Woman Relaxing with her dog, friendsWhen owners think of problems that could befall their pets, they rarely consider boredom and its ensuing complications. However, a bored pet is actually much more prone to behavioral challenges and stress. Keep reading to learn more about how enrichment plays a critical role in your pet’s wellbeing.

All Animals Need to Express Their Instincts

From the tallest to the smallest, all animals have basic instincts related to survival. These same instincts provide pleasure or comfort and facilitate the need to complete important tasks with other members of their species.

So what does this have to do with Fluffy? A lot, actually. Domestic pets still retain their natural instincts (the qualities that make them who they are), and most animals require some form of social interaction. They also require opportunities to express themselves and do things that bring some kind of reward, like stalking or herding behavior.

Similar to humans, our pets are individuals with likes and dislikes. For example, some dogs would rather play tug-of-war, while some cats completely ignore catnip. Because of selective breeding, some species also require the ability to perform or work. For example, a border collie will need more opportunities for exercise than an older pug.  

That being said, enrichment needs will take into account several different factors such as species, age, ability, breed, and individual preference.

Some Problems a Bored Pet Might Encounter

When it comes to problematic behaviors, the cause can often be linked to lack of enrichment or too much time spent alone. Unfortunately, for busy individuals and families, it’s not uncommon for pets to be on their own for 8 or more hours each day. This results in destructive behaviors or anxiety (particularly among dogs), leading to persistent barking, scratching, chewing, self-mutilation, attempts to escape, etc.

Lack of social and physical stimulation can also lead to emotional problems, such as anxiety and phobias. Any of these problems can put your pet at risk for an accidental escape or injury and can significantly decrease quality of life.

Ways to Provide Mental and Physical Enrichment

The good news is that enrichment is something that can be provided given a bit of time and creativity. Try some of the following tips:

  • If your pet is alone for more than 5-6 hours each day, consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker a few times each week.
  • Daycare is another great option for pets who are in good health, vaccinated, and have been socialized.
  • Curious cats need mental stimulation, too. Install window ledges or place a cat tree in front of a window for hours of birdwatching fun.
  • Replace your pet’s toys every so often to keep things interesting.
  • Challenging, interactive food puzzles or toys are sure to keep your pet engaged (especially when food is involved, like a Kong filled with frozen peanut butter).
  • Plan on spending quality time with your pet each day, even it if means setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier or having a late dinner (your pet depends on you).

For more tips on how to entertain a bored pet, please contact the team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates. We’re always here to help!