With a passion for enrichment it seemed only fitting that I should set up a World day to raise awareness and encourage every owner and keeper to share their love and enrichment ideas for animals. Welcome to World Animal Enrichment Day.
Ruffle Snuffle® owner and Animal Behaviourist, Sarah-Jane White, founded World Animal Enrichment Day in 2020 to help raise awareness and encourage every pet owner and animal keeper to share their love and enrichment ideas for animals.
What is animal enrichment?
Animal enrichment is the process of providing animals with mental and physical stimulation to enhance their well-being and quality of life by allowing them to express their natural behaviours.
Why is enrichment important?
Enrichment helps all animals stay happy and healthy whether they are pets or in captivity in zoos and rescue centres. Enrichment helps reduce the risks of health problems that often occur in captive animals. It also makes the animal more comfortable and less stressed, which makes it easy for them to be cared for and handled.
The enrichment that is given depends on the individual animal, particularly on its natural behaviour in the wild. For example, lions are territorial animals so they will appreciate dens where they can withdraw if they feel threatened. Smaller animals might need something to climb or perch on because they naturally do this in the wild.
Enrichment makes life better for all animals, both domestic and in rescue centres or zoos.
What are some examples of enrichment?
There are many different types of enrichment available. Some examples are:
- Enclosures which have more space than usual so that the animal has room to move about more freely.
- Different toys or objects to explore.
- Different scents or smells, such as spices, different types of grasses and flowers.
- Colours in the environment which are brighter than usual.
- Mirrors so that the animal can see its reflection and ‘interact’ with it (for example tigers sometimes like to watch themselves)
- Different structures in the environment, such as logs, rocks or trees.
- Swings or ropes for animals who like to climb or perch.
- Extra enrichment during feeding time so that the animal has to work for their food.
Enrichment helps stimulate more cricket and superworm reproduction.
By replicating a natural environment that has sufficient healthy food and climate requirements, we can eliminate territory battles that can happen when resources are scarce.
These habitats yield calmer crickets and superworms, which yields to more reproduction of healthy off spring.Jeff, The Critter Depot
How enrichment helps build a stronger bond
Marine expert Dr Paola Cuevas (MVZ) shares their personal experience as a trainer in Vietnam:
“In my personal experience as a trainer, play sessions with enrichment devices have greatly helped in building a stronger relationship with animals. I will share two experiential examples that pop right to my mind:
1) An anorexic dolphin not interested in food allowed me to collect a voluntary blood sample using its favorite toy as reinforcement. The strong history of reinforcement associated both to the blood drawing behavior and to the toy plus the strong trusting relationship built between him and me all played a part.
The animal allowing a voluntary blood sample collection saved the need to physically restrain it to perform this procedure. The animal swam away when presented a fish, but decided to participate the moment he saw his favorite toy in my hand.
2) A molting gentoo penguin. Every year, penguins renew all their feathers. In preparation for their molt, Antarctic penguins put on a lot of weight because, without their feather isolation, they will not be able to go into the cold Antarctic waters to fish. So, they just stop eating for a few weeks. In 2014 I was preparing a gentoo penguin shape discrimination training project.
I had big ambitions and a penguin not eating was not good news for me. But well, my penguin surprised me, she decided to participate in the training almost every day during the molting period without fish reinforcement! Again, we should never underestimate our animals, a strong history of reinforcement, a relationship built on trust, and the enrichment we provide in their daily lives are necessary for their mental and physical health but in the end, it is very beneficial for us as well.
Personally, it was very rewarding to learn that my penguin was enjoying participating and was willing to do it for free.”
What else can you do?
Whether you have a budgie, snake, dog, cat or tortoise, animal enrichment is an important part of your responsibility as a pet owner. You can help keep your pet happy by giving them regular exercise so that they have the opportunity to explore, climb or dig.
Provide appropriate shelter which is secure but also has components that are interesting for your pet to look at and interact with. When you are handling your pet, always remember that different animals have different temperaments so handle them calmly and gently to avoid scaring them.
Keepers, Staff and Volunteers at Zoos, Wildlife Parks, Sanctuaries and Rescues spend many hours providing enrichment to animals in captivity to ensure they are stress-free and having the best life they can. There are lots of examples you can find online to inspire ideas for your own wild enrichment.
Here at Ruffle Snuffle®, we have provided enrichment toys not only for pets, but for many zoo animals including primates, birds, big cats and even giraffes.
How to take part in World Animal Enrichment Day
Share your ideas : We’d like people to be creative and share their favourite enrichment ideas for their animals such as toys, games, DIY, environment.
Post a photo or video on social media: Share a photo or a ‘how-to’ on social media and use the hashtag #worldanimalenrichmentday.
Provide enrichment for others: Why not take some enrichment games to your local animal rescue centre, or volunteer at your local zoo?
Ideas for enrichment:
- Physical: Exercise, games, sports
- Social: New faces and new places
- Cognitive: Puzzles, Brain Games
- Environment: Homes, cages, aviaries, enclosures
- Sensory: Taste, smell, hearing, touch, seeing
For Pet ideas visit: www.rufflesnuffle.co.uk
For Wild animal ideas visit: www.wildenrichment.com
At the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC), home to 34 wolves, enrichment is a way of life. Curator Rebecca Bose is always looking for new and innovative ways to stimulate the animals under her care.
Some of my favourite enrichment items include: ice with frozen liver and varied meats, pumpkins, watermelon, beach balls that float in their pool, bananas, card board boxes and paper bags filled with unique items such as horse hair clippings or hoof trimmings, bedding from small rodents such as rabbits or hamsters, scavenger hunts around the enclosure and smelly perfumes and essential oils that elicit scent rolling.Rebecca Bose, Curator, Wolf Conservation Center
During the winter months they build the wolves snowmen and decorate them with items they would enjoy. During the summer months the wolves especially enjoy frozen buckets of ice with all sorts of treats from fruits to meats. The WCC also primarily feeds whole carcass road kill deer. Deer are an essential part of their diet containing much needed nutrients, but also encourages natural interactions to occur over the carcass that reaffirm social structure and bonds. Lastly our enclosures are large and natural. We provide furniture for them to climb on as well as pools to swim in. All contributing to a healthy mental and physical lifestyle.
Website and social media links:
Official hashtag: #WorldAnimalEnrichmentDay
Contact Details: Sarah-Jane White, Ruffle Snuffle® –
Official Website: www.rufflesnuffle.co.uk/world-animal-enrichment-day-november-12/
Free Graphics to download: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1c4wMZJXHGp4sg7_9yBrUv5Ftfiv2cTFy
World Animal Enrichment Day is an annual day that happens on the same date every year – 12th November, make sure you put it on your calendar.
Free SOCIAL MEDIA FRAME – click here to use it
Here are some helpful links to enrichment studies with ideas and information:
About Sarah-Jane White
Sarah-Jane White, 51, is an Animal Behaviour & Enrichment Expert. She lives in Norfolk with her family on a small farm. Her mission is to help pet parents use enrichment for a happy and fulfilling life together. Sarah-Jane regularly shares ideas that support the instinctual behaviours of their pets in safe, fun, and enriching ways every day. She run’s award winning business Ruffle Snuffle® and her UK Top 10 ‘Life With Pets’ Blog. She regularly volunteers for the Zoological Society of East Anglia at Banham Zoo.