Paws for Thought

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Janice Mitchell is a veterinarian with Island Animal Hospital and Little Current Veterinary Services.

Happy Mew Year!

As the baby New Year arrives, we are all familiar with making resolutions for happier and healthier lifestyles, whether it be to laugh more; to watch less Netflix; to learn to Cha-Cha or to learn Mandarin; or to <gasp> eat less sweets. We humans perform this yearly ritual to hopefully enrich our lives, and it only seems natural to include our four-legged family members. So let’s consider a few doggy and kitty resolutions.

Laugh More: 

Play More

What’s a cow’s favourite holiday? Moo Year’s Day! Okay, so if you didn’t laugh this is my resolution suggestion: laughter and play; all species need it. So what can we do to encourage more play, and thereby induce a goofy grin on our dog’s face or the happy slow blink on our cat’s face? A good game of Chuck It, or soccer (ball size depends on canine size) and of course, a game of tag is what every dog loves. The “Catch the Red Dot” laser game is a kitty favourite and now there are apps. Purina’s website ( contains wonderful DIY toys for cats made with toilet paper rolls, “Friskies” boxes and felt material along with their free Cat Fishing 2 App and Jitterbug App. 

Exercise More

“Walk this way.” Walking your dog is a double bonus—exercise and fresh air benefits for both human and canines and for those special felines who do not want to be left out of the pack. Especially on these shorter days, and often grey ones, this simple outdoor bonding activity gives a little dopamine boost and makes all feel good. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog so think of trying agility this year. Outward Hound sells a mini indoor set for the little guys (tested by my mom’s Havanese this Christmas with a two paws up rating) and an outdoor version for obviously the larger beasties that need more space. And for the cats, a scratching post can be like an agility course  where your cat can jump from level to level and feel like they are jumping from branch to branch and tree to tree in the wild. It is also a great way for them to prune their claws, and not your furniture.

Brain Exercises

“Lumosity” brain games and Sudoku currently are the trendy way to exercise our brains. It is also important to challenge our cat’s or dog’s brain cells to keep them engaged. Remember the ‘Price is Right’ shell game? Hiding a kibble under a paper or egg carton cup and having your pet sniff it out is an easy but fun brain game. Learning a new language for humans is stimulating just as teaching a new command/trick for canines is, especially when positive reinforcement (aka praise or cookies) is involved. For more advanced training, “clicker training” helps your pet to quickly identify the precise behaviour that results in the treat.

Better Diet

This New Year, for one of your cat or dog resolutions make sure your pet stays in shape by keeping an extra careful eye on their diet. This means measuring how much food you give them for each meal with a measuring cup, rather than simply eye-balling the amount you pour in. Also, make sure you have bought the right kind of food for your cat/dog—check that the type of food matches their breed and their age and is providing the right kinds of nutrients that they would need. If in doubt, ask your vet clinic. And remember to count snacks as part of their daily food allowance!

Better Dental Health

While pet grooming is usually taken quite seriously by owners, especially brushing their coat to prevent them shedding all over the house, brushing their teeth is often a neglected duty. A good New Year resolution for pets and owners is to brush their teeth more often, as well as provide them with daily dental chews. As your pet grows older, their dental hygiene will become even more important so it is best to start early. Make sure you invest in some pet toothpaste and a pet toothbrush (a children’s toothbrush works great). You can get meat flavoured pet toothpastes, you can even give them a little beforehand to get them used to the taste. You can also feed them harder foods to help keep their teeth clean (Hill’s T/D is a great choice). Your vet will be happy—dental hygiene is often the most ignored of the grooming aspects by pet owners.  

So have fun making your resolutions and hopefully sticking to them. May 2020 be a year of hindsight. I can just see it now!