Enrichment is a word most pet owners are familiar with—and indeed, it increases your pet’s quality of life—but if you still aren’t 100% clear about what pet enrichment looks like, you are not alone. Enrichment describes games and activities that keep your pet mentally sharp and engaged in their environment while providing them with an outlet to practice their natural behaviors and solve problems with their senses and intelligence. Enrichment toys support your pet’s physical and emotional wellbeing and—a bonus for pet owners—help keep them out of trouble.
Now, think of how many pet toys you have bought over the years and how long it took for your pet to rip them to shreds, bury them in the yard, or completely lose interest. The cost of replacing toys can add up, so many pet owners are turning to a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly approach by making do-it-yourself (DIY) enrichment toys for their pets out of items that can be found around the home. No matter your crafting experience or skill level, you can design and create toys your pet will love. Our LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team has some DIY enrichment toy ideas to get you started.
DIY enrichment toys for dogs
The key to a happy and healthy dog is regular enrichment and the opportunity for them to engage in their natural instincts. While most dogs today are companion animals, they still require tasks to keep them occupied and stimulate their minds. The following DIY enrichment toys encourage canines to express instinctive behaviors:
- Crinkly chew — Give an old T-shirt new life while supporting your dog’s urge to chew by making a chewable T-shirt pet toy. Simply cut fabric strips from a T-shirt, wrap them around an empty plastic water bottle, and tie the ends together. Your dog will enjoy chewing the soft fabric and plastic while listening to the crinkly sound the water bottle makes.
- Braided tug — Tugging is a collaborative activity that mimics your dog’s predatory instincts. When predators finish the hunt, they pull apart the carcass in the same way your pup tries to pull apart their toys. Grab a pair of cotton leggings you no longer wear. Cut off each leg just under the crotch. Run scissors down each leg’s seam, creating two large pieces of fabric, each about 5 inches wide. Cut the waist down the back to create a third large piece of fabric about 5 inches wide. Gather the three fabric pieces and tie a knot in one end. Braid the three pieces together and knot them at the other end, trimming away any excess fabric. Let the tug o’ war begin!
DIY enrichment toys for cats
While dogs often accompany their owners on adventures outside the home, cats typically do not. Indoor enrichment is essential for feline wellbeing. Try your hand at one of these interactive, DIY toys to help your cat beat boredom by exploring, hunting, and pouncing on prey.
- Feather wand — Cats are curious creatures and often swat at unfamiliar objects to investigate them. Your feline friend also loves to stalk and pounce on prey. Help your cat act out their hunting instincts with this easy-to-make felt feather wand toy. Tie a long string to a dowel rod, and attach a small bell or some feathers to the other end of the string. Wave the wand gently in front of your cat, and watch them show off their jumping and swatting skills.
- Cardboard box maze — This treat-hunting DIY toy helps keep your cat’s brain sharp by engaging their sense of smell and their natural desire to search for food. Gather several cardboard boxes of various sizes, a pair of scissors, and duct tape. Cut different-size holes on the sides of the cardboard boxes, creating entryways for your cat. Creatively arrange the boxes, securing them with duct tape to form a maze-like structure. Place treats or small toys inside the boxes to entice your cat to explore and discover the hidden treasures inside.
Safety tips for pet enrichment toys
Use the following tips to ensure your pet can enjoy their DIY enrichment toy safely:
- Consider your pet’s habits — Observe your furry companion’s habits and play preferences. Understanding your pet’s behaviors will help you choose materials that are safe and appropriate for them.
- Select safe materials — Avoid using materials that can splinter or break into sharp pieces, such as certain types of plastic or wood. If you’re using fabric, opt for durable and non-toxic options like cotton.
- Use caution with embellishments — If you use materials like string, ribbon, and yarn, ensure they are securely attached and cannot be easily pulled off and ingested.
- Regularly inspect your pet’s toys — Ensure you examine your pet’s DIY toys for signs of wear and tear. Look for loose parts, fraying, and other signs of damage that could become a safety hazard
- Supervise your pet — Always supervise your pet’s playtime, especially when introducing a new DIY toy.
Enrichment is essential for your pet’s overall health and wellbeing, and so are regular wellness exams. Contact our LaGrange Veterinary Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s annual wellness exam to ensure they remain happy and healthy.