Your Guide to Pet Enrichment
Have you ever wondered what your pets do when you’re not at home? Most of the time, pets make their own fun zooming around the house and knocking things over when you least expect it, but sometimes they need a little extra help to stay entertained.
You might have heard experts talking about giving your pets something called enrichment, but you might not know exactly what that means. Enrichment involves stimulating your pet’s brain and giving them the opportunity to express their animal instincts such as chewing, rubbing, licking, hunting and foraging. Just as humans like to socialise, join clubs, learn new skills, or travel, pets also need engaging activities for their mental and physical health.
If your pet isn’t getting enough enrichment, they might express distressing or destructive behaviours, such as:
- Over-eating or loss of appetite
- Excessive vocalisation
- Inappropriate chewing
- Excessive scratching
Just think: would you like to spend every day in the same room with nothing to do, and nothing changing? You can understand why your pets might need something different every once in a while.
Every pet has unique needs you’ll want to consider for a pet enrichment program. But first, let’s take a look at the different types of pet enrichment, before diving into enrichment ideas and activities for your furry friends.
Types of pet enrichment
Involves stimulating the brain through puzzles, problem-solving or a change in environment.
Introducing new textures, tastes, sounds or smells into their environment.
Engaging with food in different ways, such as introducing new foods or presenting familiar food in a new way.
It goes without saying, this is all about exercise and play.
Engaging in general social interactions and species-specific behaviours with other pets or humans. Basically, running around the dog park, or hanging on the couch with friends.
Dog enrichment: Get their tail wagging
- Take your dog to the park regularly to socialise with other dogs and humans.
- All dogs should be exercised for at least 30 minutes a day. Go for a walk but change locations, or run your usual route backwards. Create backyard obstacle courses. Combine your fitness goals and work out together. Anything to get them moving!
- Use a snuffle/lick mat to encourage your dog’s licking instincts. It will keep them calm and happy for 15-30 minutes while you focus on other things… like the nail clippers.
- Teach your dog tricks! You provide them with cognitive stimulation and reward them with food, toys or treats at the same time!
- Freeze your dog’s food for a cool treat in the summer, or just a fun new way to eat.
Cat enrichment: Send them purring
- Use cat pheromones on your household furniture or give them some catnip for a new smell. Expect a lot of head butts and rubbing in return.
- Set up a cat window perch so your cat can watch the world go by. Put a bird feeder just outside your window for added entertainment.
- To get a bit closer to nature, consider a catio/enclosure so your feline friend can enjoy nature without risk to local wildlife.
- Have you ever wondered why cats love dripping taps? A drinking fountain gives your cat the opportunity to drink fresh running water and a welcome environmental change.
- Assemble a cat tree or other cat furniture to encourage their scratching and climbing instincts.
- Get a cat wheel – it’s like a treadmill for cats!
Rodent enrichment: Right at home
- Since rodents are prey animals, they tend to live in small groups, so a same-species companion is a must (except for hamsters, who are very territorial).
- Having a rotation of different hides (and at least one per pet) is an easy way to help them relax and feel at home.
- Chewing is important for their dental health, so include lots of chew toys made from non-toxic materials such as cardboard or wood.
- Use climbing toys, wheels or jungle gyms in their enclosures to encourage exercise but be mindful – you should never use wheels or balls for rabbits or guinea pigs.
Bird enrichment: Chirp for joy
- Use toys that allow them to move such as swings, ladders or hanging perches.
- Provide an interesting environment around their enclosure by putting them in a high traffic area, such as the living room, or an interesting place, such as the garden.
- Introduce them to new friends (depending on their species and temperament).
- Encourage free flight within the house if your home allows.
- Give them puzzles that allow for problem-solving. Birds, particularly parrots and corvids, are very clever, with some even showing the mental and emotional intelligence of a toddler.
General tips for pet enrichment
- Food puzzles are good for any pet. Animals are very food motivated and will enjoy the challenge to get their favourite treats.
- Give toys that are durable and long-lasting (for them) and easy to clean and refill (for you).
- Sensory stimulation could be as easy as bringing home a new food and letting them smell it, getting them a new blanket made out of something fuzzy, or just talking to them. You can even read to them if you like – it sounds silly, but it works!
Whatever your pet needs, i.Pet has you covered. Keep them entertained all day, every day with our cat trees, pet strollers, playpens and hutches. Browse the i.Pet range today.