When you take a step back and think about our pets’ lives on a day to day basis, you might realize that things aren’t always optimal. We get to leave the house, interact with other people, and see new things every day. But few pets get this opportunity.
Many behavioral and health problems can stem from a lack of stimulation in an animal’s life. This is where environmental enrichment for pets comes in. Keep reading to learn more about how to make your pet’s life in your home even better.
Problems in Pets
It may sound a little silly to follow a formal environmental enrichment plan for your pet, but the truth is, many problems can stem from boredom and stress. These triggers can often be easily managed within your household. Common pet problems that may benefit from environmental enrichment include:
- Separation anxiety
- Inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating in an undesirable location)
- Obsessive behaviors like over grooming or hair pulling
- Lick granulomas
- Feline lower urinary tract disease
- Destructive behaviors
Even if your pet doesn’t suffer from any of these problems specifically, mental stimulation and overall happiness can lead to a healthier pet and a better human-animal bond. What’s not to like?
Basics of Environmental Enrichment for Pets
It is important for pet owners to do their best to provide their pets with an optimal environment. Environmental enrichment for pets has several components. Be sure that you are:
Giving your pet a safe, healthy environment – Pets, especially cats, enjoy an area that they can call their own. Keep litter boxes, food bowls, and crates away from noisy appliances like furnaces and washing machines. Clean up pet waste regularly and always provide fresh water.
Providing mental stimulation – Animals enjoy being able to look out windows and see the outside world. Cats benefit from having vertical space (think cat trees and shelves where they can head upwards). They also need an appropriate area to scratch. Provide a few toys at a time and rotate them regularly.
Offering social interaction – Dogs are pack animals, and many thrive with interaction with other pets or people. Cats may not enjoy each other’s company quite as much, but it is still important to spend some scheduled quality time with your pet every day.
Encouraging exercise – Pets and people alike need to burn off some steam. Make it a point to get your pet moving every day.
Minimizing stress – Change can be hard, and we often forget that our pets may be stressed during a move, the introduction of a new pet (or human), or even events in the home. Do your best to minimize the impact on your pet and provide a “safe”, stable area for him or her to retreat to.
Pet environmental enrichment is an important part of responsible pet ownership. Providing your pet with optimal interaction and surroundings can have a great many benefits for both of you. If you would like more detailed information about how to create the best home for your furry friend, be sure to check out The Ohio State University’s Indoor Pet Initiative for some excellent tips.