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
Has our life here changed under lockdown? To be honest, on a day-to-day basis, not that much.
We work from home, we have plenty of space to walk the dogs, and our families live a fair distance away, so we don’t get to see them that often under normal circumstances. Nonetheless, we have still ‘felt’ a restriction – the sense of not being able to go out, even for something trivial, just because we want to.
For others though, we understand that the adjustment has been huge and much more difficult to make, but we have heard so many stories about how creative people have been throughout this unprecedented period and how they have filled their time with new challenges and hobbies. We found it quite inspiring, in many ways.
Escape to the Garden
Lately, we have spent lots of time outdoors in the garden. We have recovered our polytunnel which was lost in a severe storm several years ago.
In early April, the polytunnel looked like this, with the hoops and refurbished rails.
Reconstructing the polytunnel: 05/04/20
And this is how it looks today. It’s amazing how quickly everything has grown and we are looking forward to a bumper harvest. We are already enjoying fresh herbs, spinach and rocket.
The polytunnel today: 24/05/20
We have also taken a keen interest in all the wildlife in our garden and have installed several bird boxes which were occupied in no time, especially this cute little caravan.
Although we have been lucky enough not to call upon their services, we are truly grateful to NHS and care workers for what they are doing. Just knowing they are there has been hugely reassuring to us.
We would also like to thank all of the other unsung heroes that have kept us going over the past three months. The delivery drivers who continue to deliver stock to us. Royal Mail who have maintained regular postal collections without missing a beat so that we could get orders out the door to our customers. Plus a special mention to the shop workers who have kept us fed and the bin men who ensured we weren’t overrun with rubbish. The many others who work in difficult circumstances, too.
How have your lives changed during this awful pandemic? Have you learned lessons that you will take forward, or will you just be glad when it’s all over?
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!
When we first came across KONG Dog Toys, which must be twenty years ago now, they didn’t look like the most exciting dog toy we had ever seen. In fact, probably like a lot of people, we saw them as a tough chew toy with an erratic bounce. Our dogs just weren’t that interested.
How wrong can you be?
The secret to the Classic, Puppy, Senior, Extreme, and indeed the Kitty KONG, is that it’s a hollow rubber receptacle for all sorts of doggy, or feline delights. It has holes at both ends, one large and one small. The key KONG ingredient is the stuffing. That’s what makes it so special and so very useful.
The inside of a KONG
Let your dog, or cat, in on the secret
Firstly, you need to get your dog or cat interested in it. Once they understand what it’s all about they will not only want it but love it. To begin with, you just need to fill it with a couple of their favourite treats. Something they really enjoy, that they can smell, and that will easily slip out of the large opening. Try this for a few days. Don’t hand them their favourite treat, put it in a KONG and let them get it out themselves.
As soon as they understand that this ‘toy’ is the bearer of delicious snacks, they will start to get excited as soon as they see it.
You can work on this, gradually stuffing the KONG with other delights and making it a tad more difficult for the dog to get out. Make them work for it. Plug the small hole at the bottom with peanut butter (check it’s Xylitol free) or cream cheese and then fill with a variety of treats. Leave a longish chew sticking out to get them started.
A fully loaded KONG
Eventually, you could dispense with your food bowl and feed them their meals in the KONG. You can also freeze the filled KONG which is great for hot sunny days; a KONG Popsicle, or to make them longer lasting.
It can take your dog a couple of hours to fully empty the KONG and lick the peanut butter or maybe liver pâté from the bottom so they are perfect to extend play-time and can help distract them if they suffer from separation anxiety.
Problem behaviours can be helped with a KONG
Feed their minds
An excellent enrichment toy. They are perfect boredom busters if they are confined to a crate, hopefully, cut down on chewing and stimulate them mentally at the same time. We had one dog, Sophie, who was KONG mad. She had developed a foolproof method of getting every last grain from her KONG toy. She would take it to the top of the stairs and drop it. As it bounced down the steps the treats would come tumbling out and she would snaffle them up!
It’s important to get the correct size for your dog so do check out the detailed KONG size chart before purchasing. And take another look at this seemingly simple KONG toy, now that you know how to unlock its secrets.
It’s important to get the right size for your dog. If in doubt, size up.
You may also like our short video on how to stuff a KONG, and you can find plenty of inventive KONG stuffing recipes at BARKTHINK, or maybe your cat may be partial to a Kitty KONG stuffed with bacon and eggs?
Sit back and be amazed at how your much your dog loves its KONG. And the good news for us humans is that when they’ve emptied it, we can stick it in the dishwasher.
But of course, your cat can benefit from a KONG in the same way your dog does. Cats go absolutely crazy over the Kitty KONG once they learn to use it; it’s an excellent way to keep your cat occupied and challenged.
The original and the best KONG
The KONG range
Since their original and we think best ever invention, the KONG Company have branched out and now do a wide range of enrichment toys for dogs and cats. See our full range of exciting and innovative KONG products here.
We have a wide range of KONG products, both new and old favourites