Adequate enrichment that provides physical exercise and mental stimulation is an important part of your pet’s health. Our Burlington Veterinary Center team doesn’t want you to break the bank to keep your pet entertained, and we teach you how to make do-it-yourself (DIY) enrichment toys for your four-legged friend. 

Why is enrichment important for my pet?

Enrichment helps keep your pet happy and healthy. Physical exercise and mental stimulation are essential to your furry pal’s welfare for many reasons, including:

  • Facilitating socialization — Properly socializing puppies and kittens helps them grow into well-adjusted, well-behaved adult dogs and cats. Enrichment toys and activities expose your pet to a variety of sights, smells, sounds, and experiences to help them learn to adjust to their environment.
  • Reducing anxiety and stress — Providing enrichment helps keep your pet mentally engaged, helping reduce anxiety and stress. Pets who receive proper enrichment are less likely to develop issues such as separation anxiety.
  • Preventing boredom — Bored pets are more likely to exhibit unwanted behaviors such as destructive chewing and scratching. Keeping your pet adequately enriched prevents boredom and destructive behaviors.
  • Providing mental stimulation and physical exercise — Enrichment keeps your pet mentally alert and physically active, which especially helps elderly pets combat cognitive dysfunction.
  • Helping prevent stress-related health problems — Stress has been linked to issues such as feline idiopathic cystitis, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, and skin conditions. Providing enrichment helps reduce stress, decreasing your pet’s risk for developing these health issues. 

#1: Muffin tin treat game for pets

Pets are natural foragers, and they love to hunt for treats. The muffin tin treat game is a simple way to stimulate your pet’s hunting prowess. To craft this game, follow these DIY instructions: 

  • Supplies needed — You will need a muffin tin, tennis balls, and treats. If you have a small dog or cat, use a mini muffin tin and miniature tennis balls or ping-pong balls. 
  • Game setup — Place treats in the muffin tin wells and cover them with the balls. To increase the difficulty, only place treats in some of the wells, but cover all of them.
  • Precaution — Ensure you use size-appropriate balls. Never use balls too small for your pet’s size, because your furry pal can accidentally swallow them, and experience a GI obstruction. 

#2: Cardboard box hide-and-seek for pets

Because of the increase in online shopping, you likely have numerous cardboard boxes of all sizes and shapes stored around your home. Use these boxes to create DIY food puzzle toys: 

  • Supplies needed — You will need cardboard boxes—preferably various sizes and shapes—a box cutter, and treats.
  • Game setup — Use several boxes, but place treats in only two or three, and scatter the boxes throughout your home. Encourage your pet to investigate the boxes, discovering the yummy hidden treasures. You can cut small holes in the boxes to make it easier for your pet to access the treats.
  • Precaution — Monitor your pet during the game to prevent them from ingesting large cardboard pieces they have shredded in their quest to reach the treats.

#3: Cardboard tube puzzle toy for pets

The next time you finish a toilet paper or paper towel roll, keep the inner cardboard tube to make a fun toy for your pet. To craft this toy, follow these DIY instructions:

  • Supplies needed — You will need several toilet paper or paper towel tubes cut to size, super glue, a small cardboard box, such as a shoebox, and treats.
  • Game setup — Position the cardboard tubes vertically and glue them in the shoebox. Let the glue dry completely. Place treats in several tubes and let your pet use their nose to find the treats.
  • Precaution — This game is likely best for cats and small dogs, because larger dogs may not be able to access the treats in the narrow cardboard tubes, and become frustrated.

#4: Obstacle course for pets

Pets love to jump over and tunnel through obstacles. Create an obstacle course to entertain your four-legged friend by following these DIY instructions:

  • Supplies needed — You will need couch cushions, broomsticks, cardboard boxes, and other obstacle-building objects you have around your home. 
  • Game setup — Use the objects you have to create obstacles your pet can jump over, crawl under, or tunnel through. Provide praise and treats when your pet successfully completes the course.
  • Precaution — Lead your pet through the obstacle course several times, so they understand the game.

#5: Water bottle puzzle toy for pets

Some pets eat too quickly, and this water bottle puzzle toy is an easy way to slow them down at mealtimes, making them work for their food. To craft this puzzle toy, follow these DIY instructions:

  • Supplies needed — You will need an empty water bottle, scissors, and treats or kibble.
  • Game setup — Cut holes in an empty water bottle, and place your pet’s kibble or treats inside. Encourage your furry pal to roll and bat the bottle around to release the food. Once your pet gets the hang of the game, you can reduce the size and number of the holes to make the game more challenging.
  • Precaution — To prevent your pet from cutting their nose or paw, ensure the edges of the holes aren’t sharp. 

These DIY enrichment toys should help keep your pet mentally stimulated and physically active. If your pet is exhibiting stress signs, contact our Burlington Veterinary Center team, so we can determine the cause and help relieve your furry pal’s anxiety.