First and foremost, what is a licking mat? A licking mat is a plastic or silicone mat that can be smeared with a variety of different treats. These can include wet food, pastes, peanut butter or plain yoghurt – anything really that is spreadable and enjoyed by your pet. They come in a wide assortment of shapes and sizes but all of them have patterns of cavities and grooves to hold the treats.
Why would you want a licking mat?
Both dogs and cats find the act of repetitive licking soothing which can calm an anxious pet, so by participating in an activity that causes them to lick, they are releasing cortisol into their body – a hormone responsible for relaxation. Licking mats are a great way to help promote calm behaviour.
If you have pets that eat too quickly, you can extend their feeding time with a licking mat making them eat more slowly, produce more saliva and aid digestion. This also aids dental health helping fight off bacteria in the mouth.
And of course the big buzzword at the moment “enrichment”. The licking mat can provide mental stimulation which promotes mental health. A mentally stimulated pet is a healthy pet.
Licking mats can also be frozen thereby extending the game longer by presenting a greater challenge or maybe provide some much-needed refreshment in the hotter months.
When should you use a licking mat?
As a distraction. Maybe you’re still working from home and need time to make that Zoom call in peace.
How about bath time, nail trimming, grooming? You can get licking mats that stick on the wall, and on windows when out on a car journey.
Perhaps on Bonfire night? Something to soothe an anxious pet and take their mind off their fears.
If your pet is confined to a crate due to illness or an operation, and they need a low-impact boredom buster.
Trixie Junior Licking Plate
To distract and entertain your new puppy or kitten.
As a slow feeder, and of course, as a reward. At the end of a great training session, for example.
Just because you love them!
A useful addition to your toolkit
Aquapaw Feeding Mat Licking Toy
In summary, you may already have a whole stash of puzzle toys to keep your pet entertained but we believe it’s worthwhile adding this simple yet effective soothing slow feeder to your toolkit.
Bear in mind that these mats can be a chewing hazard so should only be used when supervised.
Our range of Licking Toys:
Licking Toys range from left to right: iQuites Lick Treat Mat, Trixie Lick n Snack Ball, Junior Licking Plate from Trixie, Trixie Lick n Snack Platter, Aquapaw Feeding Mat Licking Toy
What do you do when you’ve got a sick or injured pet? What if they’re on cage rest? What if they are doomed to wear the cone of shame? We have been faced with this problem for weeks now.
But it’s not only that, what if they’re home alone or the weather is bad? How do you entertain a bored pet?
Exercise their brain!
For a dog on cage rest as our Tilly was after her elbow arthroscopy, wearing a cone to protect her stitches, life was very miserable and we feared for her mental wellbeing. Not only that but two weeks into her confinement, her spay scar became infected, so she was double coned and confined for a further two weeks.
Tricks and Tips
How did we cope? Well, we had two large dog crates which were situated in the main parts of the house so that wherever we were, she could be nearby. She had a soft toy with her at all times, but that had to be operated on to remove the squeakers. Toby hates squeakers and she was driving him crazy!
A well-stuffed KONG always proves popular!
Due to the amount of space available, we decided to use smaller treat toys to entertain her. She couldn’t have coped with the puzzle toys in such a restricted environment. Our go-to toy for most occasions is the KONG. Stuffed to the gills with tasty treats, what dog could resist? And you can always freeze it for longer-lasting play. You simply can’t go wrong with a KONG!
At first, Tilly found this difficult and it lay untouched in her crate, but by removing a treat and letting her get a taste of it, she was motivated to try for herself and eventually got the hang of it. Now it’s one of her favourite evening challenges.
Thirdly was an old favourite, the Lotus Ball. This is a very simple toy and probably better suited to retrieving, but for Tilly, it contained another little treat for her to extract and keep her mind active. To make it more appealing, we boosted it up with a jackpot treat, Davies Puffed Jerky. Our dogs go wild for it.
Lotus Ball and Puffed Jerky
If your dog is not restricted space-wise, there are numerous puzzle toys to keep them entertained. If you haven’t tried one before it’s best to start with something straightforward as you will find they are easily discouraged if they can’t get the hang of it. A great starter toy is the Nina Ottosson Dog Smart.
