Enrichment for cats and dogs improves their well-being. “Dogs and cats are designed to spend hours each day working for their food,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, vet expert at Chewy. When you give your pet food in a bowl, you take away that work that is part of their nature.
If you have ever been to a zoo, you may wonder why the polar bear’s food is in a block of ice. This is called enrichment! Enrichment is gaining popularity among pet parents in recent years. Why? Many pets lack the same daily enrichment they would receive if they were in the wild.
Tips for Picking an Enrichment Activity
Make sure the item is the appropriate size: A Great Dane might not be able to figure out the puzzle, but they surely can pick it up and drop it. Effectively rendering the puzzle toy concept useless.
Start at a lower difficulty: If your pet has done puzzle toys in the past it’s okay to start with a higher-difficulty toy. If your pet is new to puzzle toys, start off with an easier toy.
Experiment with what is in the activity: Some pets go nuts for puzzle toys when a specific treat is inside. Others may only use it if dry food is inside. Try different rewards and see which ones your pet likes the most.
Supervise when giving a new activity: It’s important to see how your pet interacts with a toy. Supervise them to make sure they are using the toy properly and to give them a helping paw if they seem to be getting frustrated.
Show them how to do it: Putting a puzzle toy in front of a pet may work but often times with more complicated toys, you may have to show your pet how they work.
Enrichment For Cats and Dogs that I Like
Here are 5 ideas for dogs and cats to keep the enrichment coming.
1. Puzzle Games
Puzzle games not only keep your dog or cat mentally stimulated, but they are also intentionally constructed to keep pets moving, active, and physically engaged. Many games are designed to be pushed, rolled, chased, batted, picked up, bounced, or flung around. When these actions occur, food is dispensed. What a rewarding way for your pets to earn (and possibly burn off) a tasty snack!
While not as interactive as some of the other games, LickiMats provide stimulation for your pet and help them slow down when eating. Great for pets that do a lot of canned food since not all puzzle toys are designed for wet food.
You’ve heard of this one! KONG toys are a simple puzzle game and a classic option for any dog’s toy box. Did you know they also make KONGs for cats? KONG usually goes on sale during Black Friday. If you’re looking to pick up a bunch of these for a great deal keep an eye out.
4. Snuffle Mats
What is a snuffle mat? A snuffle mat is designed to help mimic your dog’s natural instinct to put its nose to the ground, sniff out food, and to dig. There are loads of snuffle mats on the market, so experiment with different ones.
Hunting for food is a fun game for dogs and taps into a cat’s natural predatory instincts. You can hide treats or toys in various boxes or tubes and encourage your dog or cat to hunt for them. I suggest letting them watch you do this the first few times. Once they get the hang of it, keep them out of the room while you hide the “treasure.”
If you don’t have boxes and packaging on hand, try laying a towel folded in half lengthwise on the floor and dropping treats inside as you roll it up. Then let your dog figure out how to unroll it to get the treats.
Have you noticed your cat or dog seems bored or depressed? Has their mood or behavior changed recently? Some common signs of boredom in pets include over- or under-eating, destructive behavior, over-grooming, seeking lots of attention, and sleeping more than usual.
Chronic boredom can even lead to depression and anxiety, which is just as unpleasant for dogs and cats as it is for humans. The good news is that there are tons of great ways to help your pet stay entertained, mentally stimulated, and healthy!
Looking for ways to keep your pet entertained and occupied?
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