What can we do as pet owners to make our pets lives more interesting and fun?
Our pets sit at home all day long with nothing to do but wait for us to return… To give them a more fun and interactive day we can provide them with enrichment activities for them to play with whilst we are away. These will not only keep them entertained, but provide them with some much-needed mental and physical exercise.
What is enrichment?
Behavioural Enrichment is focused on how animals interact with their physical and social environment. Pets should be able to carry out these
fun and safe activities through all life stages, although they may be presented in modified ways to make them more suited to your pet’s age and health. Enrichment provides pets with ways to explore and express their natural ‘doggy’, ‘kitty’ or ‘birdie’ behaviours in ways that are suitable in a home environment. This means less frustration and boredom and more enjoyment of life for your pet.
All pets are individuals and may respond differently to different forms of enrichment so it’s good to play around and see which activities and types suit your pet best. Having a regular routine is important for providing predictability to our pets but doing exactly the same thing every day can become boring, even for them. This is where enrichment comes in handy in that it gives them a different toy to play with, a different spot to sit on, an unusual smell in their everyday environment; or a familiar activity (e.g. playing fetch) in a completely new environment. This means enrichment can be as easy as changing your daily walk around or giving your pet a new treat toy – it doesn’t have to take too much time out of your day.
What are the different types of enrichment?
Enrichment can be presented in various forms:
- Sensory: sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste
- Food / Feeding: food puzzles, scattering food or a bone.
- Toys: Interactive play.
- Environmental: changes in their everyday surroundings.
- Behavioural/social: socialisation with other pets or people.
As mentioned above, pets are individuals, so not all of them will love every form of enrichment you provide. Nor are all forms suitable for every individual i.e. a cat that scared of dogs and visitors should not be plonked in the middle of the lounge room when the rowdy neighbours’ kids and dogs come over for a visit, but can be kept in a quiet area of the home with a puzzle toy until the visitors leave.
Enrichment activity ideas:
- Going for walks – This is great for owners and dogs to get out and spend some time together. Is work keeping you busy? Consider local dog walkers in your area
- Socialisation with other dogs and people – always ensure that your pets are exposed to a positive socialisation environment – if they’re looking scared or nervous, don’t force them to participate.
- Food games/ puzzles
- Turning the radio on
- Scent trails – Smells, smells, smells! This can be as simple as sprinkling some dried parsley or rosmary in a frequented spot in the garden.
- Outdoor enrichment areas – tunnels or ‘clam shell’ baby pools
- Toys – squeeky / chewy / wobbly – endless varieties
- Providing them with a view – pull the blinds up for them to look out the window
- Ice blocks in summer – hide treats or toys in the ice for them to get out, keeps them cool and entertained.
- Training: training is always fun and keeps them focused
- Food games and puzzles
- Scratching posts – try horizontal and vertical options. Try different textures – cardboard, carpet, an old tree stump…
- Changing their view – pulling the blinds up or moving their scratching post somewhere else
- Building a ‘cat-safe’ outdoor play area – this is especially useful for cats that are kept completely indoors
- Toys – fluffy / jingly / rolling – the list goes on
- Training your cat – yes this can be done!
- Playing music or the radio
- Aromatherapy – cat grass and catnip – although Australian cats generally enjoy cat grass, very often they won’t be too bothered with catnip.
Providing your pets with enrichment is so beneficial to their lives!
Some of these benefits include:
- Mental stimulation and exercise
- Reduction of boredom
- Physical exercise and agility
- Improved socialisation if done correctly
- Improved general welfare
- Introduction of new experiences with different sights, smells and sounds
An important word on Indoor cats:
Indoor cats lack the enrichment that outdoor cats get from sights and smells to climbing and exploring, so it is important that we make their days as interesting and enriching as we can, so they can get the same enrichment but from being indoors.
Providing enrichment for felines can be a difficult task but they do get just as many benefits as canines do. There are plenty of toys and ideas out on the market for cats that will help them with the enrichment they need. ‘Catit’ has released a range of new enrichment toys for cats which help stimulate their senses. Some of their new products include a food tree, scratcher, play circuits, a food digger and many more. However, it’s not always necessary to spend a lot of money – a couple of treats hidden in an empty tissue box; a game of ‘chase the ping-pong ball’ or catch the feather can be just as exciting to a kitty.
Whether you throw a ball for your dog or give your cat a scratching post, you are providing them with enrichment, making him or her a happier healthier pet. We hope you have fun creating and using these ideas in your home. Feel free to share them with us on our Facebook page – we would love to see and hear about what you have tried doing for your pets!
If you would like to know more about providing enrichment for your pets email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’ll be happy to help!