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Michael Dym, V.M.D.
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How To Exercise Your Pet Without Walks

Dogs and cats need exercise not only to help maintain a healthy weight but also to support their mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Going for daily walks is a great way to make sure your pet gets enough exercise, but it might not be possible due to health issues, inclement weather, or not having to a safe, clean outdoor area for your pet to explore. Fortunately, you can keep your dog or cat healthy even if you cannot take them for regular walks.

Exercise For Small Indoor Spaces
Though you might not have much room in your home for zoomies, your pet can still get plenty of exercise in a small space.
Teaser wands are a popular way to get cats on the move. If you already have a cat wand but it does not seem to pique your cat’s interest, you may want to try a different kind. Some cats are more attracted to ribbons, while others prefer feathery attachments or fuzzy toys that simulate prey. Wands aren’t just for cats. Some dogs love similar toys called a “flirt pole.” It’s perfect for spaces that aren’t large enough for playing fetch.
Most dog parents play tug-of-war with their exercise buddy, but what you might not realize is that it’s a space-efficient upper body workout. Your dog uses their jaws, shoulders, and core as they latch onto their end of the toy. A game of tug is also a good opportunity to practice training skills like “grab,” and “release,” and can boost your dog’s confidence and deepen their bond with you.
For pets that can go for miles before getting tired, a treadmill can be a smart choice. Some pet professionals use electric treadmills made for humans, though these should be used with extreme caution. Pets are in danger of becoming over-exhausted because they cannot communicate when they need to stop. Manual treadmills created for dogs are safer because they only move when the dog moves. For cats, you can try a wall-mounted exercise wheel.

Mental Exercise For Pets
Brain training can be just as tiring as physical exercise. You don’t need much room, equipment, or time to provide your pet with mental stimulation.
Most pets appreciate food puzzle toys. For beginners, a simple challenge like a treat-stuffed Kong Classic or a slow feeder bowl is a good start. Food puzzles, snuffle mats, and treat-dispensing toys are other effective ways to put your pet’s mind to work.
Obedience training is mentally enriching for not just dogs, but cats too. You do not have to limit your pet to basic cues like “sit.” How about training your cat to use a toilet? Dogs can learn new skills like nosework, doggy dancing, or even helping to put laundry away.
For cats, you can use their environment to provide additional mental stimulation. If they love looking out the window, you can set up a bird feeder outside so they can watch the critters come to visit. Make sure your cat has plenty of hiding spots, perches, and vertical space so they can explore your home in a way that feels most natural to them.