Why your animal needs toy enrichment

by | General Pet Care |

Boots arrived at the Ontario SPCA Midland & District Animal Centre stressed and fearful. She resisted handling and struggled to interact positively with staff. Through toy enrichment, she became a completely different cat – friendly, cuddly, and comfortable being herself. 

Toy enrichment is a crucial component of care, whether in an animal centre, or at home. Jocelyn Rutgers, Registered Veterinary Technician at the Midland & District Animal Centre, says enrichment provides activities to increase an animal’s physical and mental activity levels.  

“We want to give them, first and foremost, something fun to do,” says Rutgers. 

Toy enrichment encourages natural behaviours 

Enrichment allows animals to engage in natural behaviours in a safe and controlled environment. According to Rutgers, denying natural behaviours can lead to stress and behavioural issues. These issues vary animal by animal, but are generally behaviours you wouldn’t want to see in your animal. “Nobody wants to see their animal stressed out or not living their best life,” she says. 

Toys used to encourage natural behaviours may include feather wands to help cats express natural hunting instincts, and food puzzles for dogs to express their natural propensity to work for their food. 

Enrichment is especially important in animal centres, Rutgers says. Though staff do everything they can to make centres stress-free, an animal centre is not the same as a home environment with a family Rutgers says enrichment can make all the difference in relieving this stress. “Playing is fun and releases all those feel good chemicals; like dopamine and serotonin in the brain,” she says. 

Encouraging animals to make meaningful choices 

At the animal centre, Rutgers says another important aspect to toy enrichment is variety. Every day animals have different options to keep them from becoming bored or understimulated. 

“We want the animals to be able to make meaningful choices,” Rutgers says, “We offer lots of different things so they have some control over what they want to do and how they want to spend their time.” 

Rutgers says play also strengthens the bond between humans and animals –  something the team strives to do with every animal in their care.  

For cats like Boots, toy enrichment can make all the difference in their quality of life, and finding a forever home. This is why we are so grateful to PetSmart for donating 100 toys for our iAdopt for the Holidays campaign. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of animals! 

Be part of an animal’s toy enrichment today, by making a donation towards Toys for Shelter Pets! 



Speaking for the ones who can’t speak for themselves

Keep up the good work speaking for the ones who can’t speak for themselves. A society who cares for their animals is a better society.  Thanks for your good work!