How to show your love without treats
When it comes to showing our love for our pets, one of our favourite ways is to treat them with tasty treats! (Agria dog, Ruby, appears to love nothing more than her weekly trip to the butchers to buy a single slice of ham.) Most pets love food, and we love giving it to them almost as much as they enjoy eating it!
But sometimes we must stop giving food treats. Perhaps our pet’s on a special diet, or needing to watch their waistline. So, how can we still ‘treat’ our pet and show our love, without food?
While it can seem that the way to our pet’s happiness is through their stomach, in truth, one of their very favourite things is spending time with us, doing fun activities with their best friends - their owners.
So here are a few tips to help you treat your pet without using food.
For our dog friends
Go on some new adventures! Dogs love to sniff and explore; taking a different path or changing direction from your usual route is an exciting new adventure with plenty of new smells to investigate.
Playdates - how about arranging to meet up with some canine friends?
Games - what’s is your dog’s favourite game? Is it tug of war, fetch, agility, or learning a new trick?
How about hide and seek, but instead of hiding food, try hiding yourself or a favourite toy? Give their noses a workout - you can play this indoors or outdoors, let them sniff out their prized possession, and enjoy how happy they are when they find it.
To make it more challenging for them and get them thinking, hide the toy under a box or blanket, up high or down low - the more inventive you get, the more challenging and fun it can be!
Bonding in quiet times
If your pet has to rest and cannot run around, how about some quality time together?
Do not underestimate the positive benefits and power of touch, a nice relaxing brush and groom. They will really enjoy quality one-on-one time with you with lots of love and fuss, tummy tickles, scratches, or even a nice therapeutic massage.
For the fanatical foodies
If none of this inspires your pet, and they really only enjoy food treats, then try using some low-calorie alternatives such as safe fruit and veg or feed a portion of their normal daily ration with interactive puzzle feeders, lick mats, snuffle mats, etc. This way, they can still have treats but are not adding lots of extra calories, and it’s a great idea for pets on a special diet.
For our feline friends
It can sometimes seem a little trickier, as often, they prefer to do their own thing. However, just because cats exude independence doesn’t mean they don’t love having your undivided attention!
For cats, having their human at their beck and call and getting head rubs on demand is wonderful; we all know cats rule the home!
Make use of your cat’s love of stalking, chasing, and pouncing to show them you love them. Being curious and with their natural love of exploring new things, why not cut some holes in a big cardboard box to make a den? Your cat will usually love being the king or queen of their new domain.
Or, you could make a fun assault course, allowing them to climb, jump and investigate new spaces – or even make a tunnel behind the sofa, cover a dining room chair with a blanket, leading the way with a fishing toy to chase!
Hide a portion of their daily food ration in various places, up high on their cat tree or under beakers they can knock over, let them go fishing inside cardboard tubes, or bat around treat balls. These all enable them to ‘hunt’ for their tea and satisfy their natural instincts.
For bonding with bunnies
Just like cats and dogs, rabbits also love spending time with their humans. Try to make time to sit on the floor with them and let them come to you for contact.
While some aren’t so keen, many bunnies love grooming, so give them your time and attention to develop your bond further, while taking all-important care of their fur, nails, and hygiene.
Playtime is essential for rabbits, so make the extra effort to make their lives fun! There are some great toys on the market for rabbits, from wicker balls to chase, to tunnels and dens. Having a place to dig is also great for a bunny’s natural behaviour to come out – add a sandpit with sand or clean soil to their run to allow them to enjoy using their powerful legs!
Rabbits also enjoy platforms and being higher up, so as long as it is safe, think about a place in their home or run where they can access a raised platform. Safety is essential, so ensure they can't fall.
Bunnies are highly social creatures and should not live alone. They need a friend. Ideally, this will be a sibling or another rabbit they have grown up with, but if your bunny doesn’t already have a friend, it isn’t too late! With slow and careful introduction, you can find a rabbit that will gradually bond with yours and give your single rabbit a happy ever after. There is some excellent advice from Rabbit Welfare.
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