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The importance of enrichment in your pet's life

Enrichment is a super important part of ensuring that your animal has the healthiest and happiest life. What is enrichment and how can you ensure that your animal is getting the enrichment he or she needs for a full life? Read this blog post to find out.

What is enrichment?

Enrichment provides animals with species appropriate challenges, stimulation and opportunities. It allows them to exercise their natural behaviours. This is important because if an animal is not able to express what comes naturally to them, their mental and emotional health can suffer.

Enrichment also provides your animal with choices, allowing them to have control over their own lives, to have autonomy.

Animals that have good mental/emotional health will be more engaging with their humans and their environment. They will be less aggressive, less fearful and more peaceful. They will have a greater ease with their surroundings, feeling safe and at home.

Basically, an animal who has an enriched life will be a happier animal. A happier animal will be more relaxed and at peace in their environment. A better relationship will exist between you and your animal.

How can you ensure that your cat or dog is getting the enrichment he or she needs?

An enriched environment allows animals to exercise their natural behaviours. In order to work out the best forms of enrichment for your animal, it's important to understand the natural behaviours of your animal.

A cat's natural behaviours include grooming, sleeping, vocalisation, hunting, scratching, being solitary, survival instinct, being nocturnal, kneading, scent marking, climbing, curiousity and being territorial.

A dog's natural behaviours include being part of a pack, investigative behaviours (think smelling the ground, smelling other dog's genitalia - yep this is perfectly normal despite how gross it may seem to us), seeking attention, a natural gravitation towards humans, vocalisation eg barking, digging, survival instinct, biting, chewing, prey drive, guarding and self preservation.

With an understanding of your animal's natural behaviours, you can take steps to provide an environment that allows them to exercise these behaviours.

Here are some suggestions of ways that you can incorporate enrichment into your animal's life:

For Cats

  • scratching posts

  • enclosing a safe outdoor space that includes a variety of enrichment activities

  • boxes (cats love to play and sleep in boxes)

  • toys that mimic how prey animals move and sound eg wand toys, small mouse / fish type toys, paper scrunched up and tied to a piece of string, crumpled up pieces of paper

  • platforms at different heights (cats love to sit up high)

  • feeding a real food diet with a variety of flavours and textures

  • a safe place to hide

  • a quiet and safe place to sleep

  • fresh grasses - think cat grass, cat mint, lemon grass, wheat grass, barley grass and even the grass on your lawn (provided it's not sprayed with chemicals)

For Dogs

  • puzzle games

  • interactive feeders

  • scatter feeding

  • time outside in the garden / in nature

  • things to chew on - crumpled up papers, boxes, toilet rolls etc

  • feeding a real food diet with a variety of flavours and textures

  • a safe place to hide

  • a digging or sand pit

  • treat toys eg Kong or homemade versions

Would you like to learn more about how you can enrich your animal's life and improve their health overall? Join me on the next round of my Optimum Wellness course, a course designed to help your animal be the healthiest they can be.

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About Ruth

Ruth Hatten is a Holistic Animal Care Mentor with qualifications in animal naturopathy, pet nutrition and energy healing. She helps animals using holistic principles and natural remedies, including naturopathy, nutrition, plant medicine, energy and spirituality. Ruth believes that animals can thrive when they are supported in this way.​

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