Why Your Pet Needs Toys
Giving dogs and cats toys to play with isn't only about making them happy. Toys, and playing in general, provide our pets with a way to meet some of their most elementary needs, from the need to be physically active to staying mentally stimulated.
Here are several reasons why you should be giving your pet toys to play with on a daily basis. Along with some of our suggestions for a few Coastal Pet Products toys we know your dog or cat will love.
Dogs and cats may be far removed from their wild ancestors but their need to be on the move and active hasn't changed. Their bodies are built for motion. Dogs are built to run and dig, while cats to run, jump and pounce. When they don't get the exercise their bodies were built for, their health suffers.
Giving your pet a toy to play with, or taking an active role and playing with them, gets your pet up and moving, which is good for their cardiovascular and muscle health. It helps your pet maintain a healthy weight and keeps their muscles strong and flexible.
"In the wild, puppies and kittens spend a great deal of their time playing," says Steven Appelbaum, President of the Animal Behavior College. "Most of the games involve stalking, pouncing, wrestling, play biting and play scratching (cats) each other. This gives them a tremendous amount of exercise… When cats and dogs are kept as pets, they don't have the same opportunities to play as they would in a natural state. That's where toys come in."
"Play is important because it is instinctive and necessary for the mental health of dogs and cats."
Boredom isn't good for anyone. Human, canine or feline, alike. As backwards as it sounds, spending hours and hours of time doing nothing is stressful. And, over time, it can cause all kinds of behavioral and health problems.
Toys give your dog or cat something to do with their time, while also stimulating their senses and providing bursts of fun they need to be happy.
"Play is important because it is instinctive and necessary for the mental health of dogs and cats," says Appelbaum.
Interactive toys work best. Appelbaum defines an interactive toy as "A toy that a dog or cat can chase, scratch, chew and pounce on."
For more cerebral challenges, puzzle toys (like the Turbo Cat Nip Wobble Bottle) force your pet to think about how to solve the puzzle in order to receive a treat.
Learning Proper Behavior
In the wild, play helps hone hunting behavior and teaches puppies and kittens how to interact with other dogs and cats.
Those instinctive needs don't go away just because your pet lives in a home with humans. Their instincts still tell them to hunt. And if they don’t get a chance to act on those instincts in the "right" way, they won't develop the critical social skills that enable them to live peacefully with other pets. Or their humans.
"This means it's important to channel/teach the kind of play that makes it easier for them to live among humans," Appelbaum says.
He gives a cat's strong need to pounce on moving objects, then grab, scratch and bite, as an example.
"Making sure the cat has a ball or similar toy that can be rolled so that the cat can jump and 'subdue' it, is not only good for the cat but goes a long way in minimizing the cat's inclination to hunt your legs as you walk by."
Who doesn't feel less stress after a good workout? Our pets are the same.
A game of fetch with your dog after a visit to the groomer or a session with a ribbon wand for your cat after a trip to the vet can go a long way in relieving the stress of their day.
Additionally, dogs and cats that can't meet their instinctive need to play or engage in inherited behavior may begin to feel internal stress.
"Play is vital, as dogs and cats who don't get proper exercise often engage in problem behaviors, which can be a sign of emotional stress," Appelbaum says.
A cat that isn't given a "safe" option to scratch (like the Turbo Scratcher) will have a go at your furniture. A high-energy dog that isn't given the freedom to fetch or play tug-of-war (the Rascals Fetch Toy Fox with Rope can be used for both!) may end up chewing your shoes.