Adding enrichment into our pets’ lives

As I had covered in a past article, adding enrichment into our pets’ lives can lead to a happier, healthier pet.  Sometimes our lives get so hectic that it’s easy to forget that our pets need stimulation.  We get to leave the house and are constantly doing different tasks.  Sure, it might look like the good life, getting to lounge around the house all day, but animals crave physical and mental stimulation.  Not only does providing games and activities for your pet make them more content, but it also helps keep them out of trouble.  Giving them toys should not completely replace one-on-one play time though.  In fact, there are activities you can do with your pet that are fun and engaging.

For Cats:

Cat personalities can range from the very curious to the downright lazy.  Just because a cat prefers to nap for most of the day does not mean that can’t also benefit from a little mental stimulation.

There are one-way mirror bird feeders that can be set up by the window, giving your cat the chance to busy themselves watching the birds eat, without scaring the birds off.  It’s like Cat TV!  Make sure to offer your cat a ledge in which to perch on, otherwise they might knock over a few things trying to get closer to the feeder.

Remember when you were a kid and one of the best toys you had was a giant cardboard box or a tree house in the backyard?  Cats like to climb, that’s no secret.  So, think back to when you were 7 years old and you can understand why cats love boxes so much.  If you can’t afford a cat tree or your cat seems a little bored with his current one, a bunch of cardboard boxes with “windows” cut out can serve as an elaborate jungle gym.

Even feeding time can be fun for cats.  Instead of just leaving a dish out for them, try hiding food in toys or in tiny piles around the house.  This is called “foraging”.  There are puzzles toys also designed to make your kitty “work” for their food.

Not all cats will demand stimulation at all times, but even calmer kitties can benefit from having something to do while you’re gone.  Even when you’re home, offering them these things can be a great way for you to spend time with your cat, even if it’s just refilling their kitty puzzles.

For Dogs:

Like cats, dogs have a wide range of personalities, but many are happy to participate in games and activities that keep their mind busy.  Certain breeds need to have mental stimulation and if they don’t get it, going through the trash or chewing up your favorite shoes seem much more exciting than just laying around waiting for you to come home.

Foraging toys are a great way to keep your dog occupied by “hunting” down tasty morsels hidden around the house.  Even if he is crated, a toy stuffed with kibble or treats can give him something to work on.  There are many toys on the market that give owners the option of stuffing them full of treats.  If your dog is an avid chewer, make sure you choose tougher toys that can withstand their chewing habits, such as Kong or Orbee toys.

Certain toys not only provide a great way to keep your dog occupied, but can be a good way of slowing down dogs that have a tendency to scarf food down too fast.  For example, Kong Wobblers and tug-a-jug toys make dogs work to get their meals, thus giving their stomach a chance to digest while they try and fish out their kibble.

You don’t have to be out of the house to offer your dog enrichment.  There are many games you can play that can really get your dog’s mind going.  Show your dog their favorite toy or treat and then put your dog in the other room.  Hide their favorite toy or treat somewhere in the room.  Then, return to your dog and tell them, “Find it!”  Make sure to start out with easier places.  We want to engage the dog, not frustrate them!

If you have another person with you, it’s always fun to play this game with people.  Hiding somewhere in another room and then having the other person tell them to find you can tap into your dogs tracking instincts.  They want to be near you, so not only is looking for you satisfying a need to work, but finding you is a reward.

If you have a pet that likes to get into trouble while you’re away or you just want to offer them something exciting to do, we can come by your home and offer your pets fun games to play!  All critters, big and small, can get enjoyment out of enrichment games.  Give us a call at 765-744-5688 or check out our website for more info on services we offer!

Check here for some examples of puzzles and foraging toys.

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