There are some animals who love the winter months, and there are those who bolt inside the moment a snowflake hits the ground. No matter which end of the spectrum your pet is on, the winter months are usually a time where the ever-present cold and snow sends us retreating to the indoors, where we can crank up the thermostat and pretend we’re on a tropical vacation.

But after a while, all of that time spent inside causes everyone, including our pets, to go a bit stir-crazy. Even when the weather is cold, it’s important for us to try to get outside as much as possible. But for those days when going outside just isn’t an option, here a few tips to help beat “cabin fever” and keep your pets active and happy.

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1. Keep Their Minds Busy

Indoor games can help keep pets occupied — and out of mischief. Walk into any pet supply store and you’ll find yourself staring at countless options for dog and cat toys. The usual recycled rubber balls and stuffed toys are great, but what’s even better are toys that provide mental stimulation. Treat dispensing toys or those that can be stuffed with a bit of canned food or fruits and veggies are a great way to keep your pet busy for an extended period of time.

If you’re feeling creative, you can find plenty of ideas online for DIY pet toys and games using items you already have around the house. Try hiding treats in boxes, or placing a few morsels under an overturned container on the floor. Your dog will have fun trying to figure out how to get to that tasty snack.

2. Make Homemade Treats for Your Pets

5 Ways to Help Pets Beat Winter Boredom

Gabriela Pinto/Flickr

Store-bought treats are convenient, but it’s actually pretty easy to make your own at home. The bonus is you’ll know exactly what’s going into what you’re feeding your pet, and you’re cutting down on waste by not purchasing something pre-packaged. And while baking won’t exactly keep your pet busy, it’s guaranteed they’ll be permanently stationed in the kitchen watching your every move — and they’ll enjoy being your official recipe tester.  Start by trying out these peanut butter dog biscuits.

3. Make Time for Playtime

5 Ways to Help Pets Beat Winter Boredom

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Take a bit of time out of each day to play with your pets, whether it’s a game of tug or indoor “fetch” with your dog, or a fun game of “chase” with your cat. It provides them with a bit of exercise while helping to strengthen your emotional bond. It also serves as a perfect excuse to get yourself up and moving for a bit each day, something that’s just as important for human health as it is for our furry friends.

And you know those homemade pet treats you made earlier in the day? Put them to good use by turning them into a fun game to entertain your pet! Dogs love to sniff and forage, so try hiding treats throughout your home and allowing your dog to walk around and search for them.

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4. Take a Trip to an Indoor Dog Park

When your dog just needs to get out of the house, an indoor dog park, group play session or dog daycare facility can be a great way to help them burn off energy. Most dog daycare facilities let you bring your pet in for a short trial period to see if a group play situation is right for them. Look for places that have separate areas for dogs based on their play style to help ensure your pup is matched with the proper playmates for their temperament.

If group play is a bit too much for your dog, try setting up a one-on-one indoor play date with a friend or neighbor who has a dog, or visit an indoor dog park during off-peak hours.

5. Take Advantage of Warmer Days

5 Ways to Help Pets Beat Winter Boredom

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The word “warm” can mean different things depending on where you live, but anyone who experiences a winter season has an appreciation for the days where you can step outside and take time to enjoy some fresh air. Take advantage of mild weather by going on a longer walk or taking your dog to the park for some sniffing and exploring. Before venturing out, make sure you’ve taken the right steps to keep your pets safe and protected from the elements.

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Winter might seem to last forever, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. Keeping yourself and your pets busy and active will help the months fly by, and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying those warm summer walks again!

Lead image source: Nan Palmero/Flickr