Mental enrichment is incredibly important to the health and well-being of all animals, but especially for those experiencing behavior problems. These pets, in particular, tend be highly intelligent and require outlets for exploration and critical thinking.
Do your best to get your pet some physical exercise every day. With puppies/kittens and seniors follow vet recommendations for their breed, age, and size.
Mental stimulation should be done every day and is just as beneficial (if not more important!) as physical stimulation.
By using puzzle toys, you can replace meals with a game requiring your pet to think about how to get food instead of eating from a bowl.
Training is also a great way to work on mental stimulation.
When providing mental stimulation, be sure to start with easy puzzles and games (hide and seek, for example) and gradually move up to more complex ones. We are not trying to frustrate the pet, but encouraging them to work on problem solving abilities and learn new skills.
Feeder toys are an easy way to increase mental enrichment. We recommend discontinuing the use of food bowls or dishes, and switch to providing meals exclusively from feeder toys. It increases the length of time it takes to eat, and encourages your pet to think about how to obtain their meal.
Retail products for dogs:
Retail products for cats:
KONG® Activity Ball
KONG® Cat Wobbler
TRIXIE Activity Toys
Doc & Phoebe's Cat Co.® Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder Kit
Jackson Galaxy® Butterfly Ball
PetZone® Fly By Spinner
These DIY feeder and enrichment ideas are easy to make out of upcycled articles you have at home. DIY options for dogs:
DIY options for cats:
Any time a pet is left home alone, or may otherwise need something to keep them occupied, toys with frozen food inside can be long-lasting and highly enriching. While canned pet food is the traditional stuffing for these toys, feel free to experiment and offer variety. KONG® has their own recipe page where you can get ideas. Other food options for stuffing/freezing include kibble mixed with Easy Cheese, oatmeal, peanut butter, human baby food, and marshmallow creme, if well-tolerated.
Games and training are also important!
Scent Games: Educating Your Dog's Nose with Susan Clothier
These amazing resources will help you tranform your cat's environment and maximize enrichment throughout your home!
Catify to Satisfy: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home by Jackson Galaxy
Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!) by Jackson Galaxy
The Indoor Cat Initiative, The Ohio State University's Cat Enrichment Portal