Nina Ottosson Dog Smart
Another simple toy is the Lick n Snack Platter which gives them an instant win, plus licking can have a calming effect on your dog. Great as a feeding bowl, too.
There are games to suit all levels: from top left, K9 Pursuits Interactive IQ Game Watson, Trixie Lick n Snack Platter, middle, K9 Pursuits Multi Maze Slow Feeder, bottom left, Dogit Mind Games Interactive Dog Toy and the Nina Ottosson Dog Brick Interactive Toy
Or your dog may prefer soft toys, so why not make these interactive too? If they’re not treat motivated but love a squeak, what about the Puzzle Plush Hide A Squirrel. Three furry gremlins to remove from their tree trunk nest.
Alternatively, there is the Sniffing Blanket Strategy Game, which has multiple hiding places for treats and small toys. Excellent for the keen forager.
Some dogs prefer soft toys like the Puzzle Plush Hide a Squirrel or the Sniffing Blanket Strategy Game
You may find something above that you think is suitable for your dog but if not we have plenty more to choose from in our Interactive Play section or even our Treat-Dispensing Toys. And don’t forget the all-important Dog Treats to accompany your strategy games.
Keeping Cats Occupied
If your cat is confined to a crate for any reason here are some tips and tricks:
Keep the crate super clean, changing water and blankets regularly.
Ensure the crate is in an area in the house where the family spends most of their time to prevent loneliness and boredom.
Keep some toys in the crate, perhaps infused with catnip, or dangling through the bars for entertainment. Swap the toys from time to time to give your cat something new to play with.
Have a regular routine so your cat knows what to expect and when. At night half cover the outside of the crate with a blanket.
Talk to your cat or play music or the TV so there is some background noise.
A cat pheromone spray may also help to calm and de-stress anxious cats.
From left to right Snack Mouse Treat Dispensing Toy for Cats, FroliCat CHEESE Automatic Cat Teaser, Cat Activity Fun Board Interactive Toy
There are a wide variety of enrichment toys available to keep your feline active and prevent boredom. There are self-play toys such as the FroliCat CHEESE Automatic Cat Teaser. Useful when they are home alone.
Then there are interactive toys that are designed to strengthen the bond between you and your cat. The Cat Activity Fun Circle Interactive Toy is a game you can enjoy together, which is also suitable for older or sick pets and provides different activities on two different sides.
Take a look at our full range of Cat Strategy Games to find something to keep your kitty fully engaged.
So, do you know if your cat is bored? Take a look at this excellent article, Is Your Cat Bored? 10 Ways to Prevent Boredom, which explains how you can tell and provides some interesting ideas for enriching your cat’s environment.
Horses Need Enrichment Too!
The Likit Boredom Breaker for Horses with Likit Refills in 4 delicious flavours
In a 24-hour period, a lot of equines will only have a few hours of mental and physical human engagement so boredom vices can set in. Enrichment toys can provide welcome relief for them and hung in the stable, the Likit Boredom Buster will do just that. Developed to provide environmental enrichment, this challenging stable toy is designed to get horses to work for their reward and there are four scrumptious Likit Treat flavours to choose from (available separately).
Enrichment provides a way to stimulate a horse’s natural instincts and is crucial to their overall wellbeing. By engaging these instincts, they can become healthier, happier equines.
Stock up and be prepared
In summary, ensure that your pets have a well-stocked chest with a wide variety of toys and games for both physical and mental stimulation. You can’t make every minute of your pet’s life exciting, but you can go a long way to keep their boredom at bay!
Last month Daisy was unwell. She had an upset stomach which resulted in bouts of diarrhoea. That is bad enough when you have a dog with four working legs, but for a dog that cannot walk unaided, it is deeply unpleasant. The vet advised a bland chicken and rice diet, which we had already begun, but he also prescribed some paste which did the trick and she was soon back to normal. We were relieved, but of course, the bill followed! Now, we don’t begrudge paying for her treatment, but it got us thinking about natural alternatives. In the distant past, we had given our dogs pumpkin when they were unwell, so since it is now pumpkin season, we thought we would revisit the idea.
Why is pumpkin good for dogs?
