When the whole family is cooped up inside for extended periods of time, you may find it difficult to come up with new activities for your family and pets. Fortunately, there are a number of enrichment activities you can set up indoors for both cats and dogs—and some can even involve the kids. These activities can provide your pet with much-needed mental stimulation and help prevent boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors if left unchecked.
10 Indoor Enrichment Activities for Dogs & Cats
1. Designated Together Time
Transitioning to being home all day is a big change for everyone, including your pets. Try creating a new routine with designated time together each day, suggests Purina pet enrichment specialist, Alex Johnson. "Try doing fifteen minutes at the same time every day for a week. Find a quiet space, and while giving your pet your undivided attention, pet them for the full fifteen minutes, adding in praise or telling them a story,” she says. Note how your pet reacts the first day compared to their reaction a week later. They may start seeking you out when it’s playtime. If you both enjoyed this time together, Johnson adds, “continue as a daily activity, or change things up by keeping the same time but adding a new activity.”
2. Car Rides
Many dogs love car rides, and driving around with the windows down can be beneficial for you, too. Take a break and go for a short drive around the neighborhood with your furry co-pilot. If the weather allows, roll the windows down so he can really take in all the sights, sounds, and smells.
Both dogs and cats find moving objects, lights, and sounds entertaining, says Johnson. You can hang a bird feeder outside a window so your pet can watch. Light catchers, lasers, feather wands, and cat dancer toys are popular with cats. “You can even try creating your own as a family activity. Light catchers or wind catchers are easy for beginners,” Johnson explains. Pinterest has a lot of how-to guides and videos for these.
4. Couch Potato Play
Spending more time inside often means more time on the couch binge-watching a TV show. Your pet may enjoy curling up next to you for TV time, but you can also give them something to do without leaving the couch. Johnson suggests keeping a basket or drawer of toys close by, such as stuffed animals, feather wands, and tug-toys. “Verbal encouragement is often enough for pets as they interact with a toy on their own. Provide words of praise, which can increase their excitement for the activity and extend playtime,” she says.
5. Time to Explore
Our pets rely on us to provide them with new and exciting experiences, which can be difficult when you’re stuck at home. According to Johnson, there are ways to make old things new again. She suggests “creating temporary indoor spaces to explore with boxes and paper bags or closing off a bedroom for a week to give your pet a space to re-explore. “Hide some treats or favorite toys in the room before reopening it. Remember to rotate toys to help create newness. Pets can get bored, but when a toy disappears for a while and comes back, most will re-engage with an elevated level of enthusiasm.”
6. Pet Forts & Box Tunnels
Who doesn’t love the classic pillow and blanket fort? Get your kids involved by having them build a fort out of whatever you have on hand. Johnson recommends having children “hide a few yummy treats or favorite toys in the fort and letting the pet explore it on their own and at their own speed.” As exciting as forts can be for kids, “remind them that it’s important for pets to explore new spaces on their own time and in their own time,” she says. If you’ve had a lot of packages delivered recently, you can repurpose those by building box tunnels, towers, and cities for cats and small dogs to explore. “If you have more than one cat, make sure to provide an entrance and exit so no one gets cornered,” Johnson advises.
7. Sensory Spots
Cats will sit on almost anything—even things that seem really uncomfortable, like computer keyboards. Part of the reason for this, Johnson explains, is cats “love exploring different textures and smells.” Instead of shooing them from these spots, create a dedicated sensory spot for your cat to explore, sit, and even nap. Johnson recommends using a basket or box and putting it near a window or vent and putting a new material in it each week. Anything from an old t-shirt to packaging paper can be intriguing for a cat—and it doesn’t have to be soft and comfortable. “If your cat doesn’t like it, she just won’t sleep on it,” she says.
8. Pet Picnic
Picnics are always fun, and you can do this one outside in your backyard or on your living room floor. Create a cozy spot with some of your pet’s favorite toys and some boxes or containers with your pet’s favorite food, treats, and toys inside. “Perform a little ‘unboxing’ experience for them as you lay out the containers for them to explore,” says Johnson. “Take this time to be with one another in an unfamiliar spot with some different and exciting rewarding experiences.”
9. Treasure Hunt
Hunting for food is a fun game for dogs and taps into a cat’s natural predatory instincts. For dogs, hide treats or toys in various boxes and encourage your dog to hunt for them. Johnson suggests letting him watch you do this the first few times. Once he gets the hang of it, keep him out of the room while you hide the “treasure.” “The goal is to take baby steps so they understand the game and then you can escalate the difficulty level,” she says. For cats, try hiding small amounts of her dry cat food in various spots around the house. Throughout the day, she can “hunt” for her food, which will keep her active and provide some mental stimulation. Other ideas you can try include letting your dog forage for some of his food in the yard or hiding his meal in small boxes, packaging, or toilet paper rolls and putting those into a larger box he can tear into. If you don’t have boxes and packaging on hand, try laying a towel folded in half lengthwise on the floor and dropping treats inside as you roll it up. Then let your dog figure out how to unroll it to get the treats.
10. Classic Games
Of course, you can always turn to classic games for dogs and cats, like hide and seek, fetch, and tag. When playing hide and seek with your dog, you may need to provide vocal cues to help him find you. As he gets the hang of things, you may be able to simply call him once and have him use his sense of smell to seek you out. Being stuck indoors can become overwhelming and monotonous for the whole family, but these pet enrichment ideas can help keep things fun and exciting.