If you’ve ever had any kind of pet, you already know how much fun they can be. Spending time outside running with your dog or waving a feathery teaser toy around for your cat can be a good time for both you and your pet. But playtime is actually a lot more than just fun—it’s crucial to your pet’s health and well-being.
Here are four important reasons why you should fit in a little playtime with your pets every single day:
1. They’re more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
Pet exercise is essential for dogs and cats (and humans, too), and regular activity can help ensure your pet maintains a healthy weight. If not encouraged to play, house pets can easily get used to a sedentary lifestyle, overeat and become obese.
Dr. Robert Glasser, DVM, a vet based in Queens, NY, agrees that activity is essential to keeping your pet healthy.
“Exercising together will increase the lifespan of your pet while also delaying the onset of chronic disease; it’s a win-win situation for the whole family,” Glasser says.
Playtime can also be a great way for you to get a little exercise at the same time as your pet, say, if you take your pooch for a jog around the neighborhood. There are big benefits to both you and your dog when you get out and play together. Hands-free leashes and belts let you run alongside your pup without having to worry about holding on to a dog leash.
2. It’s a great mood booster.
Aside from keeping your house pet from getting too chubby, play can help boost your pet’s mood, prevent boredom and relieve pet stress. It can be difficult to schedule enough activity with your pet if all the humans in your household work full time, but even small amounts of playtime can have a positive impact on your pet’s mood and quality of life.
If you have a hectic schedule, aim to get in at least 15 minutes of pet playtime every day. If you’re a dog parent, that could mean a quick game of fetch right outside your home if you can’t make it to a park or fit in a longer hike every day.
Another bonus? As a pet parent, you get serious mental health benefits, too. Just a short play period with your furry friend can get those endorphins flowing and help turn your mood around.
3. It leads to better behaved pets.
Dogs and cats that don’t spend enough time playing can exhibit behavioral problems because they don’t have a proper outlet for all their pent-up energy. If your dog is in need of some more intense activity than a brief game of fetch, think about agility classes.
Most dogs enjoy this type of play, which focuses on obstacle courses, burns a lot of energy and helps them better develop their coordination.
If you’re a cat parent, releasing that bottled-up energy is just as crucial. Cats are predators at heart, and play allows them to let loose and give in to those natural instincts for a few minutes. It also helps to curb bad behavior later. Try mimicking that predator vs. prey situation for your cat by moving a toy across the floor in a scurrying motion, letting her hide behind furniture or stalk to “catch” it.
4. You’ll form stronger bonds.
Any kind of play will help your pet release anxiety and aggression. All that stimulation—mental, as well as physical—gets your pet to relax and with you in a way that doesn’t involve extra treats (or extra pounds).
Exercising and playing with your pet is a satisfying experience that relieves pet stress and leads to relaxation. It’s a unique kind of interaction that lets you spend time with your pet and give your complete attention to him while doing something he loves. This is an important part of bonding and building trust with your pets.
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