If you have ever owned a pet, you are probably aware of how vital playing is in an animal’s life. To us, they might seem senseless and without rationale. But we engage in these games nonetheless, because we love our pets and we want them to stay as happy as possible.
But playing serves a more important role than most of us realize. Playing is a way for animals to learn new skills, hone the older ones and briefly reconnect to the times when they used to freely roam the wilds before we domesticated them. Naturally, it is our duty as animal owners and lovers to facilitate this process through creative games and toys.
This article will discuss why pets love playing, and its various health and social benefits. If you are undecided in regard to which toys you should buy for your beloved companion, do not hesitate to check out Toy Pet Reviews. On this website, you find tons of informative articles about pets and well-written toy reviews. Without further ado, here is why every animal owner should play with their pets.
Why do Animals Play?
Naturally, as humans, we tend to believe that animals, due to the fact that they are not capable of abstract thought, are driven to play by some obscure instinctual urge. While this might be true in a few cases, animals engage in play for pretty much the same reasons as our species – excitement, the need to socialize, or pure, sheer boredom.
But unlike us, most of the times, animals do not play just for the sake of playing. There is a scientific and survival rationale behind every ball your dog is chasing, and every box that your cats decides to hide in despite having tons of other interesting toys at their disposal. In the wilds, play takes many forms and roles. Playing can be part of a mating ritual, an initiation process, a method to hone old skills and obtain new ones, or simply a way to integrate newcomers into the group.
The same principles apply, in a slightly different form, to our pets. The main difference here is that, since your typical domestic household is a far cry from the lush jungles and thick forests where their ancestors roamed, owners have to go the extra mile in order to simulate a toned-down version of the wild and satisfy their instinctual urges.
If the dog was trained to hunt, he will feel the need to test his sense of smell and chase game. Since cats are born hunters and predators, they will be obviously driven to chase prey. Guinea pigs are frightful and shy creatures, so they frequently seek shelter and closed spaces to manage their fears and feelings of anxiety.
Therefore, owners should create a friendly environment for their pets that encourages creative play, physical activity, and sensory enrichment.
Health and Social Benefits of Playing for Pets
Apart from sensory enrichment, animals can draw a lot more benefits out of playing, mainly related to their health and well-being. Here is a brief rundown of them:
- Social health. Pets in general, especially dogs and cats, have to be properly socialized from an early age, otherwise they could become hard to control. This process should start as soon as they are born by providing the pet with training toys - dental toys to instill healthy chewing habits, puzzle feeders to stimulate the animal’s brain, and so on and so forth – and obedience training. All of these can be taught through creative, fun play.
- Physical health. Animals, in general, need lots of physical activity in order to keep their hearts healthy and their joints functional. In the case of dogs, owners should focus on games that maintain and improve the pet’s stamina levels, balance, coordination, and flexibility. When it comes to cats (which are more prone to becoming obese once they reach adulthood than other house pets), experts recommend toys that tap into their hunting instincts. Wand toys, for example, will capture their interest and encourage them to ‘’reactivate’’ their predatory senses.
- Bonding. Animals, just like us, need lots of love and care in order to stay happy and healthy. Regardless of how much time you spend playing with your pets (although you should invest as much time as possible), a short session of fetch or just wagging the wand toy in front of the cat’s face for two minutes will do wonders for their emotional health. Pets, like us, feel the need to have a purpose for their existence – and by bonding with them, you will give them just that.
As you have probably realized, supplying an animal with food, water and a shelter is not quite enough to keep him happy. Were this the case, you would only be a caretaker, not a proper companion. The importance of play for pets can’t be stressed enough, as engaging in frequent creative and fun play session is a good way of keeping your beloved friend active and mentally healthy. It does not matter whether you are setting up an interactive feeding puzzle for your dog or using a simple stick – as long as you make an effort to establish a bond with your pets, they will lead happy and fulfilling lives.