Our pets are just like us. They need to be fed, bathed, looked after, cared for, and most of all, loved.
They also need to keep fit. Like humans (whose obesity rates have tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organization), pet obesity is a growing problem—pun intended. In the United States alone, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reported that in 2018, 55.8 percent of dogs and 59.6 percent of cats were classified as overweight or obese.
As cute and as cuddly as they appear, your pudgy pooch or pussycat are subject to a number of health risks when they tip the scales beyond their ideal weight.
“The number of pets with clinical obesity continues to increase,” said APOP founder, veterinarian Ernie Ward. “Clinical obesity results in more secondary conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and certain forms of cancer. Pets with obesity also have reduced quality of life and shorter life expectancy.” (Read: 5 Homemade Dog Treats That Are Vet-Approved)
And just like some of us who prefer running over yoga, or teams sports over individual sports, our pets respond to activities that suit their unique personalities. Got a dog who can’t sit still, or a cat who’d much rather sleep all day? Match their personalities with these suggested forms of play!
If Your Dog Is Hyperactive…
Obesity shouldn’t be your problem; rather, it’s how to keep your dog calm and yet engaged. Renowned Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan offers these two tips:
Give your dog a job. “By giving your dog a job to do, you are removing his hyperactive dog behavior and are redirecting his energy elsewhere. For instance, having your dog wear a backpack with extra weight will keep your dog focused on carrying instead of getting distracted by squirrels and other things.”
Go for a walk: “A really vigorous dog walk is an excellent way to redirect it to where YOU want it to go. Once you’ve burned that extra energy away, your dog should be pleasantly exhausted and too tucked out to jump and nip.” (Read: DIY home remedies to keep you and your pets cool this summer)
If Your Cat Is Lazy…
By nature, cats sleep about 15 hours a day to recharge for their next hunting session, so when they’re awake, keep them alert with a stimulating activity. My Cat from Hell host Jackson Galaxy suggests 10 to 15 minutes a day of play therapy—for you and your furry four-legged friend.
“Don’t just place an interactive toy on the floor in front of them and text chat on your phone or toss a ball with a bell down the hall. Be fully engaged,” he says. “Take on the role of the bird, be the mouse, be the prey, and run around with them. Cats are motivated by their primal instinct to hunt, catch, kill, and eat. They need to release this energy, and if they don’t, that’s when some pesky behavior (scratching furniture or your legs, knocking things off the shelves) can start.” (Read: ‘Adopt, Don’t Shop’ Like These Four Celebrities and Their Shelter Pets)
If Your Rabbit Likes to Chew and Dig…
Save your shoes and furniture by offering your bunnies “toys” that appeal to their instinctive behavior. A cardboard maze (tape boxes together to form passageways rooms, and create windows by cutting square holes on the sides) encourages them to explore inside and gives them something to chew on. A pit filled with straw or shredded paper will see him happy burrowing in it. (Read: 5 Prayers of Blessing for Beloved Pets and Animals)
Rabbits startle easily so don’t sneak up on them and surprise them. Also, bond with your rabbit by getting down on his level. Sit, crouch, or lie on the floor to appear less threatening.