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How to give your dog or cat a happy New Year

New Year's Eve, with its promise of celebration and new beginnings, is just around the corner. How about you include your pet too in this opportunity for joy and renewal? Read on for our best tips on how to do this!

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A grand New Year’s Eve for your pet

Since New Year’s Eve is a very welcome continuation of the winter festivities, have a look at our Christmas article. We’ve gathered there the most important things to keep in mind for your pet’s safety and comfort during this time.

One of the biggest differences between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, though, especially for your pet, are the fireworks. We like to put on a show of lights to mark the countdown, but their explosive noise is unfortunately a great source of distress for animals.

If you know or suspect that your dog or cat is afraid of them, please check our guide on what to do to help them. For dogs specifically, The Dog Coach, Vicky Carne has put together for us a list of recommendations.

An additional thing to do, if it’s not too noisy already during the day, is to walk your dog and play with your cat more than usual on the 31st, so they are more tired and more likely to fall asleep faster and sleep tighter in the cosy den you prepared for them inside.

New Year resolutions

Except for a few incredibly disciplined humans, we all promise ourselves to get into better shape and move more in the coming year. These are very worthy goals (that’s why we decide on them every year!), and you can certainly make similar plans for your dog or cat. After all, it works better with a buddy! And nobody said the buddy must have two legs only.

More activity

If you have a young dog or cat, getting them to move is not a big deal. They generally love running, chasing, climbing, hunting and the struggle is exactly the opposite - either to keep up with their endless energy or to get a moment of peace and quiet from their antics. Keep in mind that sometimes (as in the case of indoor kittens or growing puppies with age-limited exercise) this hyperactivity is their brain’s way to keep itself busy and avoid boredom. So, make sure you include in your exercise routine mentally stimulating games too.

The dead easy way to do this is to make them work for their food. Start with the treats (they are tastier and smell stronger) and instead of just giving them, hide them in the house or garden and let your pet find them. Or put them in feeding puzzles.

Just search ‘cat food puzzle / dog feeding puzzle’ on Google, YouTube, Pinterest or TikTok and you’ll get thousands of options to choose from, either ready-made or DIY, of various complexity. Choose several puzzles, so you can rotate them, as you do with their toys. Based on your pet’s patience, intelligence, and dexterity, pick some that they can (quickly learn to) operate with good results from the beginning to catch and keep their interest. Move towards trickier ones later.

Once they get better at this, you can use the puzzles not only for treats, but also increasing amounts of their daily food. Dry kibble is particularly suitable for this. Eventually, you can get rid of the feeding bowls altogether, and all vets, veterinary nurses, nutritionists, and behaviourists will love you forever.

Adult dogs and cats, especially from their 5th year of life on might become a bit lazy and prefer the warm, soft couch to pottering about.

For dogs, you can make an exercise plan just like you would do with your personal trainer. Make sure not to take a canine ‘couch potato’ for hours-long walks immediately, it is just as bad for them as it is for yourself. Build up gradually and keep a similar walking time during workdays and weekend days. Have a look at this handy guide for dogs put together by Dogs Trust and move from sedentary to more active games.

Despite their popularity, stick and ball-throwing are not that great activities for dogs. Sticks occasionally are caught by the dog with the pointy end first and can seriously injure a dog’s throat and ball-chasing involves very abrupt movements that, when repeated daily, damage their ligaments, especially in the knees. Go for sniffaris instead.

Now, getting your dog to exercise is somewhat simple – put the lead on and take them outside. But what about your cat? Few cats will enjoy going outside on a lead, but all cats love to hunt. So that’s the trick to use – mimic hunting.

Start with toys that contain food and provide both the ‘hunting’ and the ‘eating’ part, there are store-bought or self-made options. Cats prefer objects that resemble their prey – i.e., are small enough, can be manipulated with their paws or mouth, have different textures, and can move (or, in this case, be moved). Once they get enthusiastic about it, you can ‘load’ the toy with food only occasionally, but in an unpredictable way for the cat and this will keep their interest alive. Feel free to repeat this very often throughout the day. A feral cat that hunts to survive will pounce on prey 30-40 times per day, so you can hardly overdo it.

If you have a big house, you can also move the location in which the cat is fed to make them move more. For example, pick 6-7 spots and place the bowl randomly in one of them (‘show’ the cat where the spots are). The goal is to have the cat walk to and check several locations before they find the food.

Avoid laser pointers, they are similar to ball-chasing for dogs when it comes to rapid, abrupt movement and on top of that, they do not give the cat anything to sink their claws and teeth into, causing overstimulation and frustration.

Older cats and dogs suffer from arthritis, just like people. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t move! They should definitely be exercised, but it needs to be done rather carefully so that the movement benefits the joints rather than damage them.

First, ask your vet to do an orthopaedic exam on them. This exam consists of moving the main joints in their limbs and palpating their back in a specific way that allows the vet to determine how much discomfort there is and where exactly it is located. Based on this, the vet can prescribe pain and inflammation medication, which will make moving about much nicer for your pet.

Adjust your older dog’s exercise. Limit their walk/play time as you would do for a growing puppy, breaking it down in shorter, frequent chunks rather than a 2/3-hour walk. Dogs enjoy our attention so much and are so loyal to us that they will keep walking along or bringing back that toy despite the growing pain. So, you must be the one who keeps in mind for how long they have walked or played already or how far it is back to the car.

Cats are equally good at hiding pain, and their main way of dealing with painful joints is to find a quiet spot and lie down as much as possible.

The best kind of exercise for both old cats and dogs is the food ‘hunting’ described above, simplified for their slower brain and limbs.

Better shape

People often want to get slimmer for beauty reasons. Luckily, pets aren’t terribly concerned with their body image, and we love them to bits, even the chubby and overweight ones. So why worry about their size?

Because increased body fat has all sorts of medical side effects, both in cats and dogs that will shorten their time with you. And we want them to live forever.

Another, often overlooked reason, is that it simply robs them of the joy of movement. Being much less ‘cerebral’ than us, cats and dogs derive a lot more of their overall quality of life from the strength and deftness of their bodies. Gift them nimbleness!

We’ve put together some handy articles on how to check the body condition score in cats and dogs and what to do with your canine and feline friend if you find them on the red side of the scale.

Have questions?

If you need more specific advice about your pet, feel free to give us a call!

We wish you a Happy New Year from everyone at FirstVet! May you and your pets be healthy and happy!

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  • Answer your questions, offer advice, and make a plan about your concerns
  • Recommend easily available, over-the-counter pet health products when sufficient
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