Pumpkin provides a natural source of many beneficial vitamins and nutrients:
Potassium – an electrolyte essential for muscular contraction and recovery from activity
Vitamin C – one cup of pumpkin contains at least 11mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C is vital for its antioxidant and immune system supporting effects
Beta-Carotene – beneficial for preventing cancer. The bright orange colour is an indication of how rich it is in beta-carotene
Zinc – will help improve skin and coat
Vitamin A – which is important for your dog’s vision
One of the most common uses of pumpkin is for dogs suffering from diarrhoea. The natural fibre content of the pumpkin helps to slow down digestion by adding bulk to the dog’s stool. Experts recommend adding pumpkin to your dog’s normal dog food and this has widely been reported to act quickly to settle their stomach. We used to keep small bags of frozen pumpkin in our freezer for just that purpose.
Interestingly enough, while pumpkin is a great remedy for diarrhoea, it is equally effective at easing constipation. Naturally increasing the amount of soluble fibre in your dog’s diet will also help move things along in a comfortable way. Pumpkin is gentle, unlike some conventional drugs designed to relieve constipation. Once again, pumpkin can be added to your dog’s normal food in small quantities whilst ensuring that they have plenty of fresh water. Dehydration can have a direct link to constipation and will certainly make a pre-existing condition even worse.
Since we are in pumpkin season, it’s also an excellent opportunity to make some pumpkin treats for your dog, so we have a couple of recipes for you that are as easy as pie! These make great Jackpot treats so you can incorporate them into your training.
Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Bones
Always check your ingredients for Xylitol before using.
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup oil
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
or Ingredients for grain-free
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2cuporganic peanut butter
1/2cupcoconut oilmelted then slightly cooled
1 1/2cupscoconut flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Stir until a stiff dough forms.
Roll out dough to approx 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick.
Use a cookie cutter to cut out dog bone shapes, or just bake into little circles like cookies.
Bake for 13-15 minutes. Treats should have a slightly golden colour around the edges.
Cool on a wire rack.
Can be stored in airtight containers for up to three weeks.
Carob Icing For Pumpkin Bones
Unlike chocolate, carob is safe for dogs. You can buy it in various forms such as bars, chips or powder and it will turn your treats into something a bit special. Melting carob can be a little tricky – it doesn’t melt as easily as chocolate. The easiest way to melt carob chips is with a little coconut oil in a double boiler on the cooker.
Fill a saucepan a 1/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
Once the water reaches a rolling boil, turn it down to a simmer.
Place a heatproof bowl on top of a saucepan. It should fit tightly on top of the saucepan and shouldn’t touch the water. Make sure no steam gets into the bowl or it will ruin your melt.
Put 1/2 cup carob chips and 1 tablespoon coconut oil into the bowl. After a couple of minutes start to stir them around. Continue stirring until mixture reaches a smooth consistency and has no more lumps.
Dip biscuits into the melted carob immediately.
Make the carob icing when you’re ready to use it because you can’t successfully melt carob a second time. Store iced treats in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer!
Remember, once Halloween is over, pumpkins will be cheaper than ever. Why not buy a batch, chop, roast, puree and freeze for use throughout the year or alternatively check out these other super pumpkin recipes.
Cats can benefit from pumpkin too
One of the key nutritional qualities of pumpkin is that it is rich in fibre (the material from plants that cannot be broken down by enzymes in the body). Fibre can beneficial to cats in the following ways:
Weight control, fibre promotes a feeling of fullness, even if fewer calories are being taken in.
Treatment of diarrhoea. Pumpkin contains soluble fibre, and this can absorb excess water in the digestive tract, reducing or relieving diarrhoea.
Constipation. Conversely, a pumpkin’s high fibre content can act as a laxative. The combination of fibre and moisture can be of great benefit in creating bulk that stimulates bowel movements.
Hairballs in cats can be relieved by pumpkin through the same mechanism as it relieves constipation.
Fresh roasted pumpkin seeds, without any salts or spices, can be fed to cats. They have been rumoured to help with worm infestations. Although we don’t see as much of it in the UK, you can buy canned pumpkin without additives, spices or sugar which is also perfect for your feline friend. And lastly, you can feed fresh pumpkin that has been baked until soft.
It is advisable to start with very small amounts of pumpkin if you are planning to add it to your cat’s diet and, of course, for expert advice, speak to your vet first, especially if your cat is unwell.