Tina’s Guide to a Great Hiking Spot

5 Ways to Engage your Cat with a Busy Schedule


Understanding the natural rhythm of a cat’s activities is key to promoting their overall health and well-being. Cats have evolved to follow a cycle centered around “the hunt,” which influences their metabolism, hunger, digestion, grooming, and sleep patterns. In this blog, we delve into the importance of this instinctual behavior and how it impacts your cat’s physical and mental health, as well as explore practical ways to incorporate the hunt into their daily routine, even for busy cat owners.

Cats have evolved to keep a rhythm of activities that keep their metabolism in check. This sequence affects every part of their daily metabolic processes, ranging from their hunger and digestion to their grooming and sleep cycles. Let’s take a look at how this rhythm impacts their daily health.

The Importance of ‘The Hunt’

Think about how a lioness lives in the wild: She sleeps during the midday hours. When she’s not sleeping, she spends most of her time hunting her next meal; roaming her territory in search of prey, then stalks, pounces, and catches it. After she eats, she grooms herself and goes back to sleep. And while you may not have a wild lioness sleeping in your home, your feline’s entire physiology is still optimized to run this cycle centered around the hunt.

How does this affect my cat?How to engage cat in play for health

Unlike a lioness, household cats do not have to hunt several times a day and often have access to food 24/7. It’s no wonder then, why roughly 60% of cats in the U.S. are obese1. While diet and nutrition play an integral role in that statistic, daily activity levels (or lack thereof) also contribute to this epidemic. Here’s why:

  1. Exercise from play time (the hunt) increases the metabolic rate. Without adequate exercise, the body doesn’t burn as much energy as it consumes, resulting in excess fat. Extra weight of course puts strain on the joints, leading to decreased mobility and even less exercise.
  2. Lack of positive interaction/activity can lead to destructive and unwanted behaviors. Just like humans, a cat’s mental health can benefit from regular exercise and socialization. Cats who are generally mischievous or destructive, disinterested, unsocial, grouchy, or fearful can benefit greatly from play sessions.
  3. Exercising the mind and body can reduce stress for your cat as much as it does for you. We can all benefit from stress relief! Not to mention that interactive play is a wonderful, effective way to bond with your cat.

How can I apply this to my cats when I work all day?

There are several ways that you can improve your cat’s mental and physical health – even when you work a 9 to 5! Here are some easy changes you can make, even with a busy schedule:

  1. Stop free-feeding (leaving food out all day). A cat’s digestive system and the entire metabolic process are triggered at the sight and smell of food. Leaving food out all day means your cat’s digestive system is constantly in production mode, which can lead to numerous health issues including obesity, diabetes and IBD.
  2. Increase meal frequency. Cats thrive on frequent small meals each day instead of one or two large meals. Feed as soon as you wake, when you get home from work, and again right before bed. This does not mean to feed more food, but rather to divide your feeding measurement into more, smaller meals. This closely mimics their meals if they were hunting. Doing so will ease digestion and speed metabolism.
  3. Have a short play session before mealtime. Engage your cat in a 2-minute game with a laser dot or wand toy before you feed her. This activity engages her mind and taps into her instinctual behavior to hunt and kill her prey.
  4. Regularly engage your cat in short play sessions, especially in the evening before bed. This not only gets her some much-needed exercise to burn energy, but also benefits her mental health through interaction and socialization. This is particularly important if your cat wakes you up in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn. A tired kitty will want to sleep later!

An Important Best Practice

Always give your cat a treat after playtime. If we’re thinking of a play session as “the hunt”, then it’s important to allow your cat to catch and eat what it was hunting. Otherwise, why bother hunting at all, right? Find some treats that your cat goes bananas for, and after a few minutes of chasing the red dot, give verbal praise and offer the treat This is exceptionally important for your cat’s mental health, as hunting repetitively without a successful kill can be very discouraging.



2 Simple Tips for Mental Enrichment: Straight From a Dog Trainer

As everyone is going back into the office or back to school, our dogs will soon be home alone and left to their own devices.  Too often we hear owners focus solely on physically tiring their pups but forget to tire them mentally.  Here are two ways to provide mental enrichment for your dog so that they don’t get bored while everyone is gone:

Transform every meal time into training time.

