You probably know how important diet and exercise are for a healthy pet, but did you know mental enrichment is equally important for a pet to thrive? Enrichment describes games and activities that keep your pet mentally sharp and engaged in their environment, while providing an outlet to practice their natural behaviors and solve problems with their senses and intelligence. Many high-tech toys are available on the market, but you don’t have to break the bank to get your pet’s brain going. Our team at Fremont Animal Hospital shares some ideas for do-it-yourself (DIY) enrichment toys you can give your pet.
Why do pets need enrichment?
Strategic enrichment originally was used in zoos and sanctuaries to improve the lives of captive animals who experienced stress from their artificial and controlled environment. For domesticated pets, enrichment relieves boredom, reduces anxiety, fosters critical thinking, and decreases inappropriate behavior.
DIY enrichment toys for cats
Cats are highly curious creatures, but when your cat spends all day inside with minimal enrichment, they can easily become bored, and that can lead to health and behavior issues. A few problems that can be remedied by providing engaging activities for your cat include:
- Obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, and skin conditions
- Stress-related issues such as overgrooming, bullying, inappropriate elimination, and idiopathic cystitis
- Boredom-related issues such as destructive behavior, inappropriate scratching, and aggression
The following are great DIY enrichment toys that will keep you and your cat entertained at home:
- Feline reach feeder — Every meal is an opportunity for feline enrichment. Give your cat the satisfaction of working to reach their meal by making a reach feeder. To make this feeder, all you need is:
- Three toilet paper rolls
- Cat treats or dry food
Trace the end of the three toilet paper rolls in a horizontal row across the shoebox. Then cut out the holes and slide the toilet paper rolls into each of the three holes. Pour some delicious treats into each roll and watch your cat problem-solve to pull out their reward.
- Sensory spots — Cats spend much of their day snoozing in different areas of the house, and you can create a sensory experience for them in each of their favorite spots. Use recycled boxes of various sizes and place them in the areas where your cat likes to nap. Put some enriching sensory items in each of the boxes, such as:
- A soft pillow
- A textured blanket
- Crinkly packing paper or newspaper
- Clothing items that have your scent on them
- Corn husk toy — Cats are intrigued by different textures, and you can use ribbon or string and a corn husk to create a fun toy that will keep them entertained for hours. Simply tie the string or ribbon around the bottom of the corn husk and let your cat have fun batting the husk around.
DIY enrichment toys for dogs
Monotony can cause your dog to exhibit unwanted behaviors because bored dogs will look for ways to entertain themselves, and that often results in misbehavior. Providing your dog with enrichment toys can decrease naughty conduct and help them cope with stress. Plus, DIY dog toys are a resourceful way to use old items around the house. Ideas include:
- Hide-and-seek muffin tin — If you have a muffin tin and some tennis balls, you can easily make a fun foraging game for your dog that lets them use their senses to find hidden treats. Hide a few of their favorite treats under tennis balls placed in the muffin tin, and let your dog use their nose and their brain to sniff them out.
- T-shirt-wrapped water bottle — A pup who likes to chew will enjoy the crinkly sounds and feel of a water bottle wrapped in fabric or an old T-shirt. Cut fabric strips from your T–shirt, wrap the shirt around a water bottle, and tie the strips around the water bottle.
- Tennis ball treat puzzle — Test your dog’s wits with a DIY tennis ball treat puzzle. All you need is a tennis ball, treats or kibble, and a knife. Cut along the seam of the tennis ball, stuff it with your dog’s favorite treats or dry kibble, and let them work to reach their snack.
These are just a few of the DIY enrichment toys you can make for your pet. No matter which one you decide to make, supervise your pet at all times to ensure their safety. Our team members at Fremont Animal Hospital are happy to help you find more ways to make your pet’s life better. Contact us with any questions or to schedule your pet’s next wellness exam.