Simple, constructive activities to make pets happier
If your family is starting to get a little stir-crazy as summer winds on, it’s a good idea to find constructive ways to keep everybody occupied. If you’re looking for a fun project, why not do something for the furry and feathered friends in your life?
1. Build a cozy doghouse
Even if your dog spends most of his or her time inside, a nice snug doghouse can give them a welcome retreat that feels safe and secure. Doghouses are a snap to build with proper instructions essentially it’s just a wooden box but make sure your materials are appropriate. Pressure-treated wood is often treated with toxic chemicals, and steer clear of paint if your dog is prone to nervous licking. Also, be wary of using too much padding; dogs are perfectly comfortable without it, and it can be a haven for fleas and ticks.
The most important concern for your doghouse is temperature if you live in a hot climate, look for a more open, well-ventilated design, and use tin roofing to deflect sunlight. If it’s chilly, dark shingles will help soak up warmth and thicker walls will help insulate the interior. This is mainly a project for parents and older kids who can use tools safely.
2. Make bird feeders
Bird feeders, on the other hand, are a fantastic creative project even for toddlers. Mix the following ingredients in a large bowl:
- 3 tbsp corn syrup
- æ cup flour
- 1 tbsp agar agar (a gelatin substitute)
- ? cup water
Mix to create the base of your bird feeder; then have kids knead in 4 cups of bird seed (take your time; this step is messy and a lot of fun). Coat a pie pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray, and then spread your feeder goop evenly. Kids can use cookie cutters or a plastic stylus to create designs for their feeders, and when they’re done, use a drinking straw to poke a hole in each one. Depending on the thickness, they should dry overnight then you can run a string through the hole you poked, and hang them up outside.
3. Install a pet door
This is another project for older kids, but its quite simple if you have the right tools. Stencil out a square of the appropriate size for your pet with a pencil and ruler, and then use a jigsaw to carve out your stencil. At the most basic, you can cover the exposed edges of the door with a simple rubber liner, and then attach a vinyl flap to the exterior with a door hinge. When you first install the doggy door, you never know who else you’ll let into the house, so use baby gates near the door for the first couple days, to limit the risk from raccoons and other wild animals.
4. Make pet toys
This is a great project for younger kids. For a sturdy, braided tug-of-war toy, a parent or older child can cut up strips of denim or old towels. Then, the whole family can braid the fabric into the desired shapes. They don’t last forever, but it’s a great way to put old scrap fabric to use.
Old socks can be used to create all kinds of toys. Stick a crumpled plastic water bottle inside one and tie it off to create a crackling toy that is satisfyingly noisy and crunchy. A sock soaked in beef broth and frozen can make a tasty (but messy) treat let your pet take it outside to beat the heat.
5. Build an armoire aviary
It can be tough to find a cage or aviary that is both attractive for you, and comfy for your pet and many common cage designs can make birds feel exposed and vulnerable (and cranky). Find an attractive dresser or armoire at your local thrift shop, and knock out the cabinets and rollers to hollow out the interior. (You can leave some interior struts to allow your birds to perch.) You can use a jigsaw to carve additional openings in the sides and back of the armoire. Then, use chicken wire to cover the openings in the dresser, and you’ve got a classy, personalized aviary that will better mimic the feeling of a home in the shady protection of a tree.
Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.