Whether you’re teaching obedience commands like “’sit”, “down”, or “heel”, or have graduated to teaching tricks like “paw”, and “roll-over”, making your dog work for every bite of food goes a long way. Some dogs will master the “let’s try every trick” approach until they get the treat.  There is very little mental work in paying no attention and trying everything for every command.  We want to have our dogs slow down, pay attention, and carefully choose which behavior they know is associated with the command.

Tip: Since dogs read gestures and body language much better than they understand verbal cues, try to pair a hand gesture with each command.  Say the command first, then provide the gesture, then reward them.  There are millions of free videos on youtube or the tips and tricks section of our Instagram account @knottydog has some great pointers.

Get your dog ready for you to leave before you actually leave.

Teach dogs to sit calmly in place.

Designating a “place” can encourage calmness.

If your dog follows you around the house when you’re home doing routine activities, there is a good chance that when everyone leaves for the day, it will be very challenging for them. Practice a “place” or a “crate” command while everyone is home. Give the dog something to chew on while they are away from you in this space.  The more we help our dogs practice being alone/away from us even while we are home, the more ready they will be for the moments when we all actually leave.  Practicing being calm and relaxed away from everyone is a huge confidence builder, and can be very mentally draining if they are used to always being close.

There are tons of resources for teaching these commands online and if you ever need help with implementation, send us an email or find us on Facebook! 

About the Author: Bryan Heafy

Bryan is a dog trainer behind the Knotty Dog. The Knotty Dog strives to empower dog owners to pursue the best in themselves and in their dogs. We believe that when it comes to our dogs, it starts with us and our relationship with them. As a society we have trended towards calling our dogs our fur babies. However, our responsibility as parents with children is to teach them good decision making in order for them to grow, our responsibility to our dogs is the very same. We believe that teaching clear communication and fostering a relationship with respect and relevance are a cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

The Turboscratcher: Fun for Your Cat AND You

Watch the ball go around and around and around. The Turboscratcher will provide hours of entertainment for your cat…and maybe even you!

Watch the Video

3 Questions to Ask when Finding the Perfect Dog Chew

Who is your chewer?

Breed: Some breeds (such as pitties and shepherds) are known for their jaw strength, while other breeds like collies and terriers) are known for their ability to problem-solve. Is your dog craving a tough chew to gnaw on, or simply needs a chew to keep their mind occupied?

Age: Teething puppies need a slightly softer chew to help soothe sore gums. Similarly, senior dogs may need softer chews for aging teeth. 

Size: Regardless of age and breed, dog size/weight plays a crucial role in choosing any toy or chew. Any chew that is too small for your dog poses a potential choking hazard, so if you’re unsure of which size is best, always size up!

What type of chewer are they?

Extreme: For the toughest chewers, Benebones offer a wide array of sizes and flavors in a long-lasting ergonomically-shaped toy. 

Destructive: Look for durable rubber chew toys (like Kong or West Paw) or strong natural chews such as elk antlers and buffalo horns. 

Picky: Aromatic chews–like bully sticks and pig ears–appeal more to dogs that prefer a tasty chewy treat over a tough bone-type chew. 

Clever: If your dog enjoys a good puzzle, look for rubber toys or natural chew options that allow you to stuff with your own filling. Classic Kong toys are a great entry point for this, or for something more challenging, try the West Paw Toppl. Take it to the next level by putting the filled toy in the freezer for a longer-lasting treat. 

How long do you want it to last?

Quick: For a chew that will keep your pup busy for a short sitting, look for natural digestible chews composed of dehydrated skin, tendon, and cartilage. These include body parts like duck feet, pig ears, and bully sticks. 

Longer: For something that will last longer than a single sitting, try a stuffed marrow bone or Kong toy, a split elk antler, or a water buffalo horn. Himalayan yak milk chews are another option for longer-lasting digestible chews. 

Longest: While chew duration is relative to the size and strength of your dog, some of the longest lasting options available are raw recreational bones, elk antlers, and Benebones. 


Chew toys and treats that work for one dog may not work for another dog. While these recommendations are intended to assist your purchase decisions, accidents happen and there is risk associated with dog chews of any kind. 

*No toy or chew is indestructible. All chews should be fed under supervision only.*

Caring for Small Animals | A Guide to Hamsters, Gerbils, and Rabbits

The reason you’re reading this is that you have some interest in the small animal world, whether it pertains to chinchillas, guinea pigs, mice, rats, rabbits, gerbils or hamsters. In this article, you will learn about the nutrition, housing, and health concerns your small pet will need/have. Most small animals share the same nutrition and housing needs, but there are some variations as well. 

