Think of puzzles for pets as the Sunday crossword and a sweat session at the gym rolled into one. Yes, games for pets not only exercise brainpower but also tap into their wild instinct to hunt down a hidden treat or toy. “If your animal isn’t getting its normal amount of aerobic activity, puzzles can help channel that energy through mental stimulation,” says Victoria Wells, senior manager of shelter behavior and training at the ASPCA. Start with something easy, and increase the level of difficulty when your pet seems ready.
1. Bounce it Hide a tiny surprise inside this eco-friendly rubber ball, or bring it to the park sans treat for a game of fetch. An added bonus: Twenty percent of the company’s profits go to charity. Nebo ball, $10, chewsyourcause.com
2. Chew it Like the classic coneshaped Kong toys—but better: This cylindrical version can be stuffed with kibble and connected with other toys from Kong’s Genius line. Kong Genius Mike, $11, petsmart.com
3. Pin it It’s tricky to nail down a treat that’s tucked into the star-shaped opening in the Orbitron. When your cat or dog paws at it, the toy wobbles and spins, just like a top. Zanies Orbitron, $5, petedge.com
4. Roll it Inside a transparent plastic shell is a food maze. Your pup will have to bat the ball around in just the right way to release the snack. Orbee-Tuff Mazee, $17, planetdog.com
5 . Flip it This one’s for advanced puzzle solvers, as it’s a two-part game. Treats are covered with flaps and sliding disks. The flaps are revealed by rotating moving wheels. Spot Seek-a-Treat Flip ’N Flap dog puzzle, $20, wag.com
6. Knock it Despite the bone motif, both dogs and cats can play this game. Your pet should try to paw or nuzzle away each bone to reveal the hidden delights. Dog Magic, $29, amazon.com
7. Swipe it Stashing a few of your feline’s favorite playthings (and even a little catnip) in this puzzle encourages its natural predatory behavior. Peek-and-Play toy box, $20, pioneerpet.com
8. Slide it Another tough nut to crack, this toy requires your dog to slide or flip wooden pieces from side to side to nab the stowed-away treats. Zanies Slide N’ Seek interactive dog puzzle, $16, petedge.com
Copyright © 2013, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Originally published in the February issue of Martha Stewart Living.