Let’s play: Pet Enrichment Ideas
By Chris Coulter, Rescue Rebuild Program Manager
We travel to many shelters throughout the year, and in doing so, we meet hundreds of interesting people. All from different locations, different backgrounds, and personalities. But one thing that has remained fairly consistent is what questions people ask in the course of our conversations. One question asked by a vast majority of the pet owners we visit with is what kind of enrichment or toys can be used for a rambunctious dog/cat? Not only does enrichment help those animals who have more energy than they know what to do with but it also helps sharpen their mind and make them more personable. Let’s go through some of the options, shall we?
It’s hard to beat one on one time with your pet. Roughhousing in the living room, Frisbee, fetch and tug-of-war are all great examples of activities for dogs inside the house or backyard. Cats enjoy batting at string, feathers and chasing laser pointers pointed at the floor! (Be careful as laser pointers pointed directly into your pet’s eye can cause serious damage—even blindness).
Teach your pet a new trick. It’s not as difficult as you may think. Both dogs and cats can be taught a basic trick within a couple of days. Plus, how fun is it to show off your pet’s new tricks when friends and family stop by?
For the DIY’er there are several types of enrichment you can build with a minimal amount of material, tools, and skills. I’m sure you’ve installed basic shelves in your closet or garage. If you have an available wall, how about putting up small shelves starting close to the ground and gradually working up in a zig-zag pattern. You can even wrap the shelves in rope so they can use it as a scratching post. We have built several of these on past builds at animal shelters. Cats love to climb and perch up high. Plus, they’re getting exercise and hopefully clawing the shelf and not your furniture!
For the dogs, we have taken four or five old, used tires that you can usually get donated by a tire repair shop or purchased at a very minimal cost and bury the bottom portion about ¼ of the way down. This makes a great tunnel for dogs to run through or even lay in while enjoying the shade.
We all lead busy lives, and as much as we would love to sit at home all day and play with our pets, unfortunately, that just doesn’t pay the bills. If you have an empty two-liter plastic bottle, carefully cut slits or tiny holes in it and fill it with a couple of dog treats or a small handful of dog food. Your pet will smell the treat and bat the bottle which will also make noise making it that much more enticing. You can do something similar for your cat. If you have a somewhat shallow Tupperware container, cut several holes in the lid large enough for a paw to get in then put a couple of its favorite toys. I would recommend those small plastic balls with bells in them. They love to bat at anything that makes noise. These are a proven favorite and should give them hours of enjoyment while you’re away.
Of course, there are millions of other options from which to choose. A quick Google search will provide you with hours and hours of ideas. Try a few out and let us know what you think. If you try one and your pet doesn’t like it, I’m sure your local animal shelter will have a pet that would love it!