Rich with Enrichment

I watch animal videos online more than I care to admit. I spend pretty much every morning watching and sharing goofy, heartwarming clips of cats and dogs and their humans. (I especially enjoy dogs in drag and cats in breweries or bodegas.) We can’t imagine life without them, but dogs and cats weren’t always indoor pets. They lived in the wild and had to work hard to get their nourishment; they were hunters and scavengers. 

Nowadays things are quite different for them; over time we have domesticated these beasts and, though we love and celebrate our pet companions, in some ways we’ve made their world quite small. They can suffer from malaise and stress, and can even become aggressive. They act out in all kinds of ways – from excessive pacing to over-grooming to overeating, and it’s important that we do our best to prevent that kind of behavior by providing for their innate, instinctual needs with an enriching environment.

Dogs and cats need mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise. Cognitive enrichment can provide this. You might be surprised by how much a good mental workout can satisfy your pet!

Studies have shown that dogs prefer to work for food or other rewards. Some of the best trainers suggest using foraging techniques for food and treats, such as hiding their food bowls or rewards around the home or yard for them to find. This can lead to lots of tail wags!

At The Big Bad Woof we believe that food is medicine, and the method of consumption matters as much as the food. There are three general ways to use food for enrichment: creating opportunities to forage or hunt; offering new types of food; or providing novel ways to feed, such as with food puzzles or lickimats.

Foraging toys and food puzzles help decrease boredom and reduce aggressiveness in cats. Puzzle toys require your cat to manipulate them in some way to release food or treats as they interact with it. Some, like Doc & Phoebe’s snacking mice, require your cat to roll them around until food comes out. Others require your cat to use their paws to move pieces around in order to access the food or treats. These toys are a great form of problem-solving, and they also satisfy a cat’s instinct to hunt and forage.

Enrichment is a standard part of animal care in zoos and shelters, so why not in your own home?