Home Enrichment for Our Pets

Tonya Tenters, CVT
Associate Veterinary Industry Representative
Veterinary Pharmacovigilance Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline

We are all experiencing significant changes and disruptions in our daily lives with the COVID-19 pandemic. This means our pets are also experiencing changes and disruptions as well. No more dog parks and playdates in a lot of places. However, there are a lot of fun things, simple things, that can be done at home with our pets to keep them engaged and happy.

Our canine companions like to be stimulated and have social interaction. This is where some fun games can come into “play”.  A lot of these games are fun for the dog and the owner.

  • Seek and Find – Take some treats or even some dry food and randomly hide it (in the dog’s bed, around the room, etc.) for the dog to use their nose to find the goody! Just keep in mind that you need to subtract those treats from meals for dogs that need their weight monitored.
  • Scent Trail – Similar to Seek and Find, but you lay out a trail of tine treats of kibble (indoor or outdoor) around the parameter of the room, behind the couch, up the stairs, etc. with a “treasure pile” of several treats at the end.
  • Take a muffin pan and put pieces of kibble or treats in the pan, then place tennis balls on top of some of the ones with treats. The dog pushes the balls off to get the treats.
  • Play hide and seek in the house. You hide and call your dog to come find you. Have lots of praise for when they do.
  • Walk around your backyard, balcony, wherever you can safely walk and maintain your distance from other people.
  • Bubbles – they make bubbles for cats and dogs. They even have bacon and peanut butter flavored ones. Moving bubbles helps to stimulate the brain and the dogs will follow them and some will even try to pop them!

Our feline companions benefit just as much from home enrichment. They too like to have that stimulus of the senses.

  • Toy Cardboard Boxes: Take a box and cut holes in it and then hide cat treats inside for them to find.
  • Crumple up a piece of printer paper and let them bat it around.
  • Pipe cleaners – they love to bat them around and play with them. It is really important to supervise the cats while playing with the pipe cleaners and to make sure they are picked up after play time. Cats will sometimes chew off the ends and this can pose a health risk. 
  • Plastic milk crates or carboard boxes can be made into a fun kitty jungle gym.
  • Empty paper bags – Cats love to lay in them or hide in them to run out at the next person or animal the comes by.
  • Empty paper towel rolls for them to play with or bat around.
  • Cats like motion – so pulling a pipe cleaner along the floor for them to chase provides some physical enrichment.

Cats and dogs love their people and general attention and petting. These are just some ideas to help with the animals being cooped up and the humans!