Enriching your pet’s environment to improve their quality of life
Pet ownership can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, with the human-animal bond bringing great joy and satisfaction – to the human and the animal! Finding ways to enhance and enrich that bond results in happier and healthier pets and owners, and this can be done in a variety of ways.
Providing a good quality diet, exercise and affection are some of the ways we can strengthen our bond with our pets. One of the most important ways we can enhance our pet’s quality of life is by ensuring we enrich their environment wherever possible.
Enriching an animal’s environment means providing them with mental and social stimulation by encouraging play and exploration of their surroundings using a variety of methods from toys and treats to games.
How can I enrich my dog’s environment?
By providing your dog with a variety of toys designed for different purposes, you can help alleviate anxiety and boredom. ‘Treat balls’ or toys that you can stuff with kibbles or treats (that the dog then has to figure out how to get the treats out of) is a great way of keeping them occupied. (It is important, however, to remember that wasps and bees may be attracted to food in the treat balls, so care should be taken about where and when they are used.) Rope bones make great chew toys and can help to keep your dog’s teeth clean – just remember to replace them regularly to ensure they don’t swallow any loose or fraying ends.
Rotating your dog’s toys is also a great way to keep things fresh and interesting – giving 2-3 toys at any one time and rotating them weekly will ensure your dog remains excited and interested in them. This will also help him or her to distinguish between his toys and other ‘off-limit’ items (such as shoes and handbags!) as only having a few things to play with at any one time will help alleviate confusion over what’s chewable and what’s not!
Training and playing with your dog is also another fantastic way to keep them stimulated and provide both of you with enjoyment and satisfaction. Whether it’s simply learning to sit or learning to do a hand (paw) stand, the time you spend with your dog is enriching his or her social environment and providing valuable cues for acceptable behaviour.
How can I enrich my cat’s environment?
By providing your cat with toys to play with that encourage chase and play, you are simulating the role they would assume of predator in the wild and allowing them to explore their environment in a dynamic way. There are a number of toys that can be purchased to assist with this (such as wind-up mice or play circuits), or you can simply attach a piece of paper to some string and have them chase you about the yard – great exercise for your cat and for you, too!
If your cat is an indoor cat you might consider providing them with a small outdoor run. Outdoor runs are typically large wire enclosures that allow them to enjoy the great outdoors without the dangers that can be associated with spending time outside. These can be furnished with perches, scratching posts, plants and toys to enhance the environment.
As anyone who has had a ‘lap cat’ will know, spending time with their humans can be one of the most rewarding times of the day for your cat – and also for you. Making time to cuddle with your feline companion can be a great way for you to both unwind at the end of a busy day.
How can I enrich my bird’s environment?
By ensuring your bird has a large, spacious cage with numerous perches and toys you will be providing them with stimulation and preventing boredom. Birds love mirrors and musical toys, so placing a few mirrors and bell toys in various locations around their cage will help to keep them occupied. Multiple perches encourage exercise as the birds move around to survey their environment from different aspects.
Most captive birds also require variety in their diet, and by placing their food and treats in different locations in their cage you will be encouraging them to explore their environment. Tree branches with foliage can be placed into the cage – rotated regularly, this provides a change of scenery and a new item to investigate once every couple of weeks.
Most parrots and budgerigars are social and garrulous, so teaching them to speak is easy and fun. It also enhances the human-animal bond – and can provide some humourous moments, too!
How can I enrich my rabbit’s environment?
By providing your rabbit with ample opportunity to explore the environs beyond the confines of their hutch, you are encouraging them to explore as they forage for food and nurturing their curiosity as they seek new experiences. Placing treats and titbits around the yard for your rabbit to seek out when he or she is roaming will encourage exercise and promote confidence in your pet.
Rabbits can be very social and frequent handling and social interaction will enhance your bond and provide them with social enrichment and stimulation. Rabbits can also be litter trained. If your rabbit is litter trained you may like to allow him or her to spend time with you indoors – just remember to keep your electrical cords out of reach as rabbits like to chew. A great solution to this problem is to run any exposed cords through a length of PVC piping to protect the cords – and the rabbit!
If you have any further questions about ways in which you can enrich your pet’s environment, please don’t hesitate to contact us at the clinic. We hope this has provided you with a few tips on how to get the most from your relationship with your best friend.