Environmental Enrichment Made Easy

Environmental enrichment is one of the most important things that we can do for our pets but is something that is quite commonly overlooked by pet owners. If you aren’t sure exactly what environmental enrichment is – it can be defined as the stimulation of the brain by its physical and social surroundings. What this means is, as responsible pet owners, we need to ensure that the environment we are providing for our pets sets them up for success. It needs to be filled with interesting objects and activities for them, in order to keep their minds busy.

Obviously, we can’t be there to interact with our pets 24/7, 365 days a year – we have work, appointments, school, study, social commitments etc. What we can do, is ensure that when we can’t be physically present with our fur babies, they have plenty to do, in order to keep themselves occupied.

To make it slightly easier for you, I have put together my top three DIY environmental enrichment options for pets at home. Commercial toys and products can be very pricey – these options allow you to keep your pets busy, without breaking the bank!

Feeding Frenzy
Do you have a pet that is a bit of a greedy guts? Wish you could slow them down when they eat? This tip will not only slow them down but helps to turn a boring, monotonous feeding routine into something new and interesting for your pet.

Most pet owners will feed their pets once or twice a day from a food bowl on the ground. Eating their meals is, therefore, something that our pets don’t really have to think about at all as they do it every single day, the exact same way and often in the exact same place.

A simple way to turn their mealtime into a mental exercise is to use a towel! For dogs, instead of a bowl, try spreading out an old towel out on the floor, scatter their food all over the towel and then roll it up into a log. Present this to your pet, they will have to snuffle and nudge their way to get to the food inside. For a cat, you can get an empty egg carton, and scatter their food around in that, it’s different to eat out of and slightly more challenging for them.

Cardboard Capsules
There’s plenty of DIY toys you can create at home to keep your pets occupied too! My personal favourite involves the good old toilet roll.

Once you have finished a roll of toilet paper, keep the cardboard centre to re-purpose as an environmental enrichment tool. Simply cut a small hole (roughly the size of a 5c piece) into the centre of the roll, fold in one end of the tube, then fill it with your tasty treat of choice. Once you have sufficiently filled the tube, fold the other end in as well. Present this to your pet and allow them to sniff and investigate. Show them that as the tube is rolled and nudged around on the floor, food slowly falls out of the small hole. Once you gauge their interest you can leave them to play on their own. The best part about this DIY trick is that even if your pet chews it up and swallows any of the cardboard, it is completely safe and will simply be excreted in their faeces.

Ice, Ice Baby!
As a pet owner myself, this is my favourite quick and easy summer tip! This provides your pet with enrichment while simultaneously helping them to beat the summer heat. Simply find an ice cube tray and place some kind of treat or two in the base of each square. You can use any kind of treat that you want for this. Once the food is in position you can fill the tray with normal water or you can fill it with chicken broth for extra flavour if you have a slightly more picky dog. Freeze overnight and boom – you have the perfect frozen treat for your pup. They will need to lick, chew and bite to get to the delicious treat in the centre.

 

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