Your pet has it all—a cozy bed, top-of-the-line kibble, unlimited treats, and your unwavering love and affection. While these are any cat’s or dog’s essentials, your furry pal still needs more, particularly to help maintain their physical health and mental wellbeing. Read our Tamberly Animal Hospital team’s guide to pet enrichment and learn how you can create unique do-it-yourself (DIY) toys to engage your four-legged friend’s brain.

Why enrichment is important for your pet

Enrichment is just as important for your pet as food, water, and shelter. Daily enrichment provides your furry pal with the following benefits:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Elimination of boredom
  • Increased physical activity and weight management
  • Improved resilience
  • Stronger pet-owner bond
  • Prevention and treatment of behavioral problems

By ensuring your four-legged friend is exposed to enrichment in all its forms, you should provide them with a good quality of life. The five pet enrichment categories include:

  • Social — Social enrichment involves positive interaction with other pets and people. When your furry pal gets to spend time with friends and family, their happiness increases.
  • Nutritional — Nutritional enrichment offers your pet various ways to access and consume their meals, such as by solving a food puzzle.
  • Physical — Physical enrichment provides your pet with the opportunity to express natural behaviors such as sniffing, digging, scratching, or climbing.
  • Occupational — Through occupational enrichment, your pet performs a job that allows them to burn off excess energy while exercising their mind. By doing tricks and practicing obedience skills, your pet satisfies their occupational enrichment needs.
  • Sensory — Sensory enrichment stimulates your pet’s senses, such as by listening to anxiety-soothing classical music or by seeing birds at the feeder outside a window.

Do-it-yourself enrichment toys for dogs

Dogs particularly enjoy sniffing out snacks and pawing or digging at them to access the tasty treat. Whip up these enrichment toys for your canine companion:

  • Snuffle mat — Thread fleece fabric strips through the holes of a sink mat or other durable mat, tying a knot at the end. Once the fabric strips completely cover the mat, bury treats or kibble within the fibers. Watch your pooch tenaciously sniff out the treasures!
  • Treat-dispensing bottle — Find an empty plastic bottle that is the appropriate size for your pet. Cut holes in the bottle that are just large enough to allow kibble pieces or treats to fall out. Place a handful of snacks inside the bottle and screw on the cap. Your dog will have great fun rolling the bottle around trying to make each delectable nugget fall out.

Do-it-yourself enrichment toys for cats

Cats’ instincts urge them to claw, climb, and hide. Play to your whiskered pal’s strengths by crafting the following DIY enrichment toys:

  • Scratch pad — Cats enjoy scratching on a variety of surfaces, so give your feline friend the opportunity to try out various textures. Cover rectangular-shaped wood pieces with carpet squares, rope, or cardboard, or wrap a corrugated cardboard stack with a length of rope to offer your whiskered pal multiple scratching surfaces.
  • Cardboard box treasure chest — Find a large cardboard box in which you can fit cardboard tubes and smaller boxes. Cut tubes to the length at which your cat is able to stick in a paw and fish out treats. Glue the tubes to the box’s bottom. Cut flaps and windows in the small boxes, and place them inside the large box. Scatter treats inside these puzzles and let your cat explore. 

A word of caution about pet safety

While DIY pet toys are great for the environment and your wallet, take precautions to help ensure your furry pal avoids an accident when at play. To ensure the enrichment toys you create are safe enough to provide your four-legged friend with hours of entertainment, follow these guidelines:

  • Durable construction — When introducing a toy to your pet, you don’t want it to fall apart within seconds. To ensure the DIY toy withstands pawing, nosing, and chewing, take your time to craft a durable product.
  • No small parts — Refrain from using small pieces, such as buttons, that your furry pal can easily chew off and swallow. If the toy instructions call for you to attach an item, such as a feather, ensure you fasten it securely. Remember, only let your pet play with a toy when you can supervise them.
  • No sharp edges — When using polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes or plastic bottles to make your pet’s toys, avoid leaving sharp edges on which your furry pal can cut their tongue or paw.

Enrichment activities are incredibly important for your pet’s mental and physical wellbeing, as boredom and inactivity can lead to a host of behavioral and physical problems. If your furry pal’s behavior or health changes, schedule an appointment with our Tamberly Animal Hospital team, so we can determine the cause.