There’s no doubt that for most pet owners, our furry friends are helping us to get through lockdown – but how are our pets faring?
With travel and exercise advice varying across the UK, and many of us staying in as much as possible, you might need to find creative ways to keep your pets occupied, at home.
To help, Up Gardener has put together our top 12 tips for keeping your animal companions entertained, from the safety of your house or garden.
1. Play a game
For those of us lucky enough to have a garden, nothing beats getting outside for a game of Frisbee, fetch or chase with your faithful hound. If you’re not blessed with outside space, you can still have fun – try tug-of-war for an indoor-friendly game.
Cats will probably prefer a feather on a stick to pounce on, or a squeaky mouse, stuffed with their favourite catnip. Rotate toys and games regularly, to keep your pets interested.
2. Design an obstacle course
Creating an obstacle course is a fun idea for many pets, from dogs to hamsters. For smaller animals, make ramps and tunnels from toilet paper rolls, or whatever cardboard you have lying around (those boxes from your Amazon deliveries will finally come in handy!)
For dogs and larger animals, you could use wood from old pallets, or furniture you no longer use, to create an outdoor arena. Once it’s finished, lead your furry friend around each obstacle – you might need to motivate them with a treat, at first.
Why not film your pet completing the course, and send the video to your friends and family, to make them smile?
3. Cook up a tasty treat
Who needs banana bread, when you can create a tasty treat for your dog, cat, or guinea pig instead? You can find delicious recipes online for homemade dog biscuits, bird feed, or rabbit-friendly salads. This one has the added bonus of keeping you entertained as well.
4. Teach old dogs new tricks
Contrary to the saying, it’s never too late to teach your dog (or other pets) new tricks. Watch YouTube videos for demonstrations, and use treats to motivate and reward your pup. By the time lockdown is over, you might be ready for Crufts!
5. Create a pet cave
Now is the perfect time to purchase or build that new bed, tower or cave that you’ve been promising your furry friend. Even with you at home, your pet is likely to still be spending plenty of their time sleeping – a cosy new bed will ensure they’re as comfortable and settled as possible.
6. Build a chicken coop
If your companion animals are more feathery than furry, now could also be the perfect time to build your chickens a new home. A large, secure coop will keep your hens safe and happy, and hopefully ensure you have a good supply of eggs throughout the lockdown!
7. Hold a treasure hunt
Hide some treats, or your dog’s favourite toy, in your home or garden, and enjoy watching them locate the hidden treasure. If they find the treats too quickly, invest in a puzzle toy and fill that with treats as well, to keep them stimulated, and prolong the fun.
8. Give them a view
Even if you can’t go out or see other people as much as usual, dogs will appreciate being able to observe the outside world. Create a lookout for your pup by placing a chair and blanket near a window, to create an elevated window seat, or by drilling holes in your garden fence, to give them a peephole.
9. Install a microchip cat flap
Give your pets unlimited access to your home, even after lockdown ends, by installing a microchip cat flap in your door. These doors respond to a microchip in your pet’s collar, and will allow your furry flatmates to pass between your home and garden, without you needing to open the door.
10. Watch TV together
They may not be keen on the latest Netflix box set, but some dogs and cats enjoy watching TV – particularly nature programs. Search for DogTV on YouTube, for content specifically designed to entertain your pooch.
11. Video chat family and friends
Just as you can ease the isolation of lockdown by video calling your family and friends, so too can your pets. They’ll love seeing their favourite humans (other than you, of course), and hearing their voices – you might just need to dial for them.
12. Make a doggy ice lolly
If the weather’s nice and sunny, your dog might be feeling the heat. Make them a tasty and refreshing treat by placing some of their biscuits in a bowl of water, and freezing it over night.
Place the ice-filled bowl in your garden, and it will melt throughout the day, and as your dog licks it, gradually revealing the treats – and keeping your pup hydrated at the same time.