A new decade is here, and many people are setting out to make 2020 the year they crush their goals, whether they’re financial, personal—including health and fitness—or career-related. If you are resolving to get fit in 2020, make a pact to include your four-legged friend. Many health and behavioral issues can be prevented or alleviated through routine exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, so hitting the trails with your pet is good for you both. If your cat isn’t leash-trained and won’t be exploring the great outdoors, we still have some fun ideas to encourage your feline friend to be more active. Here are seven ways to get moving with your furry friend.

#1: Hide your pet’s food

This game works best if you have multiple floors in your home. Most pets are fed from food dishes that are never empty, so make your four-legged friend burn some calories before she eats. Your pet has a strong sense of smell, and she can be active as she sniffs out her meals throughout the day. You can hide small jackpots of food around your home, ideally in different areas, to encourage your pet to move from room to room or floor to floor. You can also create or purchase food puzzles to stimulate your pet’s mind and make her work to retrieve her meal. For dogs, provide a simple folded cardboard tube that they will shred to reach their kibble inside, while for cats, make them find pieces of food hidden in a box full of wadded-up paper balls. 

#2: Join a training class

Dogs of all personalities and breeds can benefit from a training course. Whether you choose scent work, agility, obedience, or flyball, your dog will love getting out of the house and learning new skills. Mental stimulation tires out a pooch more than physical exertion, so an activity that stimulates your pet mentally and physically will help her reach her health goals. Check for courses near your home that will teach your dog new skills.

#3: Create an obstacle course or maze

Cats and dogs alike will enjoy a homemade obstacle course or maze. Dogs will probably be more dexterous at navigating an obstacle course, while cats will love a cardboard maze littered with boxes where they can hide. Tunnels are inexpensive and can be purchased online, or you can create your own “tunnel” with a row of chairs and blankets draped on top. Weave poles and jumps can be designed from stacks of books or other household items. Encourage your pet to work her way through the course or maze with a tasty treat as a reward. 

#4: Encourage play with interactive toys

A wide range of interactive toys is available—from robotic mice for cats, to ball-launchers for dogs—and your pet can enjoy an electronic game while you’re busy with your own workout. But, if you want to work up a sweat with your pet, engage in a rousing game of fetch—cats can play, too—fishing pole fun, a feather wand dance, or a fierce battle of tug of war.   

#5: Schedule a playdate

Although inviting feline friends over will probably not be a fun-filled afternoon—picture the cats hiding under separate beds—young cats are more likely to socialize and interact than older cats, and kittens from different homes may play well together. Dogs, on the other hand, may enjoy a puppy playmate, or have a great time romping with a canine companion. If your dog is friendly with others, ask friends and family for a playdate to help your pet burn off some steam. 

#6: Create a light show with a laser

Cats love chasing bright lights, particularly laser pointers, and you can use this to your advantage to entice your chubby kitty to move. Wiggle the beam encouragingly, and always end with her “caught” prey, such as tossing her a catnip mouse or other toy, as you turn off the laser pointer. It’s frustrating for your pet to chase after an illusion with no reward, so always reward her at the end of the game.   

#7: Explore new paths

The same old walking routine gets boring for you and your dog, so spice things up with a new hiking trail, or venture into a different neighborhood. If you have access to a safe, secure location, or your dog is well-trained with a solid recall, take a ball for a game of fetch, letting your dog run as fast as she can. A long training leash will allow your pet space to explore, but prevent her from running off into trouble. 

Ready to make this year your pet’s healthiest yet? Schedule an appointment with the Countryside Veterinary Hospital team for diet and exercise advice to help your pet shed—and keep off—those unwanted pounds.