals, that excitement is a rare treat. Unfortunately it’s our pets that tend to suffer the most when our lives get busy and we start rushing around. The dog's walk becomes a rush around the block with little time for sniffing, the cat finds something to do alone because you don’t have time to play or cuddle.
The poor guinea pigs, rabbits, lizards, rats, spiders, and snakes, probably suffer the most. Having a reputation as an ‘easy’, ‘starter’, ‘low maintenance’ pet just means they often end up ignored in a house with a lot on.
Being home all day can make it worse, because ‘we’ve been together all week, that’s so much more attention’. However, sleeping next to the desk all day, is still sleeping all day.
The good news is, you can fix this so easily. You can drastically improve your pets life by just giving them a bit more time and effort. Here’s some easy ideas that you can implement, no matter your time or budget:
Take 10 minutes out of your day to really play with your cat. Find out how they like to play, do they chase the toy across the floor? Or prefer to watch it dance in the air before they leap and snatch it? Fluffy toys? Catnip toys? A toy with a bell? A few treats loosely wrapped in a ball of crinkled newspaper to bat around? Find out what they like, play a small game with them, then give them a small treat (to help complete their predatory motor pattern), and watch your relationship with them grow.
Let your dog sniff for 10 minutes. Bring them either somewhere exciting and grassy and just follow them around as they sniff. Or if you’re limited to locations, hide treats around a room then let the dog in to sniff them out! Start by putting them in easy to find places, then make it harder as days go on.
For lizards, have a couple of different logs, perches, rocks etc. for the enclosure and simply rotate them every couple of weeks. Move stuff around to let them explore. If you have a safe space give them opportunities to wander slightly (Keep an eye on them and make sure there’s nothing dangerous they can ingest). Have a look on Pintrest and in your local pet shops for fun, safe objects your lizard might enjoy. NOTE: Each lizard species is different and will have different requirements for safety and enrichment.
Involve your rat, rabbit, or guinea pig in your life more. Whenever you have a tedious job to do, folding clothes, filling out forms (all those things no one wants to do, but we have to). Take 10 minutes and pet-proof the room you’re going to be in, pick up valuables and wires, block escape routes and so on. Then let them have a wander around as you work, chat away to them (I promise your neighbours don’t care), and give them a pet or a cuddle if that’s what they like. Just make sure they’re safe, and don’t leave any surprises in hidden corners!
Talk to your vet about safe foods for whatever pet you have, and shake up their diet a bit. No one wants to eat the same thing all day everyday. Do a taste test, lay out a few safe foods and see what they like and what they turn their noses up at. You never know what you might find out!
One thing you can do with all pets... is TRAIN.
Every time you boil the kettle you have the opportunity to do a few repetitions of a useful behaviour. Buy a target stick off Amazon and present it to your pet, when they investigate it, mark that moment with a word (like ‘good’) or a sound, and then give them a reward. Repeat this until your pet is happily moving to the target whenever they see it. (you can add in a word if you want but it’s not 100% needed). Practice for 5-10 minutes a day. You now have a no-stress way of moving your pet from point A to point B. Practice getting them into a carrier, or away from an area you need to clean regularly, it will make your life easier, and their life better.
Remember, what you reward, they will repeat!
You are your pets key to the world and their advocate, ten minutes can make their world so much bigger!