Don’t Fence Me In: Helping Inside Pets Get Their Energy Out


A big back yard may be a pet’s paradise, but it doesn’t always take green to make them grin. City-dwellers are cooped up compared to their country counterparts, but they can still have fun in the concrete jungle.

If living in a high rise has your furry friend feeling low, it’s time to enrich their environment. A few tweaks to let pets engage in species-typical behavior will satisfy your best friend’s physical and psychological needs—no nature necessary!

Here are six simple solutions for making a city slicker feel like an urban cowboy (or girl).

let them peer at the frontier
Visual access to a window can provide much-needed sensory enrichment for an apartment-dwelling dog or cat. And because you’re not right at street level, the chance your pup will bark at every passerby is virtually non-existent. Move a piece of furniture where your furry friend can set up camp and stare out yonder, or buy a window perch for pets. Surveying the surroundings is important for cats, who love to lounge up high, so even if you don’t have a view, a perch is a must-have for every feline friend.

make sure your home’s not a ghost town
You wouldn’t leave a pet in the pitch dark when you venture out, so why leave them in silence? Stimulating a pet’s sense of hearing is an important part of environmental enrichment. Keep the TV on when you’re not home, or play pet-appropriate music (think classical melodies, not death metal). Not only will some sound help keep minds occupied, but it drowns out noisy neighbors that can frighten cats and cause dogs to bark.

provide toys to horse around with
Toys are one of the easiest and most effective ways to create indoor entertainment for four-legged friends. Playthings in varying shapes, sizes, squeakers, textures, scents and even flavors can engage all the senses and provide hours of fun (just be sure to supervise pets—especially strong chewers). To keep toys novel, give your pet two or three a day to play with, and then rotate which toys they have access to every few days.

rope in their noses
Wild dogs spend about 80% of their waking hours scavenging for food, and cats are natural-born hunters. All that sniffing is enriching. Because pets in the city don’t work for food, providing other opportunities to flex their nostrils will help satisfy their natural itch to sniff. Try hiding treats around the house for your pet to “hunt,” or use puzzle feeders to make them problem-solve for food.

blaze happy trails
If you live in a small apartment, chances are your pet’s paws touch just about every surface of it. Make his moseying more interesting by switching up the tactile sensations underfoot. Place a few small rugs or runners with various textures around your home and switch them out every now and then to keep your furry friend on his toes.

say howdy partner
City life presents endless opportunities for your pet to make friends (though your cat may be pickier about her companions). Set up a meet-and-greet or play date with another pet in your building, try the local dog park to engage with a pack, or sign up for doggy daycare once or twice a week. If your pup finds groups overwhelming, a walk with another dog can satisfy his need for socialization. Furry friends who prefer the company of humans can go with you on errands to pet-friendly places.

City living on four-legs doesn’t have to mean going stir-crazy inside all the time. A few pet-minded adjustments can keep them from climbing the walls and ensure you happily ride off into the sunset together.

— published in fetch! magazine, the “Inside Out” issue