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How can you treat your pets without feeding them treats?

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As a nation of pet lovers, we love to treat our cats and dogs and enjoy giving them tasty titbits almost as much as they love to eat them! Just like us humans, our pets will gain weight if you feed them too many treats and may need to lose weight. So how can we still ‘treat our pets’ without treats?

Whilst it can seem that the way to our pet’s happiness is through their stomach (the same for us humans!), in truth our pets love spending time with us and often love doing fun activities with their owners. Here are few ideas to treat your pets without treating them to food:

  • New doggy adventures: dogs love to sniff and explore, so taking a different path or walking in a new area can be an exciting new adventure with plenty of new smells to investigate.
  • Dog-friendly play date: if your dog is friendly with others, arrange to meet up with some canine friends
  • Have fun trying something new: play your pet’s favourite game or introduce them to a new one. You can play tug of war with their favourite toy or teach them a new trick.
  • Agility training: this type of training can be fun for both pets and humans. It can burn excess energy, help train their mind and body, strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and increase endurance.
  • Hide and seek: instead of hiding food, try hiding their favourite toy. Give their noses a workout, either indoors or outdoors, and let them sniff out their prized possession and enjoy how happy they are when they find it. To make it more challenging for them, hide the toy under a box or blanket, or up high or down low. The more inventive you get, the more challenging and fun it can be.
  • Quality time together: give them some much needed rest and relaxation by spending time with your pet. Do not underestimate the positive benefits of the power of touch. Many dogs will love a brush and groom, or even just some relaxing one on one time being the centre of attention. They may also enjoy tummy tickles and scratches or even a nice therapeutic massage.
  • Offer warm words to your dog: when rewarding your dog for good behaviour or achieving a new trick, try saying the reward with your voice and use ‘Good Boy or Girl’ instead of a treat. Dogs can easily learn this behaviour over time. It’s not only about the words you say but the warmth and happiness in your tone of voice that dogs pick up on.

If you still want to treat your pet, why not try low-calorie alternatives such as fruits and vegetables. You can also use a portion of their daily food in interactive puzzle feeders or on lick mats. This helps to avoid adding lots of extra calories and is perfect for pets on a special diet. Always find out what foods are good for your pet and never feed them anything that may make them ill. You must also be careful of the amount you feed them as a human portion is too much for a cat or dog.

For our feline friends it can seem trickier to move away from using food treats, but most cats will love having your undivided attention, whether that’s giving them lots of head rubs or thinking up new games to play with them. Here are a few ideas to help you:

  • Cats love to explore new things: cut holes in a cardboard box for your cat to explore, or create a fun assault course, encouraging them to climb, jump and investigate new spaces.
  • Cats love to stalk, chase and pounce: make a tunnel behind the sofa, cover a dining room chair with a blanket, or lead the way with a fishing toy to chase.
  • Make those treats go further: try hiding a portion of their daily food in places; up high on a cat tree, under beakers they can knock over, inside cardboard tubes, or a treat ball. These all enable them to ‘hunt’ for their treats and turn a normal meal into a fun game.

For more information or details on any other pet health related query, please contact the team of Registered Veterinary Nurses at PetConnect

By Melissa Pickburn

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