Dogs and cats are naturally inquisitive and active. It is known that certain dog breeds have been bred with a job, or purpose in mind, and the same can be said for cats. Pet enrichment helps promote our pets natural abilities, while reducing their stress, and boredom. There are several categories of enrichment that can be explored to find the ones that work best with your pet.
Food is probably one of the most known types of pet enrichment. Toppers for your pets’ food is one of the newer additions to the pet food industry in recent years. Food enrichment can also be as simple as creating a frozen treat that will require our furry companions to slowly work with or wait for some defrosting to occur. Hiding treats around the yard, home, or inside puzzles for our pets to discover and navigate the process of getting to the food also helps promote our pets natural foraging habits. Food enrichment can also be combined with other pet enrichment categories to boost the effects.
Toys for cats and dogs can vary widely between species and breed, and this variety can be great for pet enrichment. For dogs we typically see chew toys, both hard and soft, puzzles, balls, fetch toys and slow feeders. For cats we see the tiny little mice, a variety of toys with feathers, flirt string/wire toys, and wobble treat dispensers. Some of these combine with food, while others require your active participation, and others you can prep and let your pet experience the fun. Some toys can be the unexpected items that bring entertainment to your pets and you… such as boxes or paper bags for kitties. Dogs may surprise you with turning a blanket or dog bed into a toy as well. We want to make sure we help guide our pets in finding toys that are safe, acceptable, and positive experiences. A few of our furry companions may find enjoyment out of pouncing on another furry friend, or ourselves, or even a non domesticated critter outside, which can lead to injuries to all parties that we would like to avoid.
Sensory of course involves activating our senses by utilizing sound, sight, touch, smell and taste. You can introduce new sounds to the environment by using recorded sounds, or videos on the tv. This is great for training and preparing an animal for a new change coming their way, such as a baby, or move to area that might have a different sound than they are used to. Jet planes in Virginia Beach as an example. Smells and new sights can be achieved by taking your dog to a different area for a walk than they are used to exploring. You might introduce cats to new smells by lightly spraying different scents on the previously mentioned bags, and boxes. New scents for pets to adjust to could also be smells from a hospital or new job. If you are in the animal care industry, you are most likely a walking sensory item for pets. Touch can also be a new experience for pets. Maybe they have only lived in a house with carpet, and they are experiencing hard floors for the first time. You can also change up textures with floor mats, and blankets. We have all seen the videos of dogs and their snow boots. Heck even them experiencing snow whether it is the first time, or one of many previous experiences with the white stuff it is a sensory enriching experience. Pet enrichment can be as unique as our pets.
Cognitive pet enrichment also equates to training. Presenting your pet with a challenge they must learn to navigate to earn a reward. This can be training them in basic commands, to trick training, and even agility type activities. Cognitive activities make the pet use their thought process to make choices, and navigate obstacles. Yes, for those doubters, you can train cats too. Food can be combined with activities and items to create brain teasers.
Habitat changes can be a combination of the other enrichments above, as well as creating species specific adjustments to their environments. Kitties love to climb and watch birds. You can build or buy a catio. You can also build shelves or walkways for the kitties to have perches around the house. Kitties also like warm places to snooze during the cooler days, so providing cave like spots, or other hide-a-ways, and cat trees can provide your kitty with the perfect snooze spot. Dogs can benefit from outdoor spaces to enjoy running, jumping and exploring. Dogs are also pack animals, and enjoy being social. So doggie friends can be a blessing for those dogs who are accepting. That said, dogs enjoy spending time with you, their family, so be sure to reserve time in your day to be with your dog by taking a walk, sitting together, or even a nice grooming session with a brush will provide the perfect pet enrichment activites.
By providing pet enrichment activities to our pets’ lives, we are helping to meet their needs for a well rounded, happy life. Encouraging them to build on their natural instincts and helping them to thrive!