Pets Get the Winter Blues

Help Your Pets Battle Cabin Fever

A dog lays on his bed

Pets and people have a lot in common, including the winter blues. Even if you live in one of the warmer states, the change of season affects pets and people. It can be tough on a pet, especially one that normally spends much of its time outdoors.

Prescription-Free Solutions

Pet owners who ignore their pets’ need for winter stimulation will find their companions gaining weight, becoming irritable and sleeping too much.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take that will make you and your pet happier during the long cold months:

Brighten the lights.

Dogs and cats respond to illumination like we do: they get peppier when the light is brighter. So even if it’s too cold to go out, open drapes and let in any sunlight there is, turn up indoor lights, and even replace bulbs to create a more day like environment. For reptiles, keep heat and light cycles balanced throughout the entire year. Know the general husbandry standards for your specific reptile so that you are aware of possible hibernation needs during the winter, as well.

Encourage play time.

Cats love to play, and the best place to play is in the house. Make toys, drag enticing objects around, get your cat chasing clumped paper — anything to keep him busy and burning energy. Install a window perch because cats love to sit by the window and watch the birds. It’s free entertainment and can keep them busy for a while.

For dogs, games like tug-of-war and wrestling can mean a great workout while building their appetite. The best time to play with rabbits is in the early morning or as it begins to get dark.


Make toys, drag enticing objects around, get your cat rolling in old sheets or other expendable cloth—anything to keep him busy and burning energy.

Recalculate food quantities.

If your dog or cat is not outdoors very much, he or she doesn’t need to eat as much. Less food means less weight gain and more energy. If your dog is outdoors with an appropriate dog house, he may need extra calories to stay warm.

Enhance scents around the house.

Scented goodies keep dogs busy as they try to find the source of the smell.  Cats like toys with catnip or may rather fill their time with a scratching post.  Do not use sprays or candles — scented or otherwise — if you have birds, since sprays and candles emit carbons and volatile toxins that can be harmful, or even fatal, to birds if inhaled.

Dogs run in the snow

Go outside.

Even if your cat roams freely, you might not want him to do this in the winter. So to get a cat outdoors and under control, spend a few weeks training him to walk on a leash. It takes patience, but it’s possible. Dogs would welcome romping in the snow and can do this using a long retractable leash. If coyotes live in your area, however, it is not recommended that you walk your dog on a retractable leash. Coyotes have been known to target and attack dogs on longer leashes.


If you enjoyed this story, you may enjoy reading about feline depression or canine anxieties and phobias.