Video Games and Your Pet

Small dog sitting next to video game controller

Does your pet want to play video games, too?

People aren't the only ones playing video games these days. Plenty of dogs and cats are spending hours catching virtual fish or playing complicated memory games. Although your pet may enjoy the games, are they a good idea?

Video Games Can Combat Boredom and Decrease Anxiety

Bored pets often find inventive, and sometimes destructive, ways to spend their time. They unroll the toilet paper, destroy couch cushions, or even take a few bites out of the wall. Video games offer more productive ways for your pets to spend their time.

Games can also be helpful if your pet suffers from separation anxiety while you're at work. If your pet is concentrating on playing a game, he or she won't be thinking, "Oh no, I'm home alone again!"

Although your dog won't be able to turn on an app on a tablet while you're away, he or she can play games on a Clever Pet Hub or similar device. The Hub features dozens of color-based puzzles. If your dog touches the correct sequence of colors, he or she receives a treat from the food dispenser. You determine when the Hub is turned off or on and control how much food is dispensed.

Games May Improve Cognitive Abilities in Older Pets

Just like people, dogs and cats can experience changes in their cognitive abilities as they age. Interactive games can help keep older pets alert and engaged by challenging them to learn new skills.

Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna discovered that touchscreen and tablet games helped dogs avoid the mental decline that can occur as a part of aging.

They trained dogs to use touchscreens during several different studies. In some studies, touching the screen with a paw or nose at the right time in the game triggered the release of treats. The dogs quickly learned how to play the games, which become increasingly complicated with each level.

The researchers found that participation in the study offered several important benefits for older dogs, including:

  • Mood Enhancement. Dogs that played the games experienced a boost in their moods, as evidenced by tail wagging and willingness to work on the tasks.
  • Increased Motivation. After mastering a game, dogs were more motivated to learn how to play other games and also experienced improvements in learning and memory.
  • Improvement in the Dog-Owner Relationship. People whose dogs participated in the experiments reported positive changes in their relationships with their pets.
  • Stress Reduction. Dogs that played the games had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Game Playing May Offer a Few Drawbacks

Although playing games can be very beneficial for pets, it may not be the best idea if:

  • Your pet spends too much time playing video games. Just like how you want your children to put down the controller and play outside, your pet needs to limit the amount of time spent on video games. If your dog no longer wants to go for long walks or your cat has stopped dashing from one end of the house to the other, it may be time to reduce the amount of time your furry friend plays video games. Exercise is just as important as mental stimulation for pets and is necessary for good health.
  • Games make your pet feel anxious. Some pets may not enjoy playing video games. In fact, tapping a lighted circle on a game board or chasing a virtual laser beam can be stressful for some dogs or cats. If your pet doesn't seem to enjoy the games after a few tries, don't try to force them to play.
  • You spend less time with your pet. If your pet is happily playing a video game, you may be less inclined to play or interact with him or her. Interaction is an essential aspect of the human/pet bond and should never be ignored. Decreasing the amount of time you or your pet spend on video games can help you improve your relationship if either of you tend to become obsessed with games.

A combination of physical activity and mental stimulation will help keep your pet happy and healthy. Regular checkups also play an important role in your pet's health. If it has been a while since we've seen your pet, or you're concerned about a health or behavioral issue, give us a call.

Sources:

Digital Trends: Want Your Pet to Age Gracefully? Study Finds Tablet Games Can Help, 2/13/18

https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/dog-tablet-games/

NCBI: ACI: Utilising Dog-Computer Interactions to Provide Mental Stimulation in Dogs Especially During Aging, 10/1/18

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6166787/

Clever Pet: Clever Pet Hub

https://clever.pet/

PC World: Seven Apps for Playful Cats, 5/27/13

https://www.pcworld.com/article/2039061/seven-apps-for-playful-cats.html

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