Recommended Nutrition: 

  • Hay: Your small pet should have unlimited access to high-fiber hay.  Offering hay helps prevent obesity, diarrhea, dental disease, or boredom in our smaller pets. Also, it tends to mimic their natural habitats where they can burrow and nest. There are many kinds of hay to be offered but the most common are alfalfa, oat hay, and western timothy. Alfalfa hay is commonly used in young, pregnant, nursing, or ill pets because it is higher in nutritional elements. Mice, rats, gerbils and hamsters tend to like oat hay better due to the immature seed heads that are very tasty to them. 
  • Fortified foods (foods that have nutrients added to them): this category pertains to the pellets we generally feed our small pets. Feeding these pellets benefit our pets by giving them the vitamins and minerals they require to stay healthy. Guinea pigs especially need fortified food as they require up to 10-30 mg of Vitamin C per day. Insufficient Vitamin C can lead to scurvy, a disease that affects the organs, bones, and joints. When picking a pellet for your pet, avoid any pellet mixes that include nuts, corn, seeds, and fruit, as it will deter your pet from wanting the healthy pellets instead.

    chinchilla nutrition toys

    Chinchillas enjoy enrichment toys.

  • Greens: Including fresh greens into your pet’s diet increases hydration and also provides a variety of vitamins and minerals. Common greens that can be offered are romaine, bib lettuce, and red leaf lettuce. Mice and rats can have a wider variety including kale, parsley, strawberries, apples (without their seeds), bananas, peas, and squash. The three main greens you should avoid giving your small pet are leeks, chives, and onions. 

Treats: Offering your small pet treats will help build a bond between you and your pet, but they should only be offered sparingly.  Giving treats frequently can lead to an aversion to their healthier foods. 

Housing and Accessories: 

  • Cages: The type and size of cage you need depend on the type of small animal you have.  The most common cages are plastic, wire, and glass with solid bottoms. Chinchillas and guinea pigs prefer to have multi-level cages as they are very active and like their space. However, smaller animals like hamsters and gerbils may also benefit from extra space allowing for greater span for exercise. 
  • Bedding: The most popular options for bedding are soft, paper-based materials. Avoid cedar and pine shavings as they contain resin and can irritate your pet’s lungs. Also, a blanket or pouch offers your pet a place to burrow and hide. 
  • Feeding and water bowls: You will need a feeding dish for your pet’s pellets. It is also recommended to have at least 2 fresh, clean water dishes and/or spouts for your pet at all times.
  • Toys/Extras: Cardboard tubes, exercise wheels, wood toys, exercise balls, plastic housing, and litter boxes (depending on the animal) are recommended for small animal habitats. Also, chinchillas require dust baths due to the density of their fur and their oily skin. 

Health & Behavior:

  • You should bring your pet at least once a year to your exotic veterinarian for an annual check-up and discuss diet, behavior, and health. 
  • Most small animals are very active and require attention for social enrichment. This can be accomplished with toys in the cage and/or a playpen area where you can bring your pet out of its cage for a couple of hours a day.
  • Some small animals are also nocturnal and should be handled with care while they are sleeping.
  • Certain small animals use vocalization to show emotions which is completely normal.
  • If you ever see your small animal eating its own stool, do not be alarmed as this is normal because it contains certain vitamins and minerals. 

Reasons to contact your vet: abnormal eating/drinking, sores on feet, overgrown teeth, lethargy, blood in urine, sneezing or trouble breathing, wet or soiled tail (hamsters/gerbils), loose/soft/lack of stool, or bald patches in the fur.



Oxbow Animal Health. Oxbow Animal Health, www.oxbowanimalhealth.com/.

Riggs, Natalie. “Do Guinea Pigs Need Vitamin C? #Absolutely, They Do.: Small Pet Select.” Small Pet Select Blogs, 30 Nov. 2019, smallpetselect.com/the-importance-of-vitamin-c-for-guinea-pigs/.

How Do I Make My Dog Eat Slower?

Engage Your Pooch: Fun Ways to Keep Your Dog Mentally and Physically Active

More people are home with their pets these days and just like their humans, pets need to stay both mentally and physically engaged. Rather than have your dog decide how to entertain himself (i.e. eating your favorite shoes or chewing on your couch cushions) here are a few ideas to try out with your pooch.

Teach your dog to “Find It!”

Teaching your dog the basics of scent work is both mentally and physically engaging for your pet by making him feel useful and productive.  All you need are some treats and/or toys. Have your dog “stay” in a certain spot. Place a bit of food or his favorite toy at the other end of the room. Give your dog a command to “find it”. After doing this a few times your dog will understand what you want him to do.

Once your dog seems to know “find it” try increasing the nose challenge. While your dog is in the stay position put the treat or toy out of his line of sight.  The idea is to increase the distance between your pet and the treat/toy.

Using a treat that is “smelly” and putting it out of his line of sight is a great way to teach your dog to use his sense of smell and not sight.  Be sure to shower your dog with praise when he finds the treat.  While teaching this skill, you may want to begin by dragging the treat along the floor to create a scent path until he gets more adept at using his nose.  Place treats in various locations around your home, some easier to find and others more of a challenge.

Another simple nose work game is “which hand”.  Hide a treat in one of your hands while your dog watches and ask your dog “which one”?  If he chooses the wrong hand don’t give him the treat.  When he chooses the correct hand, reward him with the treat and lots of praise.  He will learn to use his nose rather than eyes to find the treat.

Interaction & Play

In addition, to “hide and seek” with treats and toys, there are a number of other games you can play with Rover.  Here are a few:

Tug of War:  Always fun for dogs, a good teaching tool and great exercise.

Fetch: Of course, only if you have the space to do this safely!

Puzzle games: There are many different “treat” puzzles on the market to challenge your pet. We have several options like snuffle mats, Paw5 bowls, Mine Pet Platters, Kong Toys, Licki Mats & more!

Chasing bubbles: All you need is just a bottle and a wand. Bubble stuff is generally non-toxic and this can be great exercise.

How to choose the right toy

Toys provide a great outlet for your pup’s mental and physical energy. A popular one is a stuffed Kong. You can stuff the toy with a variety of treats that will keep your pet busy and entertained. Another great option is our new Licki Mats – these are textured silicone mats that you can put yogurt, peanut butter, canned food, etc. and freeze it!  This provides a long-lasting treat that results in a tired pup! Again, dogs love a challenge and these are great ones that tend to hold up to dogs who may need tougher options. Luckily, they make various sizes for all size dogs!

Why chewing matters

Chewing is a great form of mental stimulation because it allows them to focus on one thing to engage various muscles that surround their jaw resulting in one tired pup!  Great all-natural, non-toxic options include Earth Animal No-Hides, Stash bully sticks, raw bones, duck necks, turkey necks, antlers, water buffalo horns, and more!

Note: We do have great “Boredom Bag” options – our staff will ask you a variety of questions to determine your dog’s likes, dislikes, sensitivities, activity level, and chewing habits to create a customized bag of treats, toys and extra surprises for your cat or dog!

Master the basics…and more

dogs hiking running jumping over log

OK – so we’re all a little guilty (maybe) for letting our dogs off easy. Brush up on basic obedience, or take the opportunity to teach your dog basic obedience commands: sit, down, stay, drop it, and come here.

Take it a step further and teach your dog basic impulse control commands: wait, stay, settle, down, and “place”.  Start by teaching your dog to look at you.  Always reward patient behavior.

Teach your dog a new “skill” like putting their toys away, naming their toys, and finding their toys.  Start with one specific toy that you give a name.  With some practice and praise your dog will learn his specific toys by name.

When teaching your dog a new trick, you may consider clicker training as an option.  This uses conditioning to teach your dog that when he hears the clicker he will get a treat for doing the task he was asked.


Sure, not all dogs are fans of being groomed but it does need to be done now and then.  Brushing, bathing, nail trimming … reward good behavior with treats and praise. It’s important to remember to be patient, dogs can pick up on our anxiety and stress – stay calm!

Calm time

It doesn’t always have to be about physical and mental challenges.  Some snuggling together on the couch, a “doggie massage”, or even reading to your dog can be a wonderful way to spend some quality time with your dog.

If your dog is normally crated when you are at work, it is probably best to continue to utilize crate time for short periods of time during our quarantine times. This may help to reduce separation anxiety when we do begin to return to work.

From teaching your dog tricks, basic scent training, playing games, and providing chew treats/toys there are many great options to keep your pet mentally and physically challenged.


Publications: Cammack, N.R., Yamka, R.M., and Adams, V.J. (2021). Low Number of Owner-Reported Suspected Transmission of Foodborne Pathogens From Raw Meat-Based Diets Fed to Dogs and/or Cats. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.741575.