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North Hills Monthly

Animal Friends Enrichment: It’s Not Just Fun and Games

Mar 31, 2016 10:23AM ● By Shannon Tremblay

A pool of hay was used for our Thanksgiving-themed enrichment trail, and Cooper was having a great time!

 At Animal Friends, providing enrichment to our dogs, cats and rabbits is a major focus. Enrichment activities can decrease stress, stimulate the animals physically and mentally, provide a sense of control and prevent undesirable behavior from starting.

Enrichment means providing our shelter animals with an environment that is varied, interesting and stimulating. Variety in the environment gives the animals the opportunity to think and to explore their space. Their mental and physical health also benefits from the enrichment activity.

In addition to providing a pleasant environment, behavioral enrichment can help to reduce stress levels as well as stimulate the brain, and provide opportunities for species-specific behaviors. Rabbits may enjoy sandboxes, mirrors, tunnels, or egg cartons stuffed with hay. Cats take pleasure in scratching boards, milk jug rings, or fringed toilet paper tubes. Dogs relish good chew toy, stuffed KONGs, ice cubes or bubbles. 

Enrichment is just as important for your animals at home as it is for our shelter animals. With that in mind, here are a few things to try with your pets (with objects you probably have lying around at home):


Make a rolled toy that moves, is textured, and provides a challenge to reach the treat. Cut a 2” x 6” piece of corrugated paper, and roll it up tightly with herbs or hay inside. Secure with raffia. Give it to your bun and watch it toss, tear and nibble! 

Hickory loved the chance to play with a new toy.


Cats have been known to enjoy batting a couple of ping-pong balls around in a bathtub or tissue box, and a whole box of balls can provide the next level of enrichment fun! Drop a treat, toy or some catnip into a box. The cat will search in the box to recover the treats or toys. Because the balls move and make noise, the game can help build confidence. Let the cat investigate at its own pace and just play!


Dogs enjoy tearing up cereal boxes and cardboard egg cartons to find hidden treats. This activity allows the pet to use its mind and nose. Tearing the cardboard does not encourage destruction—if a dog has a variety of appropriate activities to channel its energy, it will not become destructive!