Do you play with your pets at home? Take them out for walks, or give them toys to play with? If so, you’re providing your pet with enrichment – something that is mentally and/or physically stimulating. We do exactly the same with our animals here at the Nature Centre!
There are lots of different things we can do to provide fun enrichment for our animals. This can be something as easy as scattering food around the enclosure, but we also like to use puzzle feeders and scent to get the animals interested too.
Providing a puzzle feeder makes the animals search for their food. In the picture above, our yellow mongoose have to figure out how to get the mealworms out from between the gaps and dips in the plastic toy. They can’t fit their whole head in the gaps, so they have to move the mealworms around with their paws until they reach an opening – it’s a mini maze!
Another puzzle feeder we often use is thick plastic balls with holes in. We fill the ball with tasty treats and the animals have to roll them around or push them along to make the treats fall out of the holes. We have large heavy footballs for the pigs and donkeys, and smaller ones for the birds. Corvids are incredibly intelligent birds, and Terry the raven and Petrie the magpie love playing with their feed balls and figuring them out!
We also use scent to stimulate the animals. This can be spraying perfume or essential oils on material or around an enclosure. This encourages the animals to sniff and stalk, and to scent mark the area to re-establish it as their territory, just as they would do in the wild. We can also use blood or fish juice to make a food trail for them to follow.
We sometimes fill boxes and toilet roll tubes with food and ripped up newspaper to create a puzzle box for the animals as well – and this is something you can do at home with your pet! Simply fill a tube or box with scrunched up newspaper and sprinkle in some of your pet’s favourite food. This can work for all pets from dogs and cats to guinea pigs, rabbits and birds. Why not give it a go? It’s lots of fun and the animals love it!
Don’t forget that during the school holidays and at weekends from Easter we’ll have daily public talks and presentations at the Nature Centre, where you can learn more about our animals and see our enrichment techniques in action!