By Suzanne Denk, Dip.FBST, Animal Enrichment Specialist
You may be wondering how you can provide enrichment for your pets while they are home alone so they don’t get bored. Music, Kongs or other pet-safe toys are good choices for pets who are home alone, but the goal should be that your pets rest while you are out of the house. Instead, we should think about providing enrichment for our pets while they are with us.
If we provide regular activities to expend mental and physical energy before we leave them alone, our pets will want to rest while you are away. Rabbits, cats and dogs are all crepuscular animals meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. So, they will sleep when we are at work and while we sleep at night. This cohesive schedule allows us to make the most of their awake time and provide them a happy and interesting life.
Part of the enrichment experience for pets is simply being with people. But enrichment activities are also about interacting and working together. The activities should not just be something to occupy your pet, but something which offers teamwork and time with you. Build a relationship with your pet by providing help with a new puzzle and holding it steady. If their body language is showing frustration with a particular activity, provide them with an easier activity to calm them down. Adjust the activity to fit your pet’s preferences and abilities and help them if they have difficulty getting the treat. Or, spend a couple of minutes teaching a new skill.
The process of an enrichment activity is important because it includes concentration, mental stimulation and interaction with you. Enrichment activities can be (but do not need to be) about training or an end goal – just enjoy the activity. For extra quality time, sit next to your pet while they engage with the activity. Learn their preferences and how they use all their senses with the puzzle or game and get to know your pet better.
We all have busy lives, but enrichment activities take just a few minutes! The quality of our pets’ lives is within our control. Enrichment time together can increase the bond your pets feel with you and provide them with a fun and fulfilling life. For enrichment activities you can do with your pets, visit ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org/Enrichment.