Is My Cat or Dog Bored?

Is My Cat or Dog Bored?

Charlie, your Golden Retriever, is lazily lounging on the couch staring out the window. You think to yourself, “He looks bored.” Now that you think about it, he hasn’t been all that interested in going on walks lately or playing ball at the dog park. Could Charlie be truly “bored” with life’s everyday activities?

Is my pet bored, or is he sick?

If your pet sounds like Charlie, the first thing you want to do is make sure your pet is actually bored rather than sick. If your pet seems lethargic (e.g., tolerates exercise less, is sleeping more) and exhibits any other signs such as a lack of appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, then it’s time to make a trip to the veterinarian. Once you can rule out an illness, it is possible that your pet is, in fact, bored.

With busy work and life schedules, it may be a challenge to keep your pet entertained, so we have prepared a few tips and technicalities for you to consider.

The technical term for entertaining your pet is environmental enrichment. This is where changes are made in your pet’s surroundings to satisfy not only psychological, but physical activity needs.

By making a few simple changes in your pet’s world, your pet may be less likely to develop behavioral issues—like separation anxiety or scratching the furniture—to relieve the lack of stimulation. So, what changes can you make?

  • Offer food-based toys: Toys/balls that can be filled with treats, kibble, peanut butter, etc. These toys are designed so that the treats are difficult to get at and should keep your pets engaged for hours. Kong’s® Classic toy can be filled with frozen canned food, for example, that will keep pets entertained while they chase it around.
  • Provide other toys:
    • Cats: Climbing trees, tunnels, boxes, catnip-scented toys
    • Dogs: Nylabone® healthy chew toys, Kong rubber toys
  • Explore training opportunities:
    • Dogs: Agility training can be very rewarding for both the pet and pet owner.
    • Cats: Believe it or not, cats can be trained and taught to do tricks and love to work for food rewards (sitting, staying, jumping over objects, etc.). Note: Always use positive reinforcement when training your pet.
  • Get your pet moving with exercise
    • Dogs should ideally be walked daily (vary the route, length and time of day); treat your dog to Frisbee® or fetch at your local park’s off-leash area; doggie day camps can be a great resource for enjoyment and exercise for your dog; swimming can be fun for water loving dogs.
    • Cats typically enjoy chasing and pouncing activities. Offer a fishing pole toy or wands with toys attached to the end, then wave it in the air and let your cat jump at it; drag a toy across the ground and give your cat the chance to lunge or pounce on it; some cats like to chase balls and others can be trained to walk on a leash.

If you have a multi-pet household and they all get along, interaction with one another can also be a valuable source of stimulation.

Learn More

Please read the articles below for more information on boredom remedies, including play and exercise. You can also browse our Pet Health library for other materials on pet behavior.