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Help pets cope with Minnesota's long, rough winter

Even the most fervent fans of snow are getting annoyed with this winter in Minnesota.
Even the most fervent fans of snow are getting annoyed with this winter in Minnesota.
Sara Duane-Gladden

It’s been a tough winter, for people and animals alike. Many pets are suffering from cabin fever just as much as humans are. How can people help pets to cope?

It seems like variations of the same phrase are on every Minnesotan’s lips these days: “When is this winter going to end? Is spring on its way, yet? Are we doomed to live in a snowy wasteland for the rest of our lives?” When people feel this way, it’s likely that pets that spend a lot of time indoors can feel even more stir crazy, due to the fact that animals experience time differently than humans do. They don’t have the same understanding of seasons, and as far as they know, this winter really will last forever.

There is no way to make the snow and cold go away faster, but there are some things that pet custodians can do to help their furry friends make it through the winter without getting too bad of a case of cabin fever. Read on for five tips to help pets cope with a long, rough winter.

  1. Exercise. Part of the reason why this winter is so frustrating is due to the amount of snow and the number of days with temperatures below freezing. It makes people more likely to stay inactive and indoors, which means pets are more likely to be inactive and stay indoors. Taking the dog for a walk or fishing for cats with a string toy can help work of stress, both for the pets and for the people.
  2. Toys. People can’t be there to entertain pets all the time; toys are great for keeping pets entertained while the humans are away or busy. Chewpproof toys for dogs and catnip-stuffed toys for cats can give pets hours of fun, without need for human interaction. They can also be a great distraction for those times when pets seem particularly needy.
  3. Sunlight. Though the winter has been cold and snowy, there has been one literally bright, shining light that has been pretty constant, and that is the sun. It hasn’t been as overcast as most winters in the past. Sunlight can help with processing and synthesizing vital nutrients and also help to stave off anxiety in depression, both in people and in pets. Throw open the windows next time there is a sunny day.
  4. Cuddles. “If you can’t beat them, join them.” The winter will go away on it’s own time, Minnesota residents might as well carry on with the usual traditions of winter, and one of them is cuddling and getting cozy. Touch can have a very soothing effect on both people and pets. Spend some quality time stroking, petting and scratching Fido or Fifi every day.
  5. Travel. Many Minnesotans are notorious snow birds who travel when the weather gets rough. People who might be considering a weekend trip or even a weeklong vacation to warmer weather for a little relief might consider taking their pets with, provided the travel arrangements are safe. If the vacation will be a road trip, the accommodations should be easy enough, but if booking a flight, be sure to find out the airline’s pet policy. Some air travel providers have better track records of keeping pets safe than others.

Many of the solutions for cabin fever suffered by pets is similar to those that humans would pursue. The difference is, however, that when people feel cooped up, they can just go outside, for example, while pets rely on humans to let them out and make sure they are safe. It’s up to humans to help pets cope well with the long hard winter that Minneapolis and greater Minnesota have been experiencing this year.

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