You’ve probably heard the word enrichment before, but what does it mean exactly? Enrichment started as a concept for animals in zoos and aquariums but quickly evolved to include dogs and cats, too. Enrichment is a process for improving the environmental and behavioral care of an animal. This means that by providing enrichment, we’re reducing stress and improving our pet’s well-being through physical and mental stimulation, encouraging normal species-specific behaviors (think sniffing, chewing, scratching, and chasing!), and allowing our pets more control over their environment.
At the end of the day, enrichment is all about building mental resilience so that your pets are mentally healthy and able to withstand the stresses they may experience in everyday life, such as moving, taking a trip, having new visitors in your home, and more.
Below are some enrichment ideas you can try with your pets using items you can find in your home!
1. Stuffed Food Toy
Stuff an appropriate chew toy with kibble or treats.
For cats: Fill a plastic Easter egg with wet food and let your cat knock it around to get the food out!
For dogs: Fill the chew toy with a combination of a dry and wet food item (e.g., peanut butter, unsweetened yogurt, broth), then throw it in the freezer to make a frosty challenge!
2. Towel Burrito (Dogs)
Lay out a towel and sprinkle the dog’s food on top. Then, roll or fold it up and let your dog unravel it!
3. Muffin Tin Game
Spread out the pet’s food or treats in a muffin tin.
For cats: Leave it uncovered and let them fish out the kibble or treats with their paw.
For dogs: Cover some (or all!) of the food with tennis balls, and let your dog figure out how to get to the kibble.
4. Box o’ Treats
Take an empty cardboard box (e.g., pasta box, delivery box, soda box) and place kibble inside. Let your pet work to get the food out.
For cats: Cut paw-sized holes in the box, lightly close the ends, fill with kibble or treats, and allow them to fish the kibble out with their paws.
For dogs: Use a larger box and place kibble in pieces of newspaper or tissue paper to provide added shredding opportunities. This will make it even harder to locate the food.
5. Toilet Paper Tube
Fill a toilet paper or paper towel carboard insert with food or treats. Fold up each size and let your pet figure out how to get the food out!
For cats: Leave one side unfolded until they get the hang of it, and then gradually increase difficulty.
For dogs: Seal the folded edges with peanut butter and place in the freezer. You can hide these around the house for your dog to sniff out and discover!
6. Ice Cube Tray (Cats)
Place food or treats in the ice cube tray cavities, add a small amount of a smelly treat, and freeze for added frosty fun!
Looking for more ideas? Check out the ASPCA’s DIY dog enrichment and cat enrichment